…for once. Or at least not completely counter-productive. I think he’s starting to get the message we’re sending y’all! Here’s an excerpt from the Essence interview:

ESSENCE.COM: You make a good point about the job of the civil rights community. But many younger African-Americans have been complaining that the old guard civil rights leaders focus too much on African-Americans as victims rather than moving the race forward. What do you think about this point of view?
This “old guard, new guard” is an unhealthy division. Politics must be inter-generational. You need Barack on the one hand to talk, you need Charlie Rangel, chair of House Ways & Means [Committee], and John Conyers, chair of our House Judiciary [Committee]. In politics you grow by adding and multiplying, not by subtracting and dividing. So “old guard vs. new guard” is not a healthy combination. The reality is that we achieved the right to vote, we achieved freedom, but we didn’t achieve equality, and that is the remaining civil rights work.

ESSENCE.COM: The rapper Nas and writer Kevin Powell, who is running for Congress in Brooklyn, have said that you particularly, and other civil rights leaders, are no longer relevant and need to step aside. How do you remain relevant to this newer generation?
The reality is that if you’re running for Congress, you need the votes of senior citizens. You need the votes of churches. You are not getting in Congress on a youth vote. That’s not the mass that you need to win a congressional seat. You need an intergenerational, multicultural coalition. And that experience cannot be thrown away. In Dr. King’s time, Dr. King was 34, but he reached out to A. Philip Randolph. It took both A. Philip Randolph and Dr. King in tandem to make the March on Washington take place.

He’s not totally off-base here, right? This isn’t crazy talk but the words of a seasoned statesman. It often does take a coalition of diverse groups coming together to gain progress. It does take multiple generations coordinating to drive change. Yet — Jesse ain’t popular with younger black folk for 3 primary reasons in my opinion.

1) The consistent haterade thrown at younger leaders: he hasn’t done much nurturing of young leaders over the years which is why it’s easier for them to push him aside or work around him without much consideration.

2) The crazy things he’s said in recent years and the embarrassment caused by his illegitimate child and other moral failures of personal leadership.

3) The relative weakness of his advocacy. Looking at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition website, I can see that Jackson has been active on the mortgage crisis which is cool but where is he on modern issues impacting African-Americans such as education, Iraq, the justice system, Katrina relief, energy independence, travesties in the name of national security such as habeas corpus, torture, the PATRIOT Act, racial profiling etc — not to mention the climate crisis? And oh, btw — RainbowPush.org has some nice features like mobile, but it is one of the ugliest designs and most inefficient layouts I have ever seen. Which says a lot about the internal organization over there — i.e. the face they have n present to the world is such a hideous, non-modern, non-updated (no press releases for Aug?!) and disorganized one.

So I disagree that the “old guard, new guard” distinction is unhealthy. I think it’s very healthy to talk about the quality of leadership we’ve been receiving from the likes of Jackson and Sharpton and challenge the media to look to a new generation of leaders that are emergent and highly relevant to the struggle of today — not yesterday. Generation X leaders like Van Jones, Majora Carter, Lennox Yearwood, Tavis Smiley, James Rucker & Andre Banks (google ’em) for example — and yes, you and me y’all — have decided to roll up our sleeves and get in the game. It’s Why We Can’t Wait for older leaders who seem stuck on slow jam mode. The civil rights warriors had best better try to keep up, help out or get the hell out of the way…

Thanks to MTP for the tip, btw…

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