The DNC has openly celebrated the fact that Barack Obama will accept the democratic nomination for president on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s world-changing “I Have A Dream” speech, leveraging the powerful impact of that reality to positive effect. However, the DNC has made little of the fact that neither this party nor this country would have arrived at this monumental moment in our history if not for the countless civil rights advances that preceded it. Obama has acknowledged from the start that without those achievements, large and small, we would in all likelihood not even know his name.
So it was with great determination and enthusiasm that California Congresswoman and former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Maxine Waters spearheaded a celebration of the civil rights movement at Denver’s Performing Arts Complex on Sunday evening. The program payed tribute to eight of the most prominent and effective civil rights organizations of our time: the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, The NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund, National Action Network, National Council of Negro Women, Rainbow Push Coalition, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Urban League. Also honored was The National Voting Rights Museum & Institute.
The event was hosted by actor and activist Danny Glover and co-chaired by Tavis Smiley, Atlanta entrepreneur Daniel Halpern and Jacqueline Jackson, wife of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, all of whom spoke, effectively raising the consciousness of the audience, most of whom were drawn by the night’s headliners, Frankie Beverly and Maze. In accepting the award for his National Action Network, Rev. Al Sharpton emphatically noted that “there would be no Barack Obama on the ballot had his name not been preceded by those of Tubman, Dubois, Hamer, Goodman, Cheney & Schwerner, Washington, Douglass, King,” and all of those countless courageous women and men who paved the way to this defining moment in American history.
“The Civil Rights Movement is the most successful movement for justice, freedom and equality in the history of the world,” said Waters. “This even not only celebrates that success, it also honors the lives lost and sacrifices made to bring about justice and equality in America. The organizations being recognized make up the bridge that has taken African Americans from slavery, discrimination, racism and poverty to where we find ourselves today — with an African American as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party and possibly the next President of the United States of America.”
Interestingly, Jesse Jackson was not in attendance at the event. Two of his children, Santita Jackson and Joseph Jackson, accepted the award on behalf of Rainbow Push. In doing so, they paid homage to both their mother and father but the latter’s contributions to the movement, which include his own historic runs for the presidency, were not stressed. Reportedly, Jesse Jackson is not in Denver and not expected to attend the convention. He is said to be on a soul searching retreat following the debacle of his disparaging remarks about Barack Obama captured on audio and released to the public last