FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Rev. Jackson and Homewood-Flossmoor High School Hold Assembly to Discuss Race and Healing
FLOSSMOOR, IL. – Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. urged more than 700 students and staff at Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School Tuesday morning to choose “direction, not complexion” and to continue to “learn to live with people across lines of race, religion and gender” in the wake of a disturbing video of four white students cruising the southern suburb in blackface.
“Race is not the problem,” Rev. Jackson said. “Racism is the problem.”
Rev. Jackson made his remarks during a special assembly and panel to discuss the video that has badly shaken the racially diverse school and surrounding communities.
“We have a great school here,” principal Dr. Jerry Lee Anderson told the assembly. “We can’t let this break us.”
The panel included Rev. Jackson, Dr. Anderson, Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School District 233 superintendent, Dr. E. Von Mansfield, Rev. Janette C. Wilson, of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and nine students.
The students on the panel – black and white, male and female – said the video left them feeling “angry,” “frustrated,” “shocked,” “disappointed,” “uncomfortable,” “offended” and “disrespected.”
“I felt numb,” a white girl on the panel added. “But I am hopeful through conversations like this we can move forward.”
A black male student on the panel said watching the video, which was posted on social media in late April, was “an eye-opening experience,” revealing an “ambience of negativity” that he did not know existed within the school.
The students on the panel asked Rev. Jackson about his reaction to the video. “I was not surprised,” he said. “I was disturbed. Racism is pervasive.”
A black student on the panel asked, “How do I handle racism?”
“First, remain focused,” Rev. Jackson said, adding, “Excellence is a weapon. Strong minds break strong chains.”
A girl asked what does Rev. Jackson say to people who contend racism doesn’t exist any longer?
“They are blind to reality,” he said.
Rev. Jackson told the assembly that expelling the white students in the video from school would do little to improve race relations. He said it was better to “grapple” with issues of racism, hate and ignorance in school than “on the street corner.”
“Talk it out with your classmates,” he said.
As the assembly of race and healing wound down, Rev. Jackson implored the high school seniors to leave school in the spring with a diploma in one hand, a voter registration card in the other.
Then he led them in his famous mantra of hope and affirmation.
“I am somebody,” he said.
“I am somebody,” the students repeated in thunderous response.
“Red and yellow, brown, black and white, we’re all precious in God’s sight.
“Everybody is somebody.”