ICYMI: Reverend Jesse Jackson at UMD

By Hope Hynson

Last Monday, the University of Maryland’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences held its 2nd annual Social Justice Day. Throughout the day, students, faculty, and staff were free to come to the different speeches and events to discuss ideas and to learn about different people who have fought for social justice.

Peter Neufeld, J.D., the co-founder of the Innocence Project, visited early on in in the day. giving his keynote address to kick off the day. To close the day off, Reverend Jesse Jackson gave his keynote address in the Memorial Chapel. Reverend Jackson had visited the campus a few times before, but this was his first time back in over a decade.

It was an honor to be able to hear from Reverend Jackson in person. Despite health issues, he is a very active and charismatic speaker. He talked a lot about his experiences during the Civil Rights Movement and various interactions he had with others throughout this time of struggle. In mentioning a specific conversation he had with one of his colleagues about the ceaseless fight for justice, Reverend Jackson said “Not even death can stop the struggle.”

After his speech, the floor was opened up for question and answer, and the audience had a lot to ask him. Senior Biochemistry major, Trey Huff, went up to ask Reverend Jackson if he had any suggestions for student activists in this day and age. Huff, a member of the Iota Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., was wearing a jacket emblazoned with the fraternity’s Greek letters when he asked his question. Jackson, a brother of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Inc., responded good-naturedly “First thing, take that jacket off before I answer,” to which the audience erupted with laughter. After everyone quieted, he responded that youth staying active in voting is one of the most important things to do.

Reverend Jackson left us all with a few really great gems of knowledge to take with us moving forward. In talking about people from different backgrounds being involved in activism, he said “Those who lead must learn, and those who learn must lead.” One audience member asked how to train up the next generation to respect the truth in the wake of the current presidential administration. Jackson offered that “Truth is an endangered species right now,” and he mused that “People used to be ashamed of their racism, but they’re shameless now,” acknowledging that the narrative surrounding seeking the truth in everything has changed significantly over time.

After the speech, a small reception was held outside of the chapel, and Reverend Jackson went around exchanging pleasantries and having conversations with those in attendance. He showed off even more of his charisma, and her personable nature which was a great way to end the program. Overall, I’m glad I was able to have the opportunity to hear from and meet such an important figure in social justice history, and I hope that it won’t be another decade before Reverend Jackson visits the campus again. Shout out to the college of BSOS for putting together such a great event.


Sydney Parker