Joined by state local and federal representatives, Rev. Jesse Jackson lent his signature eloquence to a breakfast rally to bolster the vote for President Barack Obama at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in East Liberty.
|GET OUT THE VOTE—Rev. Jesse Jackson urges people to mobilize for President Obama and against voter suppression during a breakfast meeting at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in East Liberty. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
In addition to elected officials, the event was attended by upwards of 150 individuals representing various churches, community activist groups and labor unions. The event was coordinated by the One Pittsburgh coalition, which includes among others the United Steelworkers, Sierra Club, Just Harvest and the NAACP of Pittsburgh.
Mt. Ararat pastor Rev. Dr. William Curtis, serving as master of ceremonies, welcomed all the guests. Among them, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and US Rep. Mike Doyle, D- Pa., all of whom celebrated the defeat of Pennsylvania’s “Voter Suppression” law, and urged vigilance against its return.
Curtis also reminded the audience that before Barak Obama, Jesses Jackson ran for the presidency and laid much of the groundwork that led to the historic 2008 election.
“Often forgotten are those who made an attempt at the pres before” he said. “One of the things that impressed me in reading was how the genius and political skill of Jesse Jackson contributed in very large fashion to the election of this current president. He understood what it took so even in his defeat he made sure we were able to gain victory.”
During his remarks Jackson covered a number of topics, from gun control and urban violence to the economic recovery. But the struggle for voting rights was paramount.
“Voter suppression has always been here. At first you couldn’t vote if you were Black or a woman. Then Blacks were allowed to vote and we got Jim Crow. In 1965 the Voting Rights Act passed, but Blacks, Jews, Whites and women still died together for the right to vote,” he said. “We never stop fighting gerrymandering. We always have to fight to democratize democracy.”
During an interview after his remarks, Jackson said he came to Pittsburgh because of the state’s importance in the presidential election and because of the voter suppression efforts. He also said the country is better off than four years ago because the economy is recovering, and the auto industry has been rescued.
He also addressed the importance of encouraging the youth vote, especially among Blacks.
“I was in Florida after the Trevon Martin killing urging people to register to vote, and I asked some young people if they’d like to be on the jury at the trial. One said no, I just want to wear my hoodie,” Jackson said. “I told him, you can’t wear a hoodie in court and if you aren’t registered to vote, you can’t serve on a jury. You’ve been hoodie-winked. I told them always choose inclusion over exclusion.”
Following his appearance at Mt. Ararat, Jackson went to the North Side campus of Community College of Allegheny County where he exhorted a crowd of about 200 students to get to the polls Nov. 6.
(J.L. Martello contributed to this story.)