Legendary civil rights and political leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., speaking at the Urban Issues Forum on Monday, drew a comparison between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s to the Occupy movement of today.
Jackson was the keynote speaker at the monthly event, and by way of metaphors explained the correlations between the Civil Rights Movements of 40 years ago and the biblical movements for social justice.
Although initially somewhat subdued, the audience warmed up to Jackson with chants and frequent “amens.”
“Jesus was an occupier, born under a death warrant, and a Jew by religion, born in poverty under Roman occupation,” said Jackson, referencing the Bible as he did throughout his speech.
The two-time candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, assured everyone that the Occupy movement is a leaderless movement, which he said means it is an idea that cannot be assassinated.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, managing director Urban Issues Forum, explained it took four months organize the event. “People were saying we were afraid to tackle this issue because the banks that support us would protest,” he said. He explained only 20 percent of the budget comes from banks.
According to Samad, it was important to have someone who could articulate the Occupy issues and make the comparison between economic and social justice.
Four days prior to his Los Angeles visit, Jackson addressed an Occupy camp in London. While speaking to the protesters he compared the global anti-capitalist movement to the crusade against apartheid in South Africa.
While speaking to his Los Angeles audience, Jackson urged everyone not to sit around complaining about having not been invited to occupy.
“Occupy is not about a place, but a space,” says Jackson, who is celebrating 50 years as a civil rights advocate. “It’s not about the place downtown but the inequality gap. Occupy is a spirit that cannot be pepper-sprayed.”
Jackson went on to acknowledge that throughout the current Occupy movement Blacks have been much too silent, and that the silence is a betrayal of their own consciences. He stressed that African Americans have the power to change the situation that spawned the Occupy protest.
While the crowd enthusiastically joined Jackson for one of his signature chants, he offered some observations and solutions.
In one moment of candor tinted with a touch of holiday humor, the civil rights leader said he has a problem with Christmas, because Santa Claus has co-opted it. “Christmas should be poor people’s Holy Day,” said Jackson.
He also asserted that Blacks, although free, have been conditioned to negotiate their dignity for comfort, meaning they have cashed in their freedom for the comforts they now enjoy rather than challenge the status quo.
“Blacks are betraying their own conscience through their silence,” said Jackson. “Blacks have the power to change this situation. If every Black person who has a student loan debt, credit card debt, and no job were marching we could transform the financial crisis in this country.”
He challenged Black ministers to assume leadership of the Occupy movement, because many of their members are victims of the financial crisis.