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Although it is far short of the tearful public apology he made before the 1984 Democratic Convention for referring to New York as “Hymietown,” Jesse Jackson has humbled himself before Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker for breaking an agreement to apologize at Walker’s church in the wake of the love-child scandal (see “The ‘Wrongs’ of ‘Mr. Civil Rights,”‘ May 8).
Jackson appealed to Walker for spiritual guidance shortly after it was disclosed that he had fathered out of wedlock with a former staffer a daughter who is now two years old. The leader of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition said at the time he would step out of public life, but a few days later he stepped back in, resuming public appearances and criticisms of the Bush administration. Walker approved a “Service of Penance” at his Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem on condition that Jackson appear contrite, apologize for the affair, and announce that he was taking a sabbatical.
That never happened. Jackson turned the event into a fiasco, prompting a blistering February 1 letter from Walker in which he accused Jackson of “violating the format of the service” and embarrassing him before his congregation. Walker also asserted that Jackson had “damaged” his credibility “beyond repair” and told Jackson not to call him or ask for his assistance until he made a “a public or written apology” to him. The Voice was the first to publish the letter.
“I have read your letter several times over,” Jackson said in his February 13 response, which was obtained by the Voice. “Let me assure you, I care deeply for you and respect what you represent to our people and to me. Because this is true, I reached out to you during this phase in my journey. I have been in constant prayer with my family, church, and to our God, both privately and publicly. I apologize for any error in judgment and communication or any offense to you or your congregation. I would never knowingly offend or disrespect you. If I have done so, I apologize.”
Jackson told Walker he was still “in the throes of a battle, spiritual within, and violent political forces without.” He said it was up to God whether he pulls through.
“Through it all, my spirit is contrite, my mind is tough, and my heart is tender, yet resilient,” he proclaimed. “With the assistance of co-partners in this struggle, we will not allow the rhythm of our steps for emancipation to be broken. I appeal to you for your continued forty years of friendship and prayers. At any point along the road if I can be of any service to you, I am available.”