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Jesse Jackson: Honoring his civil rights legacy

By: Greta Guest

M-Prize 2017

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan will honor the Rev. Jesse Jackson on his five decades of civil rights activism during a series of events Nov. 16.

The events include Jackson delivering the keynote speech at 4 p.m. at Rackham Auditorium. He will share his reflections on the presidential race and on the future of the struggle for economic, political and social justice.

Following his speech, Bankole Thompson, former editor of the Michigan Chronicle, will moderate a question-and-answer session. Students from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance will perform, bringing home the connection between social justice and the arts.

“We are honored to be able to collaborate with the Ford School of Public Policy on this historic celebration,” said Aaron Dworkin, dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. “The role of the performing arts has been profound in the civil rights movement and we are excited to fill this role as we highlight Jackson’s extraordinary legacy.”

U-M President Mark Schlissel and Susan Collins, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, will introduce Jackson. Collins, who led the team that organized the event, said Jackson’s visit is timed perfectly as the university has pledged $85 million toward diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives over the next five years.

“The opportunity to engage the campus around civil rights in a meaningful way is a good fit with the mission of the Ford School,” Collins said.

The event is free and open to the public, but requires a ticket. Tickets are available at the Michigan Union ticket office.

“For more than a half-century, Jesse Jackson has been a vital figure in our nation’s civil rights movement,” said Rob Sellers, U-M vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “This is an incredible opportunity to learn from Jackson’s experiences as we strive to make our university a more diverse, inclusive and equitable environment.”

Morning sessions at Rackham focus on the significance of Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns and his impact on student activism at U-M through the years.

Ann Lin, associate professor of public policy and political science and moderator of the panel on Jackson’s presidential campaigns, said it will examine the influence of outsiders on the two major political parties and debate whether African-Americans are a “captured constituency” of the Democratic Party. It begins at 10 a.m.

At noon, the second panel features student activists across the decades including Tyrell Collier, who graduated in 2014 and was president of the Black Student Union when the hashtag #BBUM (being black at U-M) gained national attention.

“That panel will be really interactive,” Lin said. “Students from different decades can talk about the origins of campaigns they waged, the lessons they learned, and the lasting results of their activism.”

Join in on the conversation: #RevJacksonLegacy

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