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COMMENTARY: In Defense of Reverend Leonard Jackson
By Reverend Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray
Published November 1, 2007

It is our custom to examine seriously the creative works of Anthony Samad, having observed over the years that he is a person of acute intelligence, tested morality, and dedicated community concern.

This time, however, we feel that Dr. Samad has overstretched the boundaries of accuracy, let alone civility, in his recent article entitled, “Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s ‘Negro Problem:’ It’s Not in the Community—It’s in His Office.”

In his article, Dr. Samad directs very serious accusations against Mayor Villaraigosa and his Senior Advisor, Rev. Leonard Jackson.

A fair-minded person would ask upon reading such an article, “How would I feel if I were the accused?” And because the work of a lifetime can be erased in a stroke of the pen, it seems only fair to demand the whole story, the detailed analysis, the specific breach of commitment of which the person is being accused—rather than a generalized opinion that begs the reader to “just take my word for it.”

We know that some of Dr. Samad’s accusations are downright false (Rev. Jackson allowing someone to listen in to his phone conversations), while others attempt to indict the character of an honorable and dedicated man of God.

By placing his trust in Rev. Jackson, Mayor Villaraigosa has placed his trust in a man we know to be a person of integrity, outreach and commitment to civil rights for all—regardless of race, color or creed.

Rev. Jackson has been a part of the fabric of the community of faith and the fabric of this Los Angeles community for 30 years. He has given 30 years of service, 30 years of work, 30 years of dedication, 30 years of advocating, 30 years of praying, 30 years of giving to the Los Angeles community. As a minister of First AME Church, Rev. Leonard Jackson has worked and served with the utmost integrity and dignity in advocating for justice, economic empowerment for our people and civil rights.

Rev. Jackson has a 30-year record of ministering to the homeless on skid row, to those confined in prison and to the hungry. He has appealed for peace among rival gangs, removing graffiti, encouraging youth and the depressed—even risking personal safety when under threat from the Third Reich Skinheads to do so. Rev. Jackson knows and works with key players in religion, government, politics, corporations, education, the military to guarantee that justice means more than just us, just us fortunate ones, just us powerful ones.

Even as a recruiter in the U.S. Army, Rev. Jackson was an advocate for minority rights, seeking even those who may have lost themselves and are now offered a new door of opportunity.

Like his mayor and ours, Rev. Leonard Jackson seems to be on wheels, making community meetings of significance, noting grievances that are given to him to pass on to proper authorities, staying in touch with civil rights groups and leaders, and having a respect that seemingly is not shared by the writer of the charges against him—a respect that is well-deserved and worthy of defense when it is attacked.

Rev. Jackson himself can list the specifics of his accomplishments in service with and to our first citizen, Mayor Villaraigosa, but we could hardly let this opportunity pass to stand with him under siege, even as he has stood with hundreds and hundreds in his years of service.

Reverend Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray—Tanzy Chair in Christian Ethics, Senior Fellow, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, University of Southern California
Rev. Dr. John Hunter—Representing the Ministerial Staff of First AME Church
Rev. Dr. Lester Mosley-President—Baptist Pastors/Ministers Conference of Los Angeles
Rev. Steven D. Johnson—Pastor of Finance, Faithful Central Bible Church, CFO, Forum Enterprises, Inc.


Categories: Op-Ed

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