Rev. Jackson: “Pembroke is our Selma”

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By Chinta Strausberg

PUSH Excel will host its 30th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast 8 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday, January 20, 2020, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel, 151 E. Wacker Drive, in the Grand Ballroom. The program will begin promptly at 8 a.m.

The focus will be on keeping Dr. King’s “Poor Peoples” campaign alive.

Reverend Jesse Jackson will hold a press conference at 7:30 a.m. in the Columbus Room opposite the Grand Ballroom to talk about the campaign and why it is needed even more today.

This year’s theme is “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Educational Equity and Economic Investment.”

“I was with Dr. King on his last birthday, and he had invited a multi-racial, multi-cultural group of supporters to talk about the “Poor Peoples” campaign, and today we are continuing that movement because it is needed even more so today,” said Jackson.

He added, “The inequities today are strikingly visible in Chicago and across this nation in communities of color.”

In remembering Dr. King’s last social justice action campaign, Jackson has taken the task of heading a multi-tiered, multi-racial coalition in fighting for a natural gas line to be installed in Pembroke Township. It is a majority Black farming community in Kankakee County, 55 miles south of Chicago, that still uses propane for fuel, or wood-burning stoves, while others have outdoor toilets.

“This is our Selma,” said Jackson. “This is Dr. King’s dream” of fighting against inequities, like those in Pembroke, where residents have no internet or businesses and it is the poorest township in Illinois, if not in the nation.”

Having brought Nicor to the table in his drive to get the natural gas line installed, Jackson praised Shannon Pierce, vice president, Operations, for Nicor, for pledging $5 million towards the $8 million needed to bring this project to a successful closure.

When completed, Jackson wants Pembroke to mirror and have the same amenities as the majority white towns that surround it.

The keynote speaker will be Rabbi Samuel N. Gordon, who has headed the progressive Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Illinois for more than 25-years.

Known for his diversity and community-mindedness, President Barack Obama appointed Gordon to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council in Washington, D.C.

Looking back 50 years since Dr. King came to Chicago fighting against racism and economic exclusion, Gordon, who is listed as one of “America’s Most Inspiring” by The Forward, will reflect on Dr. King’s work in Chicago then and now—what has changed and what hasn’t.

A prominent segment of the Scholarship Breakfast will feature PUSH Excel oratorical students, taught by Cook County Judge Stanley Hill. The young orators will recite excerpts from several speeches.

The PUSH Excel orators who will perform Monday are: Nelson, and twin brother Rutherford Simmons, III, 12, 7th graders at the Southwest Chicago Christian School; Leilani Jenkins, 10, 4th grade, Calumet Christian School; Carleigh Lewis, Faith Jenkins, Christianna Haley Gray, 8, 4th grade, South Holland Elementary School; and Essence Gaitheright, 15, a junior at Lindblom Math & Science Academy.

An additional performance will include Rodrick Dixon, a classical cross- over artist who possesses a tenor voice of extraordinary range and versatility. His singing career spans 25 years of television, recordings, concerts and live theater including appearing in “Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah.”

The Hiplet Ballerinas will also perform.

The PUSH Excel awardees are: Rodrick Dixon, Broadway tenor performer, (PUSH Excel Creativity & Performing Arts Award), Ms. Phumzile Mazibuko, Consul General of South Africa (PUSH Excel Presidential Award), Audrena Spence, executive director, Metropolitan Family Services, (PUSH Excel Visionary Service Award), Kelly Fair, founder of the Polished Pebbles, (PUSH Excel Youth Mentoring Award) and Dream Hustle Code Team (PUSH Excel STEM Award).

Monday’s prayers of blessing and unity will be delivered by Reverend Gail Rice, associate pastor, Freedom Baptist Church, Hillside, IL and Reverend Reginald W. Sharpe, Jr., senior pastor, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

For tickets click here.

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