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June 14, 2017

Rev. Jackson Meets with Gov. Officials & Talks with Students in Northern Ireland

 

For Immediate Release

June 14, 2017

 

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. Meets with Government Officials and Talks with Students in Northern Ireland about History and Hope

 

 DERRY, Northern Ireland – The decades of violence in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles” ended in 1998, but some of the old sectarian ways live on.

 

“We are still really segregated,” sighed John Harkin, vice principal of Oakgrove Integrated College, an “integrated” school in Derry for Catholic and Protestant junior high and high school students.  “According to surveys only seven percent of children go to integrated schools in Northern Ireland and an even smaller percentage has had a meaningful conversation with someone from a significantly different background.”

 

That is why Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. told a large assembly of Oakgrove students and faculty here Wednesday how proud Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela would be of them for “learning to live together like brothers and sisters” and moving “beyond color and religion to character.”

 

 “I am delighted to be here because of what you represent,” Rev. Jackson told about 500 students, dressed in blue blazers and ties, and sitting on the floor of the school’s gym. “You are demonstrating what Dr. King and Mandela worked for.”

 

Rev. Jackson is in Derry for a three-day visit to open the new Museum of Free Derry. The museum is dedicated to the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland from 1968 through 1972, a struggle modeled in no small measure after the African-American freedom movement. The museum opening ceremony isThursday night.

 

After speaking at Oakgrove, Rev. Jackson met with Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, whose former leader, John Hume, was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his role in ending “The Troubles.” In the afternoon, Rev. Jackson was the guest of honor at a reception hosted by the mayor of Derry, 

Maoliosa McHugh. At the City Hall reception, Rev. Jackson met with families of the victims of Bloody Sunday – the day in 1972 when British paratroopers gunned down nonviolent marchers, protesting discriminatory incarceration practices. Fourteen people, ranging in age from 17 to 59, were killed. Seventeen other marchers were injured.

 

The Museum of Free Derry is built on the site of “Bloody Sunday” and on Wednesday Rev. Jackson toured the Catholic neighborhood. His guide was Paul Doherty, whose father, Patrick, was one of the 14 killed that day.

 

“We wanted the same thing the people in the civil rights movement in America wanted –equality and justice,” Doherty told Rev. Jackson as they paused in front of a mural of marchers, carrying signs that read, “Jobs Not Greed” and “One Man, One Vote.”

 

Rev. Jackson is seen here as a human bridge, linking the two movements. In his letter asking Rev. Jackson “to do the honors at our opening,” museum chair, Robin Percival, said Rev. Jackson remains “an iconic figure in terms of the struggle for civil rights and social and economic justice throughout the world.”

 

That is how he was received at Oakgrove Wednesday morning.

 

“We welcome Jesse Jackson, an American man, a man history already records as being a giant of the 20th and now the 21st century,” the school’s principal, Jill Markham, told the assembly. “…But in celebrating one man’s contribution, we should also remember the contributions each of us has to make in working for justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 

At the end of his talk to the students, Rev. Jackson asked them to stand. Then he led them in his familiar declaration of affirmation, slightly adjusting the words for the audience.

 

“Repeat after me,” he said. “I am Somebody….

 

“I may be Protestant. I may be Catholic. I may be Jewish or Muslim or Hindu.

 

“I am Somebody.…

 

“I will never surrender my dreams.

 

“I am Somebody.

 

“Keep hope alive.”

 

 

 

 

Media Contact:
Don Terry

312-608-2514

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