I don’t know how I first got involved in the Jackson campaign. It was 1984 and the idea of a Black Man being President of the United States was folly. Sure Shirley Chisholm had run before and Julian Bond from Atlanta had been nominated for Vice President. But these were largely ceremonial. Nobody thought seriously that either of these were serious challenges that could result in election.
Jesse was different. Here was a tall, charismatic Black American who was an actual Civil Rights hero. Not only was he a graduate of HBCU, he was internationally known and had actually rescued a US airman from captivity. He was also eloquent. He spoke of issues affecting the country like no candidate before him had. He inspired and caused those who heard him to believe.
But he was still an outsider. Those who had led the Democratic Party for years felt that he was as intruder who could only make their lives more difficult. They did not like the idea of a Black Man leading the ticket and certainly not Jesse Jackson. He was too loud and brash and was totally unacceptable to the majority of White Americans and certainly not to the voters. In spite of his heroics and eloquence, he was not trusted to lead.
So Bruce Lightner, Pauline Frazier, my wife Dorothy (who was pregnant at the time) joined with me and others from Raleigh and other true believes from Fayetteville, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, the Sandhills, Asheville, Durham, and across North Carolina to form the “Jackson Crazies”. What we lacked in Political Knowledge we made up in enthusiasm and the pure energy that comes from believing in the rightness of the cause. Traditional politicians, including those in our community, thought we had lost our minds. But we talked to everyone and built a statewide network of supporters that has endured until this day.
This seems like a long time ago and there have been many successes since. Obviously this culminated in the election of Barak Obama in 2008. His mixed racial heritage not withstanding or his education at Columbia and Harvard, this was a man married to Black Women, who lived and worked among Chicago’s Black Community, went to a Black Church and whose father was from Africa. He embraced Black culture and his eloquence captivated all America. He was elected and from 2009 – 2017 he became President of the country. And the amazing thing is we got better. Given the pit George Bush left us in, this was a miracle. This man could not only talk, he could lead.
As we reflect on what was, it should be quite evident that the time has passed for us to make decisions on race, religion, or gender. Decisions should be based on who is best prepared to lead. The current condition of our country is an indication that our votes should not be based on our fears. We enjoy a reputation as a reasoned people and society. We take the best ideas of the world from those we allow in our country. We are stronger because of our diversity not in spite of it. It would be good for the POTUS and others to recognize this. If he does not, maybe it is best that he vacate the office.