Morocco – An Inspiring and Inclusive Democracy
Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
President and Founder, Rainbow PUSH Coalition
August 6, 2013
I want to thank His Majesty King Mohammed VI, and the distinguished Foreign Minister, Saad Eddine Othmani for your kind invitation to speak to you today.
As President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a human rights organization committed to global peace, economic justice and reconciliation, I am honored to be part of this historic event today.
As an African American, I am mindful that the roots between the US and Morocco run deep. Morocco, an African nation, was the first nation to recognize US independence, a crown jewel in the US-Morocco relationship. There is a historical moral and ethical quality to this relationship.
Over the years we’ve sought to be better and light up candles of hope and progress. Our kinship has grown and expanded. Our friendship has endured through trials and tribulations, joy and pain, sunshine and rain. We have endured. Our best days are ahead of us.
We have many shared humane values – we experienced the slave master; the colonial conquerors, the occupiers, the protectorates, and we’ve seen these past relationships of disadvantage and travail, now vanquished.
Our democracies, although less than perfect, have continued to mature and flourish. They are rooted in the belief that all people matter – individually and collectively.
If I might reflect on the history of the United States – a relatively young nation compared to the centuries old civilization of Morocco – it began with the brutal oppression and exploitation of African Americans during the horrendous slave trade. That season of pain was met with a relentless, fearless and never-ending struggle for democracy, freedom and economic justice.
From dusk to dawn, midnight to midday we the oppressed toiled for freedom and dignity.
In the brief history of our nation:
From 1619, when the African slave trade descended upon America, Africans were seen as enslaved objects, not as people. The African slave trade was more valuable than banking or landed property. The capture, selling of Africans – working without wages; where we were enslaved for 246 years.
Even as our nation won independence from British colonialism in 1776, the U.S. Constitution shamelessly defined African Americans as 3/5 of a human being.
Only through Civil War and the mass resistance of the enslaved African masses in the US nearly 100 years later – did slavery come to an end.
The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution – the freedom amendments – codified the new democratic freedoms won by African Americans.
But the legacy of slavery continued, with apartheid segregation laws permitted legal discrimination against African Americans and denied us full citizenship and voting rights. 1896: Plessey v. Ferguson – separate but equal. Just 31 years after slavery ended, we were set all the way back.
Racial apartheid laws remained in place for 58 more years, until 1954 when our Supreme Court declared racial discrimination unconstitutional.
From those low places, today the son of a Kenyan father is now the U.S. president, the single most politically powerful man in the world, accompanied by 42 African American members of the U.S. Congress, a member of the U.S. Senate and Supreme Court, and thousands of mayors, state legislators and local elected officials.
What is the strength and foundation of democracy? One, a Constitution that affords equal protection under the law and equal opportunity for all. And two, to have the right to fight for our rights.
We will not surrender fighting non-violently for the moral high ground, protected by the promises of the Constitution.
What can Morocco learn from our battles and our quest to achieve a more perfect union?
Perhaps it is the resilience of the fight for democracy and the constant movement to change and reform democratic institutions to meet the needs of the people.
The year 1963 was magical: decades of marching and bloodshed – using our bodies as living sacrifices and with a clear vision for the future…living under the brutal rule of racial segregation, we emerged from the pit of degradation to the pinnacle of the White House in 50 years.
Morocco: A modern nation and a maturing democracy
Morocco today is a modern nation – witnessing economic growth, infrastructure development, and a maturation of its democratic system.
You are blessed to have a young, global minded, and wise leader in King Mohammed VI. Hopefully he will visit the US at some point in time. If and when he does, it will clearly spur on greater cooperation, find mutuality of interests, and strengthen relationships between the two countries. He sees the world through a door and not through a narrow keyhole.
King Mohammed and President Obama, two young leaders and trailblazers fit for a new world order. They are driven by a vision of co-existence over co-annihilation. It will lead to greater security. There are no more winnable wars.
I’ve been blessed on this mission to visit the historic Mosque in Casablanca; to meet with leaders in Dakhla at the port and sports centers; to engage in dialogue with leaders of NGO’s and your civil society; to have frank discussions with your legislative and elected leaders and ministers.
I’ve had a chance to see first hand the economic growth and development throughout the country, to learn about the implementation of your new Constitution and the many challenges and conflicts your face as a nation.
This region has seen the Arab Spring uprisings all around: Tunisia, Egypt, wars in Libya and Syria. Many acted with unpreparedness and without defined institutions and a foundation to build a unified, democratic future.
Morocco has responded with wisdom and achieved excellent results: it met the Arab Spring uprising by expanding democracy – a new Constitution, a renewed commitment to human rights, a commitment to economic growth and social unification. That’s why Morocco today is stable, your democracy is maturing, and you are building institutions to govern your future political, economic and social life.
Morocco is a multi-religious, multi-party state - it intends to resolve conflicts through established democratic processes and institutions. When differences and conflicts arise, reasonable people can work it out peacefully, and not fight it out with violence.
If Blacks and Whites in South Africa could work it out; if East and West Germany could work it out; if Israel and Germany can now have diplomatic relations, then surely Morocco and Algeria can work it out.
Engaging the UN and seeking UN diplomatic support – strengthens Morocco; it is an effective and appropriate strategy.
Morocco’s strategic location, its trade potential, its culture and history lend much to your value and importance. Morocco is a key crossroads to the entire world: to the Mediterranean and Middle East nations, and to France and the rest of Europe.
A link between northern Africa and sub Saharan Africa. Even the oceans increase the bonds between Morocco from the U.S.
I see these as the great untold story of Morocco.
The media often focuses on what’s wrong in the world and threatening conflicts this region, some times deservedly so. Egypt’s uprising and second uprising, wars in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The media covers violence and bloodshed and war every day.
But I submit that peaceful, non-violent resolution of conflicts; the development of democratic institutions and government; sustained economic growth - - - these are the waves of the future that also deserve media coverage.
The value of Morocco’s African roots become more apparent – a source of culture and trade, political alliances – now more than ever.
You were a founding member of the OAU, and today Morocco is second only to South Africa in direct foreign investment in Africa. Six of the ten fastest growing countries now reside in the continent of Africa – sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, Nigeria.
Morocco can be a strategic force in Africa’s development. A stabilizing force in Mauritania, Mali, and Tunisia. Charting a new course in addressing democracy, stability and economic growth for the whole region.
Moroccan’s who are living in the U.S. can be a major voice in telling your story. But they are not alone in appreciating your role in this region. We in the Rainbow PUSH Coalition stand ready and willing to support you and make known your huge contributions.
People to people: bottom up and not just top down
In the U.S. we’ve never stopped fighting for justice and an even playing field. We will never relent in our struggle to measure human rights by one yardstick.
The winds blow on both sides of the Atlantic. We are facing major resistance today. Supreme Court decision seeking to roll back our civil and voting rights; legitimizing race profiling and discrimination . . . the Trayvon Martin case – a 17 year old unarmed youth, stalked, shot and killed by a vigilante who walked free - legitimizing of Racial Profiling again, and 136 unarmed Blacks were killed by police or vigilantes or security guards.
Against that toxic experience, we do not surrender our will for dignity.
The value of democracy is appealing and healing – often poetic. It raises a high chin bar for human relationship – between the governor and the governed, and between each other. It’s strength lies in its resiliency – it bends but does not break.
The yardstick that challenges the traditions of tribe and race, and gender and religion. In a real democracy everybody is somebody. All are included and none are excluded. A MINORITY OF ONE MATTERS IN A DEMOCRACY.
Through it all, we must allow the goodness of God to manifest itself . . . God has power beyond our imagination. In a room full of darkness, when the darkness rules, when it covers all space, one light in any of that space, challenges all the darkness.
I observed the transformative power, by anointing one individual act of risk and bravery, over and over again:
The U.S. in 1954 – after 246 years of slavery – 58 years of apartheid segregation laws – one little girl taken to school by her father in a little school in Kansas. The Supreme Court judgment about that act, made the whole culture of apartheid in America, illegal.
Emmet Till, one 14-year-old boy, brutally lynched by a mob in Mississippi, a story of shame upon the nation. His murder laid the framework for a new sense of justice for all; his unearned suffering is redemptive. Those that who are martyred for righteousness sake, outlive the grave.
The global leader of Dr. King led marchers from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, engaged in sit-ins and mass demonstration to fulfill the unfinished business of America: leading to the passage of 1964 and 1965 Civil and Voting Rights Act in America.
One Gandhi, protesting in South Africa, went back to India and lead the march to the sea. He showed the power of love and peaceful non-violent civil disobedience. He salvaged a nation from bondage and occupation.
The iconic picture of one man in China’s Tiananmen Square shook the foundations of the most populace nation in the world.
One violated person in Tunisia, with a sense of non- negotiable dignity, self-martyred, and triggered the Arab Spring – he made the powerful shake in high places.
Rosa Parks – one woman, her courage challenged the “back of the bus” segregation laws, and was arrested. This act triggered the leadership of Dr. King who took this selfless act of courage to new heights. Dr. King redefined the moral chin bar.
One person matters.
Jesus said in the parable of the lost sheep,
“In my herding of sheep, my mission and divinity determined by my passion for the one lost sheep. I don’t know why it is lost. I don’t know whether my sheep is black or white. I’m not sure of its religious choice. All I know is that it is lost.
The sheep may be lost because it had a heart condition or some less apparent illness. Or got kicked by a bigger sheep; it may have got caught in barbed wire. All that the parable makes clear is that the sheep is lost.
It’s getting dark; snakes may be crawling toward him, he is threatened. Jesus character is defined by how he tends to the lost sheep. He is mine. All of my sheep matter.
In a Democracy – everybody is in, nobody is left out. We all live under One big tent.
That’s why Dr. King often argued, that there are three great questions:
In matters of great importance, vanity asked the question, is it popular? Does it have popular appeal? Is it socially satisfying?
Politics asks the question, will it win? Often people become ruthless, devious or expedient, just to win, with the ends justifying the means. They are not concerned with tactics.
Morality and Conscience asks, is it right?
Ultimately the “is it right” question – triumphs over the questions of popularity and politics.
Many tried to fight this quest for expanded democracy with arms and military might. They failed.
Today we seek reform and change, by reaching out, building new bridges.
Reach out to African American community for support . . .
What can we do in our humble way to help Morocco strengthen ties?
The civil rights movement in America has learned much that we willing to share, as we seek to learn.
We can rely on and revive the tradition of Africa-African American support and shared struggles across the century. We drew inspiration from each other in the U.S. and Africa – in the independence struggles in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Morocco, and Ghana, South Africa . . .
These same links today, the will to dignity, must be strengthened. Africa as a region and continent must be a priority foreign policy for the U.S. administration.
In addition to state to state, we must revive people to people support and solidarity networks. NGO’s and civil society matter.
Change can come bottom up through people to people networks, not just through top down state-to-state relationships.
Conclusion: Democracy produces Dreamers.
After many years of darkness, the sun is rising on both sides of the ocean. We are different today that in that torrid summer 50 years ago, when I along with others, saw the world through jail bars – Medgar Evers was killed in Mississippi; the year Dr. King spoke in Washington about the broken promises and then dreamed; the year four babies were blown up in a church in Birmingham. The year President Kennedy was assassinated.
When colonial chains were broken across the continent.
I challenged you today to keep dreaming. Keep marching. Keep expanding. Keep adjusting to change. Continue to break down walls and build bridges. Let healing conquer hurt. Let love outdistance indifference and hate. Let courage abound more than fear.
Let joy outlast sorrow. Let enlightenment vanish ignorance.
Let the dream of great Morocco, getting greater, achieving more, be realized.
Continue to light candles for Africa. Hold high the banner of Morocco, a gateway to the continent and the world.
To the Arab World. And France. And Europe, the whole Mediterranean.
You are strategically placed, in this place, as such a time as this.
Forward by hope never backward by fear.
Keep Hope Alive.