Remembering Jesse Jackson

Today’s events reminded me of the time I heard Jesse Jackson speak.

I spent January of 1984 in Jackson, Mississippi, sleeping on the floor of a church and studying the Civil Rights movement. While we were there, Jackson, who was running for president, came to speak at Jackson State.

Before the speech I came walking across the gym floor carrying a brown paper bag. After I took my seat, the security guys (all white, like me) singled me out of the mostly black crowd and brought me down under the bleachers.

They wanted to know what I had in the bag.

I was a little embarrassed when they looked inside, only to find a pocket New Testament and a dozen or so vanilla sandwich cookies.

They let me go, and I rejoined my friends and the gym full of students. We sang “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine,” then marched downtown to register voters for the fall election. I drove folks back to Jackson State in the school van.

A couple weeks later I hitchhiked to California to follow Jesus. But that’s a different story.


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