The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and icons of the civil rights movement were honored Thursday at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund’s 46th Annual International Convention at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave.

Rev. Jackson hosted the Minister’s Luncheon, honoring civil rights legends Dr. Andrew Young, Jr., Rev. C.T. Vivian, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, Rabbi Israel Dresner and Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network.

“We stand as children of Jackson and Young and Dr. King,” Rev. Sharpton told the audience. “This man ran for president and registered more voters than any other Democrat,” he said of Jackson.

Rev. Sharpton told the audience that it’s critical for civil rights leaders to reconnect with communities such as the West Side of Chicago where Dr. King lived with his family during the Chicago Freedom Movement of 1966.

“If we don’t reconnect we will be obsolete in our own communities,” Sharpton said.

Rev. Jackson had high praise for Pfleger, Vivian and Young who joined him on the luncheon dais.

“In the 1950s we started to redeem the soul of America from the triple evils of racism, war and poverty” Dr. Young said earlier at a convention panel on social justice and human rights. “Frustration and anguish burned out many other civil rights activists. Being smart and fearless has a longer lifespan then being angry, cynical, and anguished. Many other organizations missed that lesson.”

Jackson said that some preachers get caught in boxes that divide them from their communities, but he praised Dr. Wright, the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, for never letting that happen.

Rev. Vivian cautioned the audience not to forget the legacy of non-violence left by Dr. King.

“Nonviolence is what it’s about and we have to live in that kind of world,” Rev. Vivian said. Like many in the room, Rev. Vivian marveled at the reunion of civil rights leaders, “the people who made this thing really happen.” But he reminded everyone that the struggle is ongoing.

“We don’t know yet the end of this story,” Rev. Vivian said.

The celebration of American legends continued Thursday night with the PUSH sports banquet, honoring, among others, NBA Hall of Famer Bernard King, sports agent Leigh Steinberg and ESPN anchor and legal analyst Adrienne Lawrence.

Other convention sessions Thursday included panels on the march for justice from SNCC to the Black Lives Matter movement, a seminar on the music business and the Labor Breakfast that kicked off the day.

At the breakfast, Rev. Jackson talked about the plight of temporary workers, calling the hiring practice the “scam of our time” because the workers don’t receive benefits and fair pay.

Rev. Jackson then presented Illinois Representative Carol Ammons with the “Freedom Fighter Award” for her support of temporary workers.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez was the keynote speaker. He told the audience that the high point of American unions coincided with the low point of wage inequality in the 20th Century, adding “when unions succeed, communities succeed.”

The convention began Wednesday and runs through Saturday, July 15.

Friday Convention Highlights:

11:45AM – 2:30PM: Women’s International Luncheon: Together We Rise: Empower the Women, Develop the Nation. Keynote speaker: Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Honoree: the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Location: Grand Ballroom, Hilton Chicago.

4-5 PM: The National Black and Brown Elected Officials Summit VIP Reception. Location: Rainbow Push Coalition National Headquarters, 930 E. 50th Street.

6-8 PM: Illinois Democratic Gubernatorial Forum, moderated by Brandis Friedman of WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight.” Location: Rainbow PUSH Coalition National Headquarters, 930 E. 50th Street

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