Joint Center 40th Anniversary Gala honors the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

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by Betty Anne Williams

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and one of America’s foremost religious, political and civil rights leaders, received the 2010 Louis E. Martin Great American Award from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies at the organization’s 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner on Tue., April 27, at the Ritz Carlton in Northwest.

Jackson was recognized for his half-century of activism and leadership in human and civil rights and non-violent social change. The Center also noted Jackson for his efforts to expand political engagement and participation in communities of color, a key Joint Center objective over its four decades of service as a leading research and policy institution.

Jackson joins former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), boxer Muhammad Ali, lawyer and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, Congressman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and civil rights activist Dr. Dorothy I. Height in receiving the Joint Center’s highest award, which is named for the distinguished Black journalist, presidential advisor and principal founder of the organization. Each year, the Joint Center honors an individual who has promoted racial harmony while championing policies that have made a difference in American society.

“We honor Reverend Jackson for his longstanding commitment to reaching across racial and economic fault lines, healing divisions, and focusing on what unites Americans as a people,” said Joint Center President and CEO Ralph B. Everett during the presentation.

“His historic presidential campaigns in the 1980s, along with his abiding commitment over the years to advancing civic and political engagement among people of color, has energized citizens to participate in the process and has greatly advanced the number of Black elected officials nationwide,” Everett said. “Because of him, the prospect of a person of color becoming President of the United States was no longer a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’”

During his acceptance speech, Jackson encouraged an audience of government, business, civic and community leaders from across the country to continue to press for citizen engagement and activism as the best route to greater equality.

“The goal of our struggle was not freedom, but equality,” he said.

“And we do not yet have true equality in our country. We should not shout in victory before the game is over. We have miles to go.”

Jackson praised the Joint Center as playing a historic role in enabling civil rights activists “to fight inequality with facts.”

With this year’s theme of “Research – Empowerment – Engagement,” the event raised more than $1.377 million for the Joint Center, a research and policy institution that focuses on the concerns of people of color.

Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer

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