jesse jackson - reflections - terrence a. reese

Jesse JacksonMay 24, 1995

I have said many times, “When I grow-up, I’m going to be just like my brother.”

I’m in Atlanta and in need of my brothers help to make this image. The most important lesson I’ve learned in dealing with family is having them do as little as possible to ensure no mistakes happen. I was casually dressed. On the other hand, my brother wore what he dressed in everyday, a dress pant, tucked shirt and sports jacket. The only time he wears sneakers is when he washes his car.

Just the other day, someone shared an adventurous taxi cab experience with me. My reply was, don’t look up until you are at your destination. So I followed my own advice as my brother flew without wings down the highway.

I opened a folder to brush up on my subject.

Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., born October 8, 1941, is an American Civil Rights Activist and Baptist Minister.

In 1971, Jackson formed Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) a Chicago based organization advocating self-help for blacks. In 1984, he established the National Rainbow Coalition, which advocated for equal rights for African Americans, women and homosexuals. These two organizations merged in 1996 to form the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

He was a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as “Shadow Senator” for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997.

The car sways from side-to-side. When I hear people complain about someone else’s driving, I always say to them, “would you rather walk?”

Having grew-up in Chicago, I was no stranger to Rev. Jackson’s way of getting things done.

In 1965, he participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders in Alabama. When Jackson returned from Selma, he threw himself into King’s effort to spearhead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Chicago. In 1966, King selected Jackson to be head of the SCLC’s Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, and promoted him to be the national director in 1967.

The car stops and my brother gets out. Before he slams the door he says, “What are you waiting for?” The car may have stopped, but my nerves where moving a mile a minute.

The hotel door opens and an muscular brother in a fitted shirt and tie greets us.

Once inside, the familiar voice of Rev. Jesse Jackson and that of a broadcaster, blared from the television.

I enter to see Rev. Jackson walk out onto the terrace. My mind flashes to when King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, the day after his powerful “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech at the Mason Temple. The men on the terrace pointing toward where the shot had come from, stuck out in my mind.

I turn and shake hands with Rev. Al Sharpton, whom left the SCLC in 1984, in protest to follow Jackson and formed the National Youth Movement. I showed him my portfolio and told him I would one day like to create an image of him. I was sure he was not going to be a flash in the pan and there would be much coverage on him in the years to come.

The sliding glass door opens and in stepped Rev. Jackson. He was too cool for words, collected. I was not there to judge, but to enjoy the moment I was given by a man whom spent more than forty weeks on the road for thirty-five years for a cause he believed in – the uplifting of the human race. Not just black people, but everyone.

My brother may have been better dressed than Rev. Jackson, but as I approached to shake his hand, I knew I was going to shake the hand of the second person of color (after Shirley Chisholm) to launch a nationwide campaign for the Presidency of the United States, running as a Democrat.