He was once famously described by former US President Richard Nixon as “the only poet in American politics” and he was devastated to witness the assassination of his friend and mentor, Martin Luther King. Now Reverend Jesse Jackson will visit Derry for the first time this Sunday, March 20, to talk about his remarkable life.
Reverend Jesse Jackson has been an inspiration to countless millions of black Americans thanks to his relentless pursuit of civil liberties. As well as being a celebrated civil rights leader, Rev Jackson also ran for US President on several occasions. In his 20s, he witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968.
This Sunday, local commentator and Derry Journal columnist Paul McFadden will host ‘A Conversation With Jesse Jackson’ in the Guildhall.
Speaking ahead of this prestigious event, Mr McFadden said: “Much has changed since the beginning of the US civil rights movement, and carrying the torch throughout was Jesse Jackson. He picked up the baton for civil rights and carried it forward for generations. It is because of the efforts of people like him that Barak Obama ended up being the first African American in the Whitehouse.”
“I’m really looking forward to meeting him,” Mr McFadden went on. “The thing that I find most impressive is his gift as an orator - it is a significant gift and one which few politicians possess in modern politics.
“Obviously his stance on civil rights has a resonance with people here, and this has had a huge influence on our own struggle for civil rights here in Ireland. For that, we, as people, owe him and his followers a debt of gratitude,” he added.
McFadden is eager to get beyond Jackson’s political exterior during Sunday’s talk.
“Personally I’d like to know what makes him tick, the motivation behind his work and how he feels about Obama becoming the single most powerful politician in the United States. That would have been unthinkable just decades ago.
“This will be an unmissable event and I think it is a privilege for the people of Derry that a man of such stature has come here.”
Following his talk, the celebrated civil rights leader will present the first-ever Henry Cunningham Human Rights Award to a pupil from Inishowen. Carndonagh teen Henry Cunningham was gunned down by the UVF in 1973 and now, almost forty years later, a schools Human Rights essay contest will mark his memory.
‘A Conversation with Reverend Jesse Jackson’ will take place at the Guildhall from 4pm until 5.30pm this Sunday, March 20. Please note that doors will close at 3.45pm. Free admission.