Third World Summit of Mayors, Officials, Africans and African Descendants
Free, But Not Equal: Keep Dreaming
Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
September 18, 2013
I want to thank the mayors and legislators from the U.S. and around the diaspora for their steadfast work in convening the family, and their generous invitation for me to be with you today.
I want to thank President Santos, Vice President Garzon and Mayor Velez for their generosity and hospitality, and welcoming me here to Colombia.
And to Oscar Gamboa Zuniga for his leadership in organizing this conference.
Dr. Diallo from the UN AIDS program.
It’s a great honor and privilege to be with you here in Colombia.
Colombia is a robust and beautiful country of 45 million people, full of natural resources and talent – mining, agriculture, oil and fishing.
Colombia is our neighbor to the South, part of our global neighborhood – we are all neighbors and in today’s social media world, there are no more foreigners.
Colombia stands in a unique position, poised to become a leading trading partner to the world.
The mayors who have convened us are linked by the common lineage of the slave experience; the struggle for abolition.
I commend the theme and goals of this summit, to connect and network people of African descent from all over the globe, to share best practices, and develop a common agenda for the future.
I share with you the abolition dates of several of our countries:
Haiti, who fought gallantly against the French; the Caribbean seeking de-colonization.
1805: Haiti is the first country to declare independence and abolish slavery.
1851: Colombia and Ecuador – and it wasn’t until 1993 that Colombia passed Law 70 giving recognition and rights to Afro Colombians.
1854: Venezuela and Peru
We in the US don’t fully appreciate that there are more Africans in South, Central and Latin America, than in the USA. The slave trade started through this region; the US was the caboose.
We did not end slavery in the U.S. until 1865, following a brutal civil war.
Africa: 1957 to 2000 – Nkrumah in Ghana, to Mandela in South Africa.
When I was a little younger and tried to read the Bible – I looked at the genealogical lineage of “begat, begat, begat.” It had no meaning to me. I was trying to get to some sentences, and some parables.
When they would say Jesus comes down 42 generations after David, I had no appreciation of the power of 42 generations of unbroken family continuity. We are held together by the Torah, the Holy Book and faith - they may have gone through turbulence and famine and war or oppression – but 42 generations of family continuity is powerful.
Most of us find it difficult to go back four generations; the power of our family was broken through slavery, intentionally.
So our Jewish brothers and sisters, everything starts with a political event of the Exodus and God delivering them from slavery across the Red Sea through the wilderness to Canaan, the land of promise.
We are linked in that same journey from slavery to Exodus to wilderness, in search the Promise Land of Canaan and beyond the mountaintop. Even though we fight for fair and just immigration policy around the world as people escape oppression – it’s not like the slave experience where people were bought, sold, exploited for profit for several centuries.
It was the crushing of lineage and identity.
I. Our children must know about the linkage of slavery.
There is a scripture that the children of Israel got across the Jordan River –they got across because God intervened, not because of their own ingenuity. They were told to get from each tribe a rock, as remembrance so that they would know how they got across the river. In time to come the children would ask, what are these stones, tell them that they might know.
If they do not know, they would honor false Gods, make the real God angry.
No one wants the wrath of God visited upon them.
If you know the lineage of slavery, then you will know why everyone of these countries, from Brazil to the Caribbean, South, Central and Latin America, North America and Canada – Africa people in the lineage of slavery are still fighting to overcome oppression and marginalization.
So we know by experience – we are known by experience, we each have a survival legacy.
Our very presence today is a miracle gathering.
The fact that Mayors can convene us; the government accepts us as gracious hosts, and we can meet with leaders of state, vice president and president – it’s different.
In the early part of the last century, Dr. DuBois and others tried to have Pan African congresses in London and Paris; the very coming together of our people was seen as subversive, dangerous.
I cannot emphasis enough the roots of the slave experience. Our Jewish allies will not let you forget the Exodus; and Yom Kippur, and the role of Moses and David and why they need a state that is secure to protect them. It’s rooted in 5000 years of history.
II. Dr. King would say the evils of racism, poverty and violence and hatred stunt our growth and development. It hurts the oppressed, and the oppressor. It limits the vision of the racists, and the dreams of the victims. Racism is unscientific – it assumes that one group is inherently superior and worthy; the other group is inherently inferior and unworthy.
The cultures are taught race supremacy in schools, churches and homes – in the media. It is a very well taught lesson too well learned by too many – it must be unlearned.
Tragically many victims of oppression learn the same lesson, and internalize the lessons of the oppressors, and lose the will to fight back.
It is the burden of leaders to teach people they are somebody, and fight back.
We go through stages in this journey to the promise land of equality and justice – in the US for example, after 246 years of slavery, civil war took place in which the union was saved and slavery ended – but the promises of abolition weren’t kept.
While we focus so much on Dr. King’s I have a Dream speech: he opens by talking abut the broken promises. “You promised, shared dignity. You promised, sharing the vote. You promised, sharing public accommodations. You promised, equal opportunity.”
Stage one was to end legal slavery. Stage two was to end legal racial apartheid laws and segregation laws. Stage three, the right to vote. But ultimately stage four must be addressed: access to capital, industry and technology – economic justice.
The social gaps are closed: barbaric uncivilized laws of separation. But the economic disparities and inequalities in education and health care, jobs and employment, business contracts – remain.
In other words we are free but not equal.
Many of our freedom allies are not our equality allies.
III. On the athletic field – when I see Colombia or the US – football, soccer, track, basketball . . . we are very well represented. That’s because the playing field is even, the rules are public, the goals are clear and the referees are fair…and the score is transparent.
Our mission is to even the playing field. For those that think that Black inclusion is a zero sum game – blacks come in, whites are removed. The fact is, inclusion leads to growth.
When there is growth everybody wins. Inclusion leads to expansion, not to elimination.
Our leadership must have the moral authority to salvage the whole of the country, not just a part of it, “our group.”
The Biblical Joseph had an economic plan; he was an oppressed minority, and endured slavery and false incarceration. His plan was to save the whole of Egypt.
Dr. King in the voting rights drive - - - was to win and expand voting rights for everybody: 1965 Voting Rights Act, not just for Blacks, but women got the right to serve on juries; 18 year olds got the right to vote; students got the right to vote on their campuses; we won bilingual in 1975.
Choosing the war on Poverty and not the War in Vietnam was good for everybody.
Mandela, choosing the soul of South Africa, not just replace white oppression with black oppression, was good for everybody. The Biblical Joseph, Dr. King and Mandela had one thing in common: they were born in the margin, but had majority dreams and visions. Ethnicity did not define the scope of their dreams.
There must be some plan beyond freedom, for inclusion of Afro Colombians – a conservative remedy is what we call affirmative action for women and people of color.
In Europe it was a monster plan, the Marshall Plan – targeted investment, long-term, low interest loans to rebuild Europe.
It is unreasonable for those who have been locked out and left behind for centuries to simply join in - - -
Perhaps we need a Colombian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, just as they did in South Africa, to hear the stories of the victims and set an environment for education, economic development and healing.
Perhaps we need a Civil Rights Commission, just as we have in the U.S. to generate an annual report on the status of Afro Colombians; and to make recommendations for the full inclusion of Afro Columbians in the social, economic and political life of the country.
The regions that we now inhabit – Africa, South Central and Latin America, North America – are endowed with riches and resources beyond measure.
We are neighbors linked by God. Biology and history. We are neither foreigners nor aliens. We are family; we may speak different languages but we ha d the same message - human rights and Democracy but not just to vote but access to food education health housing and jobs.
We must end the flow of pain and hurt, and replace it with hope and healing.
These societies that engage in slavery and discrimination, mirror each other.
We must make big choices. Become peacemakers not just peacekeepers. The status quo is too imbalanced - we must make peace and when there is no justice, there is no peace.
Whenever slavery has appeared, the same struggle for abolition has emerged.
We go from slavery to oppression, to suppression, to marginalization – where skin privilege and skin burden rules the day. The absence of slavery is not the presence of economic justice, or political empowerment.
The crisis facing Afro Colombians mirrors that of the North American experience. While we have changed the visible landscape – financial resources are being withdrawn from mayors and cities; the President is under daily attack.
In the U.S. we are still #1 in infant mortality; #1 in short life expectancy; #1 in unemployment; #1 in targeted home foreclosures; #1 in denial of access to capital and populating the jail industrial complex. #1 in lack of access to health care and unequal education.
The US is 5% of the world’s population, with 2 ½ million in prison, 55% Black.
Afro Colombians face a similar situation here.
We have learned through conversations with many people on this visit – and through our own research - that Afro Colombians are the most displaced people in the country. Displaced from land. Displaced from jobs. Displaced from an equal place in society. Displaced from high quality education.
In the US, we call it gentrification – often times it’s called eminent domain, once it is determined that where we live is valuable and resourceful, it’s taken away from us.
Afro Colombians were born and live in regions with some of the most resources – mining, fishing, agriculture, tourism. But Afro Colombians are not fully included in the economic life, industry, and future.
Look at advertising, flight attendants and pilots, government workers, private sector managers, universities, the banks and financial institutions….
They do not look like Colombia – Afro Colombians are under represented, still left behind in the margins.
Look at government. Colombia is now the third largest country in the region, behind the US and Brazil. Yet Afro Colombians are left behind and left in the margins; they need greater representation – inclusion will be the key to growth, expansion and development.
Afro-Colombians are between 20 – 25% of the total population, yet there are only nine members of Congress that self-identified as Afro-Colombians, three members of the senate out of 102 (near 2%), and seven members of the House of Representatives out of 166 (near 4%).
Of 17 high level positions at the Colombian Attorney General’s Office, including 11 Prosecutors before the Supreme Court, none is Afro-Colombian. Out of 60 generals of the Police and Armed forces none is Afro-Colombian.
There must be Afro Colombians in the cabinet and in the highest echelons of government. Political representation is key for Afro Colombian inclusion.
Afro Colombians – you must not have a deficit of will, spirit or determination. You must be inspired to aspire to run for political office at the local, state and national level.
Be inspired and aspire. You have the power to change the nation.
Afro Colombians – be inspired to run an Afro Colombian for President, reach for the highest office in the land. Arouse the sleeping giant, and dream BIG for a new Colombia.
Your running makes you a winner. If you do not run, you have no chance of winning.
Dream big, Colombia and people of African descent throughout the diaspora. We are slaves no longer.
Across the diaspora, we’ve won our freedom, but still do not have economic parity or fair political representation
Equality means fair share – and government must see that inclusion, not exclusion is key.
And Colombia needs peace and stability to fully unleash the economic potential of the nation.
We must wipe out race superiority and skin color idolatry. We must affirm gender and race equality - none should be in the margins.
We must end the marginalization of Afro Colombians.
We must do big things together.
The good news is that we can overcome. I refuse to believe the genius of social media twitter Facebook, the internet, that we cannot tweet love tweet care and education for all. Tweet justice. Tweet dreaming.
Dr. King was a dreamer. We can all dream above our pain to our possibilities. From the Isle of Patmos John dreamed of a new Haven and a new earth, where the old one would pass away. No lonely island or condition will withhold the power of dreams.
Dream hope. Dream Healing. Dream of a successful peace process, of non-violent conflict resolution. I strongly urge the government and FARC to continue to pursue the road to peace and reconciliation through non-violent negotiations and seek end to military confrontation.
Negotiations get weary and tedious sometimes; but don’t leave that table – war is not an option. It is peace that attracts investment, joy and growth.
Dream, of a day where drugs and violence no longer mar the image of a great Colombia.
Dream, of a ONE Colombia. Dream of day when lion and lamb lie together, Lion and lamb are two extremes. It seems they can never reconcile. What is it lions and lamb have in common? No matter how ferocious the lion is and how meek is the lamb, neither want acid rain on their backs; they don’t want to drink poison water. They want to breathe free.
Dream: Of an environment from pollution.
Dream of the day when we can wipe out malnutrition.
Dream of the day when we have clean, affordable drinkable water for our children.
Dream of an Afro Colombian candidate for President, reach for the skies.
Dream of the day when we have health care facilities to care for the sick. Dream when everybody has a house with indoor toilets and a running bath. Dream, the blessed in the Diaspora, come home on an annual basis and share your resources, and feed the flower that they have robbed.
Dream of the day when we have free education to inspire and train our youth.
Dream of more trade and global markets.
Dream of the day when the African diaspora is united, connected and moving together to achieve common goals.
I know dreaming may be difficult. I know it’s dark, but the morning cometh. I know it’s difficult, but the Lord is our light, and our salvation, whom shall we fear.
It gets dangerous some times, whoa we walk through the shadows and the valleys of death. We shall fear no evil. The Lord is with us.
Long Live Colombia.
The formula is clear; if you want healing, do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before thy God.
And if my people who are called by name and humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear their prayer. Forgive their sins and heal the land. One Colombia.
Keep Hope Alive.