By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. received a rousing standing ovation from his supporters and high praise from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Saturday—the final day of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund’s 46th Annual International Convention.
Before a packed auditorium at Rainbow PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., Jackson called Sanders “the vision for our country” and reminded supporters that Sanders supported both his runs for U.S. president in 1984 and 1988.
Sanders, speaking at the convention’s National Black and Brown Elected Officials Summit, took the auditorium stage to chants of “Feel the Bern,” led by Jackson.
“I think sometimes,” Sanders said, “we take for granted and forget the kind of struggles Rev. Jesse Jackson has been leading for a long, long time.”
“Thousands of Americans will unnecessarily die because of this legislation,” Sanders said. “Our job is to join every other major nation and guarantee health care for life.”
Sanders also called on the Rainbow PUSH audience to be prepared to fight the Republican-led Congress and local governments on issues, including campaign finance reform, working to end gerrymandering and fighting for financial support for educational funding.
“We should not be cutting funding for Chicago State University,” Sanders said before calling for the public funding of higher education.
He went on to say that from urban centers to rural communities, 20 to 30 percent of young people are unemployed. “What we should be doing is investing in jobs for those young people, not in jails or incarceration,” Sanders said, adding that the United States has “more people locked up than any other country in the world.” He also called on supporters to “end a broken campaign finance system that allows billionaires to finance elections.”
The senator ended his remarks by calling for a coalition of all races and cultures to fight against a reversal of gains from the Civil Rights movement. “When we stand together, the future is ours,” Sanders said.
Earlier in the morning, a panel led by radio host and cable news political commentator, Santita Jackson, analyzed the 2016 election and discussed what needs to be done in the future to convince younger people of the importance of voting.
“When you say you don’t want to vote, what you’re really saying is let someone else decide,” said panelist Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president, PUSH Excel Board of Directors.
Other panelists included: Rev. Dr. Grace G. JiSun Kim, author of Intercultural Ministry; Betty Magness, Rainbow PUSH political director for Illinois; Greg Palast, journalist and producer of the film, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits”; and David Daley, author of Rat F**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count.
Rainbow PUSH also honored the 50th anniversary of the breakthrough elections of Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary, IN and Mayor Carl Stokes of Cleveland, OH. Hatcher was in attendance and received accolades from Jackson and others. Stokes died in 1996 at the age of 68.
On Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) addressed the PUSH Women’s International luncheon whose theme was, “Together We Rise: Empower The Women, Develop The Nation.” Warren told the diverse group of women, who included dignitaries from Africa, “I’m here to talk about a righteous fight; about fighting for values for our future and children. “
Challenging the women to always speak truth to power, Warren reminded them of the political power they possess. “Yes, the system is rigged. It is rigged for the rich and against everyone else, and that is why we are here to fight back,” she said garnering another round of applause.
The convention featured a Tech Expo; a Illinois Democratic gubernatorial forum with six of the eight candidates participating; panels on health care, criminal justice, voting rights, consumer protection, global and African investment opportunities, corporate supplier diversity, education funding, and violence as a public health issue; as well as an oratorical competition.