Jesse Jackson pays visit to Tulsa high school
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Saturday, August 25, 2012
8/25/12 at 4:18 AM
Central Junior High and High School capped off its first week of school with a hastily arranged visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
"Wherever we go, we visit schools because I want to inspire youth to move forward by hope and not by fear," Jackson said.
"Our dropout rates are far too high. We need to have a greater appreciation for the value of education and do more to support education. We've got too many first-class jails and second-class schools."
In between school buses and parents dropping off students, the civil rights activist and political figure stepped out of an SUV and was greeted by excited school leaders and some surprised students.
"Good morning, everybody," Jackson said, stopping for dozens of hugs and handshakes.
"Jesse Jackson is here!" shouted one student.
Jackson came to Oklahoma for several events for and court appearances by former Oklahoma State University basketball player Darrell Williams, who was convicted July 23 of two counts of rape by instrumentation and one count of sexual assault stemming from a December 2010 off-campus party.
Jackson visited Central at the invitation of Anthony Scott, the pastor of First Baptist Church North Tulsa, who is helping establish an Oklahoma chapter of Jackson's Rainbow PUSH coalition.
First Baptist Church North Tulsa is one of Central's Partners in Education.
Escorted by Principal Jaqueline Tolbert and Central junior Marcialle West, Jackson stopped into Central's choir class, where he encouraged students to learn about music other than what they normally listen to "to broaden your cultural base."
A short time later, he spoke to an auditorium filled with students, leading them in several call-and-response versions of his well-known "I Am Somebody" free verse poem.
"Repeat! 'Life is full of choices and consequences. I must live with the consequences of my choices,' " he began. "Stand up! 'I am somebody. Respect me. Protect me. Never neglect me. ... I can graduate. I will graduate. I will not drop out.' "
Aware of the generational gap between himself and his audience, he shared with the students some basics of his early life history so they could understand the personal anecdotes he used to illustrate his message.
The South Carolina native attended a segregated public school, where he excelled in football from an early age - even earning a football scholarship to attend the University of Illinois.
But his mother insisted that he reach beyond football. That meant joining the school choir and taking French, albeit half-heartedly.
"I learned French words - cafe, Chevrolet, je ne sais quoi," he said, winking. "Just enough to get by."
Then he told them how at the tender age of 26, he inherited a great deal of expectation and leadership after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in his presence.
When some African diplomats came to meet with him about helping them with the plight of people in their countries in need of clean water - and greeted him in French - he realized the folly of his youth.
Jackson also described life during segregation, pointing out that today's generation of students couldn't conceive of it.
"You could not have had the Oklahoma City Thunder in a segregated Oklahoma. It would have been illegal for us to play together," he said.
He asked the school's high school football players to stand and then called on them to share how many days per week and hours per day they practice. Their response was three hours per day, five days a week.
"Do you study five days a week? Do you study three hours a night?" Jackson responded, adding, "You will reap what you sow."
Original Print Headline: Jackson reaches out to inspire students
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Aaliyah Powdrill, an eighth-grader at Central Junior High and High School, gets a hug from the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Friday morning. Jackson visited the Tulsa school during a trip to Oklahoma to ask for mercy for former Oklahoma State University basketball player Darrell Williams, who was convicted in Payne County on rape and sexual assault charges. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he visits schools wherever he goes because he wants "to inspire youth to move forward by hope and not by fear." JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Jheri Hall (right), a senior at Central High School, joins other students as they register to vote after a speech by the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Friday morning. Jackson visited Central at the invitation of Anthony Scott, the pastor of First Baptist Church North Tulsa, a Partner in Education with the school. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World