When a black man turns 73-years-old, it is definitely time for a big celebration.
After all, at 71.8 years, black males have the shortest life expectancy, according to a 2013 study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
But the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who turned 73 on Wednesday, opted for a subdued observance to mark his milestone.
There were no cameras or throngs of politicians or dignitaries at Chicago State University where Jackson spoke in the library’s auditorium.
There was only a panel of fired-up activists who had come to urge students to join the anti-police movement inspired by the tragic events in Ferguson, MO.
As one of the remaining legends who can say he marched alongside martyrs of the civil rights struggle, Jackson’s commitment to fighting for equality is evident.
But he spent most of his time advocating for change that requires a focus on education and a return to the ballot box.
“I was with some young people in front of the place where Michael Brown had been killed and they were very fired up to fight back, and I said it’s time for us to figure out how to really vote in great numbers in Ferguson,” Jackson said.
Jackson reminded the audience that while protests are important, only registered voters could serve on juries.
“When you get so hip that you run past the voting, that’s running too far. And when you stop before voting, you haven’t gone far enough. Voting really does have a role in the broader scheme of things,” he said.
Earlier, Jackson met with students at Farragut Career Academy.
When other civil rights leaders jumped out front on police-brutality issues, Jackson focused on exposing a lack of diversity in the lucrative tech industry.
Many of the students who attended Wednesday’s event at Chicago State University were too young to witness first-hand the passion and courage civil rights leaders displayed when they confronted the inequities of the Jim Crow apartheid system.
Jackson used Wednesday’s opportunity to link the inequality at the root of police brutality to the tragic death of Thomas Eric Duncan.
Duncan was the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. He died Wednesday morning amid questions about the quality of healthcare he received at the Dallas Hospital where he was treated.