Convention is 'PUSH' for civil rights, jobs, other issues

The opening day of events for the 40th Annual Conference of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund was held Saturday at the civil rights organization’s headquarters, 930 E. 50th Street. This year’s conference focuses on upholding the ga

The opening day of events for the 40th Annual Conference of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund was held Saturday at the civil rights organization’s headquarters, 930 E. 50th Street. This year’s conference focuses on upholding the gains of the Civil Rights Movement.

Rainbow PUSH Founder and President Rev. Jesse L. Jackson was flanked by a bevy of local and national leaders as opening day – with its “Chaos to the Community…Where do we go from here?” theme – doubled as the weekly television taping for the organization.

A panel of civil rights advocates, policy makers and legislators offered solutions to social disparities that they agreed continues plague urban communities and the working poor.

"If we don’t deal with taking back our civil rights. We will be marginalized," Foster Stringer, a Rainbow PUSH member, said Saturday.

Then, popular talk show and radio host, author and political commentator Tavis Smiley moderated a panel discussion with the wrongfully convicted. The session addressed how these individuals can put their lives back together after serving time for crimes they didn’t commit.

It was a subject very familiar to Oscar Walden Jr.

In 1951, he was sentenced and spent 14 years in prison for a rape he says he didn’t commit. He was released in 1965 and has since been pardoned by former Illinois Gov. George Ryan.

"I think we need to pursue the innocence of prisoners and their releases," Walden told the Defender.

At Sunday’s jobs rally, other economic, union and political leaders joined Jackson in calling for a national spotlight on unemployment, workers rights and voting rights.

Jackson told the crowd of people packed into a PUSH headquarters ante room that legislation on the issues has been “too slow,” litigation has been marred in red tape and it is “now time for a massive street demonstration.”

Bennett College for Women (Greensboro, S.C.) President Julianne Malveaux said disparities in employment status, education and some civil rights are “helping to make our nation a third world nation.”

And Robert Borosage, founder and president of the Institute for America’s future, said “the only thing that’s going to stop this … is if people get up and make themselves heard. … As bad as you think things are, they’re worse,” he said Sunday.

After the press conference dozens of people handed their resume to the SEIU International union president, Mary Kay Henry, who said she would take the resumes and assist PUSH with matching them to employers taking part in the convention’s job fair.

Monday saw the convention move to the Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave., for the remainder of its run. Gov. Pat Quinn spoke at the business luncheon attended by a number of top corporations, entrepreneurs, state legislators and others. The Comcast NBCUniversal deal was one of several discussions held during the day. Then Monday night, the organization’s youth charity arm, PUSH Excel, awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to college-bound students. PUSH Excel boasts giving more than $3 million in scholarships in the last 30 years.

Tuesday’s agenda focused on housing issues, including foreclosures, and faith leaders. An athletic banquet that night and a veteran’s roundtable and women’s luncheon on Wednesday would help close out PUSH’s 40th annual convention.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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