On the eve of the AFC Championship football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets, Rev. Jesse Jackson opened his keynote address at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit 2011 with a football metaphor.

RACIAL, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC JUSTICE—Rev. Jesse Jackson leads the audience in a chant. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“If some had to go 12 yards to get a first down, and others had to go eight yards, we wouldn’t like that game. The referees know the rules,” Jackson said “This is not applied to congressional oversight of the banks. Banks have lapsed under the weight of lack of oversight and are paid to fail.”

Jackson’s speech was part of the culminating event in the first day of the Summit, a weekend of workshops and presentations organized by Keystone Progress, Service Employees International Union, the Alliance for American Manufacturing and Democracy for America.

As he addressed the crowd at the Sheraton Station Square on Jan. 22, Jackson took aim at America’s banks, jobs, education and healthcare. His solution to problems on all four fronts involved the Progressive Party drawing members from both Republicans and Democrats.

“Progressives are the third rail of American politics. The idea that everybody is somebody is an American idea. America is a progressive idea,” Jackson said. “Neither party supported (African-American people’s) right to vote. Neither party led the march in Alabama. It was the third rail. We as progressives can not just join the party; we must change the party.”

Leading the audience in a chant for economic justice, racial justice and social justice, Jackson said reconstruction was the solution to America’s woes. As he compared Detroit and the Appalachia, Jackson said uniting behind poverty would dissolve racial barriers.

“Let’s figure out a plan for urban reconstruction. Let’s put America back to work. There’s three streets. There’s Wall Street, Main Street and there’s the back streets,” Jackson said. “When we march for jobs it transcends race and religion. Most poor Americans are not Black; they’re not Brown.”

For Jackson, the recent election wins by Republicans and Tea Party members, who gained many seats in the Senate, was not a victory for them, but a failure by progressives. He said the simple answer to defeating them was to not be intimidated and to let the Progressive Party’s voice be heard.

“You can never drop the rope. There wasn’t more of them. There was less of us. Our power is not the absence of them; it’s the power of us,” Jackson said. “Somebody’s got to make the case.”

Though many Americans equate progressives with liberals, Jackson made a distinction between the two groups. However, he did address critics who blame President Barack Obama’s unpopularity on his liberal and progressive supporters.

“When progressives fall asleep or self-destruct, it hurts the president,” Jackson said. “Progressives in action make good presidents great.”

Pittsburgh received noted recognition at the Saturday night awards dinner with Pittsburgh United, which includes One Hill Coalition and Northside United, receiving the Coalition Building Award. There was also a performance by local artist and activist Jasiri X whose video “Republican Woman” was nominated for the Video of the Year Award.

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