November 14, 2018

Jesse Jackson Sees “Light in the Darkness”

By Donald Gilpin

Preaching to a congregation of about 800 in the Princeton University Chapel on Sunday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, iconic civil rights, religious, and political leader, called for hope and perseverance in the current troubled political climate. 

“Is it dusk moving toward midnight or dawn moving toward noon time?” he questioned in his sermon leading off the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA) annual Multifaith Service and Conference for Peace.

Joining Jackson at the afternoon conference attended by about 250 at the Nassau Presbyterian Church, speakers included Ambassador Wendy Sherman, head of the U.S. team that negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement; Ray Acheson, a leader of the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons; Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York; and Bill Hartung, an internationally recognized expert on Pentagon spending and the global arms trade.

Noting that working for peace and justice is a journey through darkness, a process without a rapid payoff, Jackson said, ”There is a certain darkness in our nation today — elections based upon who has the most money, the most deceptive ads, the real capacity to suppress votes without any conscious restraints.”

Enumerating injustices and abuses of power in recent events, he asked repeatedly, “What time is it?” and questioned, “How does one navigate in the darkness?” Jackson went on to point out lights of hope in the dark: W.E.B. DuBois, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela from history, and from current events, “during this dark season, the refugees from Central America, Beto in Texas, Gillum in Florida, Abrams in Georgia.”

He continued, “In the darkness, you must imagine globally, not just personally or nationally. There are no more foreigners in the world in light of social media. Everyone is everyone’s neighbor in the world house.”

Concluding on an optimistic note, Jackson asserted, ”People of faith know that darkness is not permanent. It’s dark but the morning comes.”

In the afternoon sessions, Jackson emphasized the importance of diversity in improving American life and working towards social justice. Urging organizations and individuals to embrace diversity, he cited examples of striking improvements achieved through diversity from Jackie Robinson and his effect on the quality of
Major League Baseball to the present. 

He called on the peace movement, largely white and middle class, to reach toward being more inclusive. CFPA Executive Director Bob Moore acknowledged that the CFPA needs to continue its efforts in responding to the challenge. He echoed Jackson’s words, stating that diversity has been a priority of his organization. “We’ve paid attention,” he said. “We’ve worked hard on the diversity challenge, and it pays off. It gives us vitality and connection that pays off over time.”

With calls for open-mindedness, getting beyond groupthink, and “changing the narrative” but staying committed to the cause, the afternoon speakers touched on some of Jackson’s themes in their discussions of nuclear and conventional weapons, North Korea, Iran, and other global concerns.