Socialist Worker

Jesse Jackson visit

Issue No. 2066

US civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson in Britain last week to promote economic justice and equality for black people. (Pic:» Guy Smallman )

US civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson in Britain last week to promote economic justice and equality for black people. (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of people attended US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson’s final meeting of the day in Nottingham on Friday of last week.

Jackson spoke about the need for self belief and the need to get organised to stimulate change.

People chanted, “I am somebody,” after Martin Luther King’s famous phrase.

Jackson talked of the ark that enabled survival in the great flood described in the Old Testament in the bible.

This demonstrated the need for members of black and minority ethnic communities to get organised, he said.

If you are not part of an organisation you won’t survive.

Though the abolition of slavery might have freed black people, they were still economically disadvantaged.

Jackson spoke about the need to join the Equanomics campaign, being nationally promoted and supported by the TUC, to help achieve this.

This meeting in Nottingham was also supported by the newly relaunched local trades council in Nottinghamshire, which has organised a meeting on migrant workers for 4 September.

Richard Buckwell secretary Nottinghamshire, Mansfield & Nottingham TUC

Jesse Jackson’s Nottingham meeting was just one of a series of events in a week long speaking tour undertaken by the veteran US civil rights activist.

The tour was organised to launch Equanomics UK, a campaign set up by the 1990 Trust demanding economic equality for black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The presence and endorsement of Jesse Jackson has certainly boosted the profile of the campaign. A meeting he held at Westminster Central Hall in London on Wednesday of last week attracted an audience of over 1,000 people.

The 1990 Trust’s aim of directly addressing the social and economic aspects of racism is more than welcome.

Jackson argues that the primary goal of the civil rights struggle was equality – and freedom was just a means to this end. “Freedom is the absence of being bound. Equality means getting parity – our share,” he said.

The campaign is also clear about the impact of the Iraq war on racism – in particular, it acknowledges how Muslims have become central targets of contemporary racism. Several speakers at the London meeting spoke against the war, including Jackson himself.

But in other aspects, Jackson’s vision is more limited. His notion of “economic justice” seems to mean little more than a “fair share” of the present system – especially for middle class black people.

The notion that our collective strength can change the nature of the economic system we live in, or that our role as workers has a significant role to play in this, was missing. Too often collective strength was reduced to the formula “voting and purchasing power”.

Nevertheless, the popularity of Jackson’s rallies shows that the issues of economic justice strike a chord with black and Asian people.

Anindya Bhattacharyya

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Article information

Tue 28 Aug 2007, 18:17 BST
Issue No. 2066
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