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Tuesday, July 12, 2022
More than 100 Cleveland Leaders Have Invited Rev. Jesse Jackson to the City to Meet with Them on Wednesday to Discuss Black Participation from the Top to the Bottom on the Construction of Sherwin-Williams’ New Global Headquarters
Civil Rights Icon Will Urge the Paint and Coating Company to Renew Talks Calling for a Black-owned Firm to Serve as a Key Partner on the Major Project
Chicago– Civil rights icon Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., the founder, and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, one of the world's leading civil rights organizations, announced today that he is visiting Cleveland on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, to meet with a cross-section of leaders who are advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion at the highest level surrounding the construction of The Sherwin-Williams Company's new global headquarters.
Rev. Jackson, who is 80 and the most senior of the leaders heading large, traditional civil rights organizations in the U.S., will meet with leaders at 12 noon ET at The Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church, located at 1161 E. 105th St. in Cleveland, where Rev. Dr. E. T. Caviness serves as senior pastor. The group will hold a press conference at 1:15p.m. (ET).
Rev. Jackson is arriving after receiving a second invitation to visit the city to help mediate a split in how leaders of color want to achieve economic parity surrounding the building of the new corporate tower and research and development center in the city and a nearby suburb, which is estimated to cost more than $600 million.
Nearly half of the money is coming from tax breaks and incentives. One side, led by the Black Contractors Group of Cleveland (BCG) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Cleveland chapter (SCLC), wants diversity from the top to the bottom, including a Black-owned firm being named a key partner. The other side, led by the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, believes a community agreement, which is being overseen by the Urban League, could achieve all diversity goals.
The rift has intensified in recent months as Sherwin-Williams has refused to meet again with officials from the BCG and SCLC.
In September 2020, Sherwin Williams, which has been a leading corporation in the city for 155 years, announced a team of nine partners to build its downtown tower and a research and development center in nearby Brecksville. All of the partners were white men.
The BCG, led by Norm Edwards, and the SCLC, led by the legendary Rev. Dr. E. T. Caviness, said that team was unacceptable in the nation’s poorest city which is 51 percent African American. Edwards and Rev. Caviness called on Sherwin-Williams to name a Black-owned firm as a key partner.
All sides agreed on a Black-owned local construction company. After nine months, the negotiations broke off and Sherwin-Williams has refused to return to the table to finalize the talks.
Meanwhile, Sherwin-Williams has partnered with the Urban League and has announced plans for diversity that fall short of the goal of having a Black-owned firm as a key partner.
While some leaders are supportive of the community agreement that will be led by the Urban League, a growing number of Black and Hispanic leaders want Sherwin-Williams to resolve its dispute with the BCG and the SCLC, which has garnered national support from the SCLC’s national office in Atlanta led by Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. as well as influential civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King III, former U.S. Ambassador and senior aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, and Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network.
Rev. Jackson, who supports the movement for economic parity in Cleveland including having a Black-owned firm named as a key partner, was scheduled to meet with leaders in Cleveland in early June after receiving an invitation to meet with both sides.
But shortly after that invitation, two pastors, with ties to the Urban League, distributed a letter saying Rev. Jackson’s support was not needed. The letter listed the names of prominent ministerial alliances that allegedly agreed that Rev. Jackson did not need to meet with leaders in Cleveland.
But that letter was proven to be false as several leaders of the ministerial alliances surfaced and denounced the letter and said they are supportive of Rev. Jackson visiting Cleveland to address the concerns surrounding Sherwin-Williams.
“I am supportive of the goals for economic inclusion in Cleveland,” said Rev. Jackson, who has been addressing economic inclusion for people of color within major corporations since 1966 when he started Operation Breadbasket in Chicago.
 “The fight for a Black-owned firm to be at the top is the right fight. We cannot get distracted by our different approaches to achieving economic parity. We must keep our eyes on the target. Sherwin-Williams is a global corporation. It is everywhere. We all use Sherwin-Williams’ paints and products. When we come to the table to discuss our differences, we all win. It is time to talk. It is time for healing and resolution. We all want what is in the best interest of Cleveland and our nation.’”
Rev. Jackson’s career in civil rights started with the SCLC in 1966 as a young aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the co-founder and first leader of the SCLC. He was dispatched to Chicago to expand the SCLC’s Operation Breadbasket.
Operation Breadbasket fought for major retailers and consumer goods corporations, such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and A&P supermarket, to employ and do business with Blacks, who patronaged them.
For those supermarkets and companies that locked their doors and denied access to Blacks, Operation Breadbasket moved into direct action and major boycotts. Many successful entrepreneurs and business owners received their big breaks from the movement. Millionaires were created.
“Our work continues,” Rev. Jackson said. “The struggle in Cleveland is the right struggle. We were victorious with Carl Stokes as the first big city Black mayor in 1967. Since we were successful then, we can surely have a breakthrough in the construction industry in 2022.”
Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international organization that was formed in December 1996 by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. through merging of two organizations he founded Operation PUSH People United to Serve Humanity (estab. 1971) and the Rainbow Coalition (estab. 1984). With headquarters in Chicago and offices in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, the organization works to make the American Dream a reality for all citizens while advocating for peace and justice around the world. RPC is dedicated to improving the lives of all people by serving as a voice for the voiceless. Its mission is to protect, defend and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields while promoting peace and justice around the world.
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