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Jesse Jackson to focus on education cuts during WMU address

by Cheryl Roland

April 13, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Jesse Jackson Sr.
Jesse Jackson Sr. on campus Monday
KALAMAZOO--Famed civil-rights activist and Democratic politician Jesse Jackson Sr. will deliver a free public address at Western Michigan University Monday, April 18.

Jackson will speak at approximately 12:30 p.m. in the East Ballroom of WMU's Bernhard Center. He is expected to focus on state and federal cuts to education in a talk titled "With Justice for All."

A former presidential candidate and founder of Rainbow/PUSH, Jackson will be in Kalamazoo as a guest of the WMU chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, an African-American fraternity celebrating its national centennial this year. His visit is also sponsored by the Graduate Student Advisory Committee and the Young Black Males Support Network.

Jackson will begin his campus visit with a closed campus and community leadership meeting at 11 a.m. Doors will open at noon for his public address, and he is expected to begin speaking between 12:30 and 1 p.m.

While an undergraduate, Jackson became involved in the civil rights movement. In 1965 he went to Selma, Ala., to march with Martin Luther King Jr. and became a worker in King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Jackson helped found the Chicago branch of Operation Breadbasket, the economic arm of the SCLC, in 1966 and served as the organization's national director from 1967 to 1971. He was in Memphis, Tenn., with King when the civil rights leader was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

He resigned from SCLC in 1971 and founded Operation PUSH--People United to Save Humanity--a Chicago-based organization in which he advocated black self-help. In 1984 he established the National Rainbow Coalition, which sought equal rights for African Americans, women, and homosexuals. These two organizations merged in 1996 to form the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

In the 1980s Jackson became a leading national spokesman and advocate for African Americans. His voter-registration drive was a key factor in the election of Chicago's first African American mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983.

In 1984, Jackson ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. He ran once more in 1988, coming in second to the party's eventual nominee, Michael Dukakis. In 1991, he became the first to serve as the District of Columbia's shadow senator and held that post through 1997. Since then, he has helped his son, Jesse Jackson Jr., run for Congress and has served as an advisor to President Bill Clinton and was an early supporter of President Barack Obama.

In 2000, Clinton awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For more information about Jackson's visit to WMU, contact Kappa Alpha Psi's Christopher Bellomy at or (313) 205-7927.