The Rev. Jesse Jackson didn't use the harsh words of Harry Belafonte to describe
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell when he spoke in Athens Sunday, but he told
his audience to be clear on one thing about Powell.
''He's not on our team,'' Jackson told a packed house at Greater Bethel African
Methodist Episcopal Church, which celebrated its 110th anniversary Sunday. ''If
he wins, Trent Lott wins. We're not on that team. If he wins, we lose. If he wins,
poor folks lose.''
But Jackson's aside on Belafonte -- the singer last week called Powell the
Bush administration's ''house slave'' -- was just a part of Jackson's criticism
of the Bush administration, which he said is using an exaggerated threat from
a country that might get nuclear weapons -- Iraq -- as an ''election trick'' to
divert attention away from the county's mounting economic woes.
''Here we are today victimized by a stolen election that's turned into a mandate
for war,'' said Jackson, reminding his audience that it was Al Gore, not Bush,
who got more votes in the 2000 presidential election.
''Bush is using a war to divert our attention from the economy and drive us
by fear, and not lead us by hope,'' said Jackson, founder and president of the
In two years under Bush, a $3.5 billion federal budget surplus has turned into
a $20 billion deficit; poverty rates have climbed and family income has gone down;
people have lost trillions of dollars in value from their pension and 401-K plans;
funding for Medicare, public education and Bush has yet to meet even once with
the NAACP, he said.
When Bush was of military service age, he ''was dodging war,'' but now that ''he's
waging war -- with your children,'' Jackson said.
used the occasion to explain his take on the Bush administration to an audience
of nearly 200 people who showed their support throughout the entire evening.
Racism is alive and well in the United States, said Jackson, pointing to the
latest criminal proceeding involving Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's daughter.
Caught with illegal drugs a third time, the president's niece got a 10-day
''She deserves love, compassion and treatment. But then your son and daughter
deserve the same love, compassion and treatment,'' Jackson told his predominantly
black audience, citing statistics showing while most people who are arrested are
white, most who go to prison are black.
But the struggle isn't about race -- it's about poverty, and about everyone,
''The Civil Rights struggle is not over, and it's for everybody. Most poor
people are white, they're female, and they work every day,'' he said.
But he also said many African-Americans have forgotten and don't appreciate
the sacrifices made by people like Martin Luther King, Jr., who died in his effort
to get civil rights for African Americans.
One of those rights is the right to vote -- yet 600,000 African American Georgians
are not registered, he said.
''Brother King was killed over the right to vote and you don't even register?
And now we got the right to go to school and have to beg somebody to get off the
TV? Involuntary slavery is illegal, but to volunteer is legal,'' he said.
Copyright 2002 Athens Banner-Herald and Morris Digital Works