Mayor Brandon Johnson praises Jackson in PUSH keynote, says ‘I am not here’ without him

If not for the trail blazed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., the retiring, longtime leader of Rainbow PUSH, Johnson said, he would not be mayor of Chicago.

SHARE Mayor Brandon Johnson praises Jackson in PUSH keynote, says ‘I am not here’ without him
Mayor Brandon Johnson greets Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III after delivering the keynote address at the Rainbow PUSH Convention on Tuesday, July 18, 2023.

Mayor Brandon Johnson (left) greets Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III after delivering the keynote address at the Rainbow PUSH convention at the University of Chicago on Tuesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor Brandon Johnson said Tuesday he owes his improbable rise from single digits in the polls to the fifth floor of City Hall to the trail-blazing leadership of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Delivering the keynote address at the Rainbow PUSH annual convention, Johnson paid loving tribute to the 81-year-old civil rights icon who is stepping down from the group he founded more than 50 years ago and passing the baton to the Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III of West Baptist Church in Dallas.

“Throughout history, there have been exceptional individuals who rise above the ordinary [in] … the perilous journey from freedom to equality. Reverend Jackson embodies that. … I am not here without the extraordinary individual who has forever impacted my life and the world’s life, and that’s the Rev. Jesse Jackson,” Johnson told the cheering crowd.

“He has contributed his voice and passion, his fighting spirit at every pivotal moment in our nation’s modern history. ... Rev. Jackson has worked tirelessly to dismantle the barriers of discrimination and we all are better because of it. The impact that his work has had on this globe has demonstrated what the collective power of coalition brings to our nation.”

Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III points at Rev. Jesse Jackson as both sit and eat at a red cloth covered table at the Rainbow PUSH Convention, with a packed crowd seen behind them.

Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III gestures toward the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Rainbow PUSH convention on Tuesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Johnson said Jackson is the “only person I’ve ever met who never sees a loss as a defeat,” but as “simply the starting point for our next battle.” Jackson “embodies the very hopes and dreams of those of us who are descendants of slaves,” the mayor said.

“Before anyone was talking about health care for all, Reverend Jackson said single payer. Before we started talking about changing the economy that speaks to the interests of all people, Rev. Jackson said multi-cultural, inter-generational movement to bring about real transformation across this globe,” the mayor said.

“Reverend Jackson understood the power and authority that come with the mantle. ... And it is through that power and authority that a brother on the West Side of Chicago can hear the prophetic voice of Rev. Jesse Jackson [while] polling at 2.8% — yet, here I be,” Johnson said.

“You could have been mayor, but instead of becoming just a ruler or a king, you decided to make kings and make rulers and be the prophetic voice for this generation.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III at the Rainbow PUSH Convention Faith Leaders Luncheon on July 18, 2023.

Mayor Brandon Johnson, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III at the Rainbow PUSH Convention Faith Leaders Luncheon at the David Rubenstein Forum at the University of Chicago on Tuesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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