Jackson calls on African-Americans to build wealth

Civil rights leader speaks at 90th NAACP convention

July 15, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Saying economic empowerment is the next frontier of civil rights, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson urged African-Americans to build wealth, buy stock in corporations and own businesses.

"There is another movement," he said. "It's called access to capital. There is no race gap, there is a resource gap."

The remarks came during a wide-ranging speech by Jackson on the fifth day of the 90th annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

More than 2,700 people attended the speech, which covered such issues as affirmative action, violence among youth and international aid disparities between Europe and Africa.

During the 90-minute oration, Jackson quoted Bible verse, led the crowd in hushed prayer and sparked two clapping renditions of the civil rights hymn, "We Shall Overcome."

Women, Jackson said, have gained the most from affirmative action -- as evidenced by the U.S. women's soccer team, which won the world title last weekend.

Equal funding of sports

He said their victory is a result of federal Title IX laws requiring equal funding for male and female sports -- a program Jackson called a sweeping, quota-based example of affirmative action.

"Affirmative action is a majority, not a minority issue," he said.

Though he urged blacks to strengthen their economic base, he insisted poverty is not a minority problem but a national one.

"Most poor people are not black or brown, most poor people are white," Jackson said.

"We must whiten the face of poverty."

He said that, if the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had lived, he would have worked to build a coalition among poor people of all colors -- a goal reinvigorated by President Clinton's tour last week of poor parts of America.

Clinton "was fulfilling that mission of building a bridge from Wall Street to Appalachia," Jackson said.

Jackson also blamed America's violent culture for the school shooting in Colorado and other suburban areas, saying, "They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, violent villages raise violent children. Our underbelly of violence is destroying our youth."

Jackson said his experience working with white racists in South Carolina, his home state, helped him work with Yugoslavia's President Slobodan Milosevic in freeing U.S. military hostages there.

Inequality in foreign aid

He also criticized the paucity of international aid for Africa compared with aid for European countries, saying many more Africans than Europeans have been killed or displaced due to conflict on the continent -- yet they have received barely a fraction of the foreign aid and protection.

Near the end of his speech, Jackson sparked a standing ovation when he said, "I may or may not ever be president.

"But I'm qualified."

Pub Date: 7/15/99

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