Current events and scripture highlighted the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson’s thought-provoking address at the weekly meeting of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California (BMC).
Speaking before scores of preachers on August 21, Jackson shared his perspective on a range of topics such as the Charlottesville tragedy, the Trump administration and illegal immigration.
Preparing the crowd to hear from the esteemed civil rights leader, BMC President Xavier L. Thompson noted Jackson’s frequent television commentaries analyzing hot-button issues. “On any given day, you see him on CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News Channel,” said Thompson. “This morning, he was summoned to CNBC studios for an interview and now here, in living color, in the sanctuary today, clap your hands for the Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. Give God praise for him today!”
Jackson began by commending the BMC and its leadership for the presentations by U.S. Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán and L.A. Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson that preceded his speech. “Scripture says we cannot be isolated from crisis but insulated. We cannot be Gospel here and issues over there. This conference shows that the church community will not leave the least of those behind,” he said.
Referring to the recent Charlottesville protest over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Jackson said the tragic death of counter protester Heather Heyer, by a White supremacist sympathizer, revealed “the power of unbalance, the power of the unsaved and the power of innocent blood.”
According to Jackson, “innocent blood” leads to change, much as the murder of Mississippi State NAACP president Medgar Evers, in June 1963, fueled the March on Washington in August 1963. “There’s power in innocent blood. The blood of the innocent drove the agenda,” he declared.
However, Jackson left no doubt that Confederate statues should be eliminated, recalling that even Robert E. Lee did not recommend such monuments and said statues will prolong the agony of war.
“Theses statues reflect secession from the inion, slavery of our people, sedition and segregation. There is no place for this. Let’s take the glass out of the wound. Let’s take these statues down,” insisted Jackson, who expanded the call to include removal of Confederate flags and the Electoral College.
He said the Electoral College system was “based on an equation as if slavery didn’t exist.” If United States operated under the “one man, one vote” structure, Hilary Clinton would be president because she won by 3 million votes.
Turning next to President Donald J. Trump, Jackson reminded the audience not to despair, “We’ve had ‘Trumps’ before, and we’ve been through this before in the past era. This is a test for us – when you have a test, you have a testimony – but we’ll survive. We’ve survived before. We’ll be here and he’ll be gone.”
Jackson also shared his thoughts about immigration and the relationship between African Americans and Latinos, especially those who do not speak English.
“English is a great language, but Jesus didn’t speak English. The Ten Commandments were not written in English. So don’t make a language [about] religion,” he said.
“Two-thirds of our neighbors speak Spanish. We need to teach our children to speak Spanish and your neighbors should learn to speak English. You should be able to speak to your neighbor. You can’t limit the language. God speaks the language of all folks. The message is what’s important, not the language. Hope in all language works.”
Concluding his message, Jackson repeated his call to stay encouraged in the midst of challenging times. “We have been here 398 years. We’ve been slaves longer than we’ve been free. God didn’t bring us this far to leave us now. Our God will see us through. There is power in the blood of Jesus.”
Earlier in the meeting, elected officials Barragán and Harris-Dawson provided updates about their congressional and council districts, respectively.
Citing her recent activities, Barragán said, “If you haven’t heard, you will hear about the air pollution crisis in Compton, where there have been very high levels of something called Chromium 6 (a cancer-causing toxin emitted from metal processing facilities that are near schools and homes). We have been fighting to get the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to work with the SCAQMD (Southern California Air Quality District) to address this.”
Also, Barragán announced an upcoming hearing in Watts on environmental justice issues in Watts and a senior fair focused on health care services.
Harris-Dawson informed the audience that the city’s Safe Parking Program is underway and the first project has been funded with a BMC-member church. The program, a component of the Measure H Homeless Initiative, offers churches funding for bathrooms, security and staffing to allow homeless people who reside in cars to park on church lots from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“We’re looking for churches with good-sized parking lots to open those lots that are not in use during the week, in the evenings especially, for homeless families living in their vehicles,” said Harris-Dawson. “Ultimately, we want to get people in housing and the county will bring social workers in to help those people get housing.”