FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. to Receive Prestigious Freedom Award
In honor of his more than 50 years of service, sacrifice and leadership in the movement for racial, social and economic justice, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., will receive the prestigious Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum at its annual gala Wednesday night, October 17, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Former Vice President Joseph Biden and philanthropist Pitt Hyde will also be honored during the ceremony, which will feature a special tribute to Rev. Jackson’s lifelong friend and fellow freedom fighter, the Memphis born Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
At 10 A.M. Wednesday. Jackson and Mr. Hyde will address 5th through 12th graders during a student forum at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.
Afterwards, Rev. Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, will march with eligible high school seniors to cast their ballots at an early voting polling place. Wednesday is the first day of early voting in Tennessee for the crucial midterm elections on Nov. 6.
“All roads lead to Nov. 6,” Rev. Jackson says. “Everything we’ve fought for in the last 60 years is under attack – voting rights, worker’s rights, children’s rights, women’s rights, affordable health care, environmental protections. But if we vote our numbers and our needs, our hopes, not our fears, we will win.”
The gala begins at 5 P.M. on the red carpet on South Main Street in front of the Halloran Centre, followed by the award ceremony at 7:30 P.M. at the Orpheum Theater.
The Freedom Award honors “distinguished individuals who have made great global and national impact.” Past recipients include such giants of politics and peace, media and civil rights, as President Nelson Mandela, President Bill Clinton, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Bob Moses, Oprah Winfrey, Bryan Stevenson, Ruby Bridges-Hall, James Lawson, Delores Huerta, Rosa Parks, Harry Belafonte and Coretta Scott King.
It was Rev. Jackson who telephoned Mrs. King 50 years ago to inform her that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, had been shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He told Mrs. King her husband had been hit in the shoulder. “I didn’t have the heart to tell her what I had seen, how bad it was,” he says.
Rev. Jackson is one of the last living eye witnesses to the assassination – “the crucifixion” – of Dr. King. Returning to Memphis and the Lorraine Motel – the home of the National Civil Rights Museum – always fills the civil rights icon and two-time presidential candidate with pride and pain.
At 26, Rev. Jackson was the youngest member of Dr. King’s executive staff, which was in Memphis to support the striking sanitation workers. On that chilly spring evening of April 4, 1968, Rev. Jackson was in the parking lot of the Lorraine, laughing and joking with Dr. King who was standing about 15 feet away on the motel balcony when a single shot rang out at 6:01 P.M.
A few hours later, Rev. Jackson and his civil rights colleagues, including Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s successor, Andy Young and Hosea Williams, were back at the motel, fighting through their shock and sorrow to discuss the future of the movement without their leader and friend, their brother beloved.
By then, streets across urban America were already on fire. National guardsmen, their bayonets glinting in the street lights and flames, patrolled the streets. Bricks and bullets, rage and heartbreak, filled the night for nearly a week.
“We had a choice,” Rev. Jackson says. “Surrender to our own anguish and anger or honor the slain prince of peace by picking up the baton of nonviolent direct action.”
Ever since, Rev. Jackson has carried that baton around the world.
“We’ve never stopped doing Dr. King’s work,” he says.
Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international organization that was formed in December 1996 by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. through merging of two organizations he founded Operation PUSH People United to Serve Humanity (estab. 1971) and the Rainbow Coalition (estab. 1984). With headquarters in Chicago and offices in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, the organization works to make the American Dream a reality for all citizens while advocating for peace and justice around the world. RPC is dedicated to improving the lives of all people by serving as a voice for the voiceless. Its mission is to protect, defend and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields while promoting peace and justice around the world.