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Rev. Jesse Jackson rallies with Black UIC law students days after fall, hospitalization in D.C.

Three days after hitting his head in a fall during a trip to Washington D.C., the civil rights leader was protesting Thursday in Chicago, saying feels “fantastic.” Jackson joined Black UIC law students at a rally outside the school.

Rev. Jesse Jackson walks back to his vehicle after making an appearance in support Chicago Law School’s Black Law Student Association, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, outside of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Rev. Jesse Jackson, 80, was back in Chicago protesting only days after falling and hitting his head in Washington D.C.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Three days after falling and hitting his head during a trip to Washington, D.C., Rev. Jesse Jackson was back in Chicago protesting Thursday, saying he feels “fantastic.”

The activist and civil rights leader, who has Parkinson’s disease and turned 80 last month, said he is feeling better and attributes his fall to Parkinson’s, which affects his balance.

Jackson was in the Loop to attend a rally with the University of Illinois Chicago Law School’s Black Law Students Association outside the law school, 300 S. State St.

Jackson had spent the night at a hospital in D.C. on Monday after helping mediate a student-led protest at Howard University over allegations of poor conditions in campus residences.

He was taken to Howard University Hospital, received a CT scan and other examinations and was discharged Tuesday afternoon. He then resumed negotiations between Howard students and the administration over campus housing issues.

He arrived back in Chicago on Thursday morning; his appearance with the UIC students was his first public event since his hospital stay discharged. Asked how felt, he responded: “How do I look like I feel?” as his supporters laughed.

Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks in support of the University of Illinois Chicago Law School’s Black Law Student Association against law professor, Jason Kilborn, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, outside of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Rev. Jesse Jackson rallied with Black law students at University of Illinois Chicago on Thursday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The UIC law students allege a professor “called (students) racial slurs and labeled them ‘cockroaches.’”

“Students deserve an environment that’s not hostile,” Jackson said at the rally, speaking softly. “We must act; we will act.”

The reverend also suffered a battle with COVID-19 last summer, where he was hospitalized as he received treatment for Parkinson’s. After that, he spent time in a rehabilitation center.

“I could not walk for three weeks,” Jackson said.

Jackson had a bandage on his head, but said he feels “fantastic” on Thursday. Rev. Jesse Jackson greets a reporter after leaving the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.
Three days after falling and hitting his head at a protest at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Rev. Jesse Jackson, sporting a bandage, said he feels “fantastic.” He joined University of Illinois Chicago law students for a protest in the Loop on Thursday; it was his first public event since being discharged from Howard University Hospital.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The law professor who was the target of the students’ complaints, Jason Kilborn, denied the allegations in an email to the Sun-Times.

“I have never, ever ‘called’ anyone a racial slur or a cockroach. Period,” Kilborn said.

“As for ‘labelling’ anyone cockroaches, I am not entirely sure what this is even about. I certainly and obviously did not call any student this,” he said.

As they continue to call for the professor’s termination, law students at Thursday’s protest said they were empowered by Jackson’s support.

“He’s made so many changes so that we can have these liberties to actually be able to go to law school,” said Erica Fatima, a member of UIC’s Black Law Students Association. “To have him come and stand with us, it’s just incredible. It really is everything.”