Published on Monday, January 17, 2005 by the Associated Press
Jackson Says War, Poverty Sap King Legacy
by Harry R. Weber
JONESBORO, GA. - War, poverty, violence and social injustice are dampening Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy as the nation prepares to celebrate the slain civil rights leader's birthday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told a church gathering Sunday.
In a passionate speech at Dixon Grove Baptist Church in Jonesboro, south of King's native Atlanta, Jackson assailed the war in Iraq and insisted the gap between rich and poor in America is widening despite King's message of peace and equality.
"It's easy to admire Dr. King," Jackson told the 650 people at the church. "It's a challenge to follow him."
Jackson, who was standing beneath the motel balcony where King was fatally shot in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, suggested a good birthday present to King would be for Americans to strive more for financial and social equality.
"You can be out of slavery and out of segregation and have the right to vote and starve to death without access to capital and industry," Jackson said.
He added, "You got the birthday. But do you have the legacy? The legacy is to fight for jobs, justice, health care, education and end to war."
Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said the war in Iraq is a quagmire of death and destruction with no end in sight.
"We call the home team the insurgents and we're the home team," Jackson said sarcastically. "Dr. King, what are we doing?"
More events commemorating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday were scheduled for Monday, when the nation celebrates King's birthday.
Thousands are expected to gather in downtown Atlanta for the 19th annual march and rally honoring King in his hometown. The march will follow a morning commemorative service, attended by the King family and other dignitaries, at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached until his death.
Meanwhile, volunteers with Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless will be busy serving thousands at Turner Field for its annual King Day dinner.
Parades marking the holiday are planned around the state, including Savannah, Moultrie, Tifton, Bainbridge, Gainesville and McDonough.
In Cobb County, residents will gather in Marietta for a King Day march. Fayetteville also is holding its inaugural King Day march this year, after city officials decided for the first time to shut down government offices to commemorate the holiday.
© 2005 The Associated Press