I was born in 1966, the year that Dr. Martin Luther King moved to Chicago, into a tiny apartment on the corner of Hamlin and 16th street, where he would to try to build on his movement. He said, “If we can break the system in Chicago, it can be broken any place in the country.”
Upon leaving, after having fought for over a year, marched, and finally put together a shaky agreement with Mayor Daley to control his police and officials, Dr. King left. He told reporters afterward:
I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen—even in Mississippi and Alabama—mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’ve seen here in Chicago.
A year later, he was assassinated.
In 1988, I had the chance to volunteer for Jesse Jackson, who had stood next to Dr. King when he was shot. Jackson was influential in getting Mayor Harold Washington elected and was a giant personality, tall, with huge hands (funny what you remember). After a day of canvassing, a big treat was to gather in front of him and hear him tell stories about marching with Dr. King. Jesse Loved Chicago. The volunteers were completely captivated. He seemed to believe What MLK had said about Chicago being the place to break this system.
Jackson talked about some of Dr. King’s methods when he used to bring the press, just through force of character, to places they needed to be. Jackson did the same thing when he went to Detroit to speak to the auto workers, bringing the press with him.
When I asked him if my band, Die Warzau, could use portions of his speech in a dance song, he asked if it would be played at white clubs, too. I told him that I hoped so. He nodded yes.
Every once in awhile, I find the song on Youtube or somewhere else. I don’t have a copy. But I’m still grateful that a presidential candidate let one of his low-level volunteers use his words in a recording for his band, without placing conditions on it or making a big deal about it.
At 77 now, Jesse Jackson is still a bigger-than-life person, especially in his support of the congresswomen Trump singled out through his racist attacks.
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Photo credit: screenshot from video