Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. used a three-day trip across the commonwealth to push for voter-registration efforts in the run-up to the Nov. 7 general election.
At a stop at Macedonia Baptist Church in Arlington Sept. 20, Jackson urged residents to have their voices heard in what he termed as a “tug-of-war for the soul of our nation.”
“Stand up and fight back,” Jackson told the crowd. “We’ve never lost a battle we’ve fought, but we’ve never won a battle we didn’t fight. We won because we always found a way to find common ground.”
The nearly two dozen events spread from Monday to Wednesday were technically nonpartisan – in his Arlington remarks, Jackson never spoke out in favor of specific candidates. But it was hard to miss his point of view.
“We’re going to get better, not bitter,” said Jackson, who heads the Rainbox/PUSH advocacy organization and sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 and 1988. “We’ll get back up again and again and again. We will not fight hate with hate.”
Jackson, 75 arrived clad in tennis shoes, helping him to keep pace with a schedule that, in a single day, had him at events starting in Hampton Roads, moving up to Dumfries and finishing in Arlington.
In his remarks, Jackson said getting a broader swath of voices heard at the ballot box would change the civic discourse on issues ranging from health care and student-loan debt to incarceration.
“Everybody is as tall as the next person on Election Day – we are all giants,” he said.
The event drew a crowd of about 150 to the church, located in the historically African-American community of Nauck. Prior to remarks at the church, he received a quick tour of the community, which he had last visited three decades ago.
Karen Nightengale, who heads the Arlington branch of the NAACP, said Jackson’s appearance served as an inspiration.
“I’m just excited to be sitting next to a legend,” she said.
Nightengale said the message of voter empowerment was an important one.
“We must vote. It’s critical, it’s important. It’s something we have to do,” she said.
A similar view was expressed by Rev. Dr. Leonard Hamlin Sr., pastor of Macedonia Baptist, who urged attendees to “get off the sidelines and get involved.”
Hamlin said he was happy to have Jackson on hand to “address some of the issues that are in front of us, especially voter empowerment.”
“It’s a good day [when] we gather as a community,” Hamlin said.
Jackson’s “Healing and Rebuilding” tour was sponsored by the Virginia NAACP, New Virginia Majority and Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, among others. The Northern Virginia stops were coordinated by Terron Sims.