By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Four days after he shocked the nation with the announcement that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. confirmed he has been talking to representatives from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Fox, an international film star, was diagnosed with Parkinson in 1991, but didn’t disclose it until 1998. In 2000, Fox retired from “Spin City.” Jackson said he would work with the Foundation to help educate the public about the disease and to assist with their messages.
Teary-eyed, Jackson, 76, personally vowed to be the voice for the voiceless who are also struggling with this disease. In the interim, his supporters said Parkinson’s disease wouldn’t stop the iconic Civil Rights leader from fighting for social justice and political fairness.
Jonathan Jackson, his son and national spokesperson for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s annually, along with 10 million people around the world.
“The good news is that the disease cannot progress as fast with a healthy diet, exercise and rest,” stated Jonathan.
He went on to say his father “will use his energy and channel this disease as he has fought everything that has hampered and thwarted him. He comes from a family of long livers and strong fighters.”
Thanking his friends and supporters for their words of encouragement, Jonathan made it clear that the Rainbow PUSH Coalition is, “still in business….”
Bishop Henry Williamson, former president of PUSH, also gave words of encouragement for Jackson saying that the Civil Rights leader will stay on the battlefield.
On Tuesday, Rev. Jackson said, “There are millions of people afflicted with Parkinson’s and struggle in silence. I want to be one of their voices to find a cure. My lifestyle must change, but my commitment to justice and equality will not. I will continue to be a voice for the hungry, the dispossessed, the poor, and the left behind. I will not put my private pain over public policy.”
Bonita Parker, COO of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, thanked the many well wishers who sent words of encouragement to Rev. Jackson. “We continue to appreciate the many heartfelt expressions that our organization has received regarding Rev. Jackson. Please continue to keep him, the family and our entire organization in your prayers….”
The announcement of Jackson’s illness resulted in a wave of similar condolences, medical advice and words of inspiration like that from the children of the Rainbow PUSH Oratorical program led by 9-year-old Carleigh Lewis.
Standing with other PUSH oratorical students, Lewis dedicated Jackson’s 1968, “I Am Somebody,” speech. “He isn’t doing very well. We are hoping and praying for a speedy recovery.”
Lewis wasn’t alone in her well wishes. Father Michael L. Pfleger shared that he and Jackson talked last Friday night after Jackson’s public admission. “Our prayers are with Rev. Jackson. He is a man of faith and has spent his life fighting for others, and now we will stand in faith and fight with him.”
Rev. Harold E. Bailey, president/ CEO of Probation Challenge, described Jackson as “a minister of the gospel” and said, “The race is not given to the swift nor the strong…but to those who endure to the end!
“Rev. Jackson, with spiritual endurance, has been running a righteous race for a long time and…as a warrior in the army of the Lord, we have confidence in God to know that Rev. Jackson is fighting a good battle,” said Rev. Bailey.
Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the NNPA and the publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group said that although Jackson is in for the fight of his life, she warned that Parkinson’s disease had met its match.
“This is a major blow, but it’s not the death knell,” said Leavell. “We will keep working and encourage Jesse with all he’s done for us and continues to do.”
Others from around the nation called, such as Dr. Pamela Hughes from Naples, FL and Dr. Marie Jo Kane, who offered an evaluation and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s disease symptoms vary with some experiencing tremors and imbalance. A progressive disease, some patients have symptoms on one side of their body and later on the other side. It is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease result from the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra which is a region of the midbrain. The cause of this cell death is unknown.
Early symptoms of this disease include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking and gait. Dementia may occur in the advanced stages of the disease.
Other symptoms include sensory, sleep and emotional problems. Parkinson’s disease is more common in the elderly with most cases occurring after the age of 50.