(CBS Local)– Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has had one of the most interesting lives in the history of our nation.
He ran for president during the 1980s, marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s and became friends with Al Sharpton at 13 years old. Reverend Jackson is in New York this week for the 22nd Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit where he joins leaders from around the world to help people of color bridge the economic gap.
“400 years ago, African-Americans began landing on the shores of the east coast and much of the trading commerce came out of Wall Street,” said Jackson in an interview with CBS Local. “We have become free, but not equal. The last thing is access to technology and capital. We are coming for three days to talk about this.”
Reverend Al Sharpton and Congresswoman Maxine Waters from California will also be speaking at this event. Sharpton and Jackson go back to the days of when they were boys watching NBA player Connie Hawkins and MLB legend Jackie Robinson.
“A lot of boys in Brooklyn were basketball fans and Connie Hawkins fans,” said Jackson. “Sharpton always wanted to be a leader and assert himself. He went to jail with us. He’s always been in that freedom fighter mode. Jackie Robinson was our guy too. He was playing at a time when he got spiked and his teammates didn’t defend him. Jackie Robinson laid the groundwork for breaking barriers in football and basketball.”
While Jackson and others have been fighting for equality for decades, he is hopeful that things are better today than they once were. He believes that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed America forever.
“The day Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, we couldn’t use a public toilet from Texas to Florida,” said Jackson. “We couldn’t rent a room at the Holiday Inn in our own country. He had courage and a vision of a new America without barriers.”