Leenika Belfield-Martin| Lifestyle Editor
Reverend Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader and second African-American to run for president, visited Hampton University on Sep- tember 20, 2017 at the Emancipation Oak. On that abnormally warm afternoon, about 200 Hampton students and members of the community gathered around the historical tree to hear the wise words of this icon.
Rev. Jackson’s visit to Hampton was a part of his tour of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The purpose of this “Healing and Rebuilding,” tour was to push voter registration. Rev. Jackson said, “We vote for resources. We vote for priorities.” One such priority Rev. Jackson discussed was cancer, the leading cause of death in Virginia. He spoke about the relationship cancer has with the environment and how poorer people often are the ones to suffer the most.
“Those who die the most [and] die the quickest are those who have the least amount of insurance.” Rev. Jackson said.
Rev. Jackson also spoke about the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist protesters and their adversaries battled over a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
He claimed that the white supremacists have evolved instead of deceasing, saying, “The Klu Klux Klan used to march by night with their hoods on. Now, they march by day without any sense of shame.” The protests turned violent and a driver drove through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing counter-protester Heather Heyer. Rev. Jackson encour- aged the crowd not to forget those acts and to ght the hate by voting in November.
“They killed Heather in August,” he said. “We will remember in November.”
Rev. Jackson shared his experiences living in a segregated south during the Civil Rights Era. During this time he was arrested in 1960 for attempting to use a public library. The crowd recited with Rev. Jackson that “we are not going back” to those times and instead we will move “forward by hope and not backwards by fear.” Now, almost 50 years past segregation, Rev. Jackson said that we must learn to live together after surviving apart.
Accompanying Rev. Jackson on his tour was The New Virginia Majority Education Fund who helped register students at the event. This organization is “the catalytic force for the progressive transformation of Virginia through mass organizing…”according to its website. Last year, the organization had the largest voter registration campaign in the history of Virginia by successfully registering over 168,000 people.
Sauda Speede, who has been with the Education Fund for three consecutive years, said that registering to vote is the first step in making a change in your community. “There’s no point of complaining about certain things in Hampton. If you don’t like it, vote for change,” Speede said.
Speede also said that voting in Virginia should be easier and available to all, even former and current criminals.
“The length of the application is so long in detail… [When people] commit a crime [or] a felony they lose their right to vote forever until the governor actually pardons them and restores their rights.” She also compared the voting rights in Virginia to that of other states, saying “…in Maine and Vermont, [prisoners] vote while they’re locked up!”
Rev. Jackson reached out to the Hampton Chapter of NAACP,who then spoke to the Hampton University Youth and College Division of the NAACP to organize the appearance, according to Hampton’s Miss NAACP, Maya Young. Young, who is a senior elementary education major from South Carolina enjoyed Rev. Jackson’s message about how people fought for the right to vote.
“Like [Rev. Jackson] said, so many fought for us to have that right. So many of us today are really pushing that right without a thought. It [seems to be] no big deal to us, but they literally fought for this right.”