Panel discusses Haitian earthquake disaster and remembers Dr. King on Upfront with Jesse Jackson
CHICAGO (January 16, 2010)—While remembering the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and a panel of guests discussed the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on this week’s Upfront with Jesse Jackson television program.
“Dr. King’s life, legacy and mission remain incredibly relevant as America faces an economic crisis and an increasing number of citizens find themselves staring in the face of poverty,” said Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “This year as we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday around the world, we must focus on rescue, relief and reconstruction for Haiti.”
Joining Rev. Jackson were Lerone Bennett, Jr., author and historian; Dr. Ludovic Comeau, professor at DePaul University; Janine Raymond, Haitian activist; Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Lionel Jean Baptiste, Alderman for the City of Evanston.
President Obama met with former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush at the White House and has asked them to coordinate efforts to involve more Americans in the recovery and rebuilding and efforts that are needed in Haiti.
“The struggle of Haiti has primarily been a struggle of African Americans and Haitians,” said Baptiste. “To appoint Bush and Clinton as the point persons to lead relief efforts is insane to me.”
The United Nations estimates 45,000-50,000 people have died and 300,000 are homeless. Three million people are in need of emergency aid.
“I have been attempting to connect with my family,” said Raymond. “So many people have not been able to get through.”
Bennett, who was a classmate of Dr. King’s at Morehouse College, discussed how the crisis in Haiti would have been a priority of his if he were alive.
“The situation in Haiti and the legacy of Dr. King interrelate,” he said. “On Dr. King’s last birthday he was in the midst of the poor people’s campaign.”
Studies have shown 80% of Haitians live in poverty. Most live on less than $2.00 a day and per captia income is less than $400 per year. Life expectancy is 53 years and 80 out of 1,000 Haitian children never see their first birthday.
In 2008, Rev. Jackson led a delegation of two dozen members of the clergy, public policy analysts and community activists on a fact-finding visit to Haiti, which was experiencing food riots at the time.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366.