MLK Day goes virtual at Rainbow PUSH; online celebration to feature prominent Black politicians, activists

Voting rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams will appear at a roundtable Monday to discuss the fight for civil rights and social justice in the United States.

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Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention on July 1, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, shown speaking at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention in July 2019, said President Donald Trump has stoked racial fear in the United States.

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Ahead of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, the organization highlighted the country’s recent social justice achievements and historical fight for civil rights.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of Rainbow PUSH, and Rev. Dr. Janette C. Wilson, national executive director of PUSH For Excellence, spoke at a Thursday news conference to introduce the theme of Monday’s celebration: “The Journey Continues As We Mold The Future.”

Wilson cited Jackson, who has said Dr. King did not live long enough to witness the fruits of his labor, like the election of African Americans to local and federal offices.

“[Monday’s] conversation is historic,” Wilson said, “because it’s two days before the inauguration of the first African American female to be vice president.”

Inviting speakers like Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. and Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed to Monday’s event are important, Wilson said, to understand the progress America has made and the challenges the country still faces. The event will also feature Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams.

Monday’s celebration will also honor Black lieutenant governors from across the country. John Graves, chair of the Rainbow PUSH board, said they were selected because of their spirit and ability to be the leaders of the future.

“They are the spirit of Jesse Jackson,” Graves said. “They are the spirit of Dr. King, of Fannie Lou Hamer, of Shirley Chisholm.”

The elections of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to U.S. Senate seats in Georgia, and increased Black voter participation in the South, are more hopeful signs of good things to come, Jackson said.

A Black man and a Jewish man elected to serve Georgia is historic, Wilson added, as the state was the “heartblood” of segregation in the South. Monday’s celebration will also include Abrams, founder of Fair Fight, a former candidate for Georgia governor and the voting rights activist commended for flipping the state.

Jackson compared today’s political tensions to 1968, saying President Trump has “stoked the flames” of racial fear in the country. If the Capitol Hill rioters were Black Lives Matter protesters, he said, there would have been a “massacre.” Wilson said she hopes Monday will be a timely discussion that shines a light on systemic racism in America.

“This event is a time for corporate America as well as individuals to see the unbroken line of history,” Wilson said. “In terms of the journey, the struggle continues.”

The event starts at noon Monday. Participants should register on the Rainbow PUSH website.

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