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Rainbow PUSH annual convention theme: ‘400 Years Later: Repairing the Damage Done’

‘We arrived on these shores as slaves 400 years ago this year,’ the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in discussing plans for the gathering.

Rainbow PUSH Coalition Founder and President the Rev. Jesse Jackson takes a photo with a busload of high-school students from Arkansas, who attended his Friday press conference previewing PUSH’s June 28-July 2 annual convention at the Sheraton Grand, themed, “400 Years Later: Repairing the Damage Done 1619-2019.”
Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

National leaders in civil rights, politics and Fortune 500 companies will converge in Chicago later this month for Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s annual convention.

Organizers said they want to confront race inequities that persist in a landmark year in American history.

“400 Years Later: Repairing the Damage Done 1619-2019,” is the theme of this year’s gathering, June 28-July 2 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago; each day will focus on different areas of inequity, including business, technology, education and health.

“When we talk about reparations, there’s a logic to it. We arrived on these shores as slaves 400 years ago this year. The cotton, tobacco and cane trades were built on our backs. We endured hundreds of years of work without wages, as commodities,” PUSH Founder and President, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said at a Friday news conference previewing the gathering.

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will attend; other presidential contenders are expected.

Others attending include: Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams; and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“Today, blacks are free but not equal, because after slavery, those who made money as shipping magnates and cotton dealers, they kept the money. They freed us without resources,” Jackson said at the press conference, attended by a busload of high-school students visiting from Arkansas, who had a meeting with Jackson on their itinerary.

“Freedom means little without access to capital. We do not own a single downtown building in any city in America. The only one in Chicago, Johnson Publishing, has been sold,” Jackson continued.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first documented arrival of slaves kidnapped from Africa into the torturous journey to American shores via a barbaric, trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Convention activities include forums and plenaries on topics such as labor, sports, religion, teen issues and violence. Events will be held at venues that include some of the city’s most prominent black churches, as well as Chicago Teachers Union headquarters and the DuSable Museum of African American History.

“We’ve never been here before, where a foreign country is not just hacking, but invited to be a part of the conversation and intrude into our elections,” Jackson said, referring to President Donald Trump, who recently said that were he again offered information about an opponent by a foreign country, “I think I’d take it.”

“That’s a strange position to take,” Jackson said. “Yet we as a nation are facing that today. That’s why it is so important to protect our right to vote, and to protest. We should not fear him. And to call his name everyday is a trick. There’s a guy in Washington who is a misfit. Let’s leave it right there.”