CHICAGO (December 19, 2011)--December 25th will mark the 40th Anniversary of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. To commemorate the work, struggle and sacrifice of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and the organization, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared December 17th Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund Day in the State of Illinois at the weekly broadcast of the Rainbow PUSH Saturday Morning Forum.
“For forty years this organization has been fighting for the poor,” said Quinn. “In 1966, Dr. King stated, ‘No social advance rolls on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals.’ I can’t think of a more dedicated individual then Rev. Jackson. As the governor of this state, I proclaim today December 17, 2011 Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund Day all across the state of Illinois.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), also joined the live international broadcast to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Sharpton joined the Civil Rights Movement and Operation Breadbasket at the tender age of 13.
“Words can’t express how honored I am to be here as we celebrate 40 years of this organization,” said Sharpton. “We meet on a very interesting day. Today they are voting in Washington on whether to fund the government for another two months. Much of what Rev. Jackson and Rainbow PUSH has established is now being challenged in this present day.
Sharpton went on to discuss the tactics of the leaders of the modern-day states’ rights movement to undermine the civil rights gains of the 50s and 60s.
“There has always been a battle in this country between those who want to control government state by state and those who want a strong national government,” he said. “A weak national government means we would still be sitting on the back of the bus. A weak national government means we wouldn’t have the right to vote.”
In Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states, modern day states’ rights governors and legislators have focused their attack on public sector unions and the right to collective bargaining. The courts have enjoined Wisconsin’s “leaders” from implementing the act they passed, and recall movements and initiatives have been organized to fight back against these new conservatives. State after state is engaging in efforts to roll back the Voting Rights Act by enacting new reapportionment boundaries, engaging in voter suppression tactics and promoting restrictive and undemocratic voter ID bills.
In Michigan, state’s righters are using a financial crisis to enact a “New Emergency Manager Law” – appointing a “czar” that strips citizens of their right to elect their leadership. In addition to disenfranchising the democratically elected Benton Harbor leaders, Michigan’s legislature is rapidly dialing back civil and human rights by diminishing the right to collective bargaining, and decreasing K-12 funding and the Earned Income Tax Credit. This is not what democracy looks like.
Rainbow PUSH was born on December 25, 1971 and, reflecting the spirit of Christmas, emerged in the midst of need with a great imperative to serve. PUSH traveled from its Breadbasket roots of the south to the thriving segregated north of Chicago.
It burst forward at a time when Chicago had no independent black elected officials, few black-owned businesses, and growing segregation in housing and employment. There were very few African-Americans working in key management positions in corporate America. There were no blacks on the boards of directors of the Fortune 500 companies; no African-American had owned or constructed a fast food franchise or major supermarket; and no African-Americans were serving as partners in the major law firms. Black children were attending schools which were segregated and inadequate. Police brutality was rampant and poverty and despair were abundant.
Creating the Coalition
In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. appointed Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. to serve as the first director of Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, IL.
In 1971, three years after the tragic assassination of Dr. King in Memphis, TN, Reverend Jackson founded Operation P.U.S.H (People United to Save Humanity, later modified to People United to Serve Humanity) in Chicago and continued the work of Dr. King.
In 1972, the idea of the "Black Expo" (Black Business Exposition) was developed to "expose" African-American businesses.
In 1984, the National Rainbow Coalition was formed in Washington, DC following Reverend Jackson's first presidential campaign. Rainbow's focus was to unite progressive people, historically locked out of the mainstream of American politics, into a "coalition of conscience" dedicated to making America more inclusive.
In 1996, the National Rainbow Coalition and Operation P.U.S.H. were merged to form the Rainbow PUSH Coalition with international headquarters in Chicago.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366