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Jesse Jackson Issues Challenge to Student-Leaders

By Rori Francis Blakeney

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. convened a three-hour meeting of Atlanta University Center student leaders and faculty members on August 31. Jackson, who began his activism as a student in the summer of 1960 seeking to desegregate the local public library in Greenville, S.C., and then as a leader in the sit-in movement, issued a challenge to a new generation of student leaders during the intimate roundtable discussion with the group of about 50 in the African American Hall of Fame in King Chapel.

“You have the energy to fight, but you need to know what the targets are,” said Jackson. Some of the targets he identified were education, the prison system in America and the Voting Rights Act. Jackson has been traveling around the country raising awareness of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. He also wants to draw attention to the 2007 expiration of key provisions of the act affecting minority voters. In addition, Jackson said the Georgia Voter ID bill is a step in the wrong direction. He underscored that fact that students at Georgia State and Georgia Tech could use their student ID to vote while AUC student IDs are invalid.

“It’s two sets of rules,” Jackson said. “This is the type of inequality that you must fight against. The Voting Rights Act has been under constant attack. We need the Voting Rights Act reauthorized with enforcement provisions to prevent these types of actions.”

While Jackson stressed the importance of voting, Abraham Davis, professor of political science, raised the question of voter disenfranchisement.

“What reason do we have to vote?” Davis asked. “What good does it do to have political power if there’s no economic power?” Davis said, “We need to be teaching young people to own businesses.”

Jackson replied: “We have to do more than vote, but it’s a start.” He also encouraged students to study history and prepare not just intellectually, but get ready.

“Don’t run so fast you don’t have something to say,” Jackson told the leaders.

Morehouse College Student Government Association President Dewey Fowler said the meeting was very informative. “Voting right issues need to be talked about among the student body,” he said. “We need to make people aware of the issues and they will join the movement.”

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