Jesse Jackson Jr. speaks at ShawU MLK Celebration

Raleigh, NC – January 28, 2019 – Shaw University observed its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on this past Thursday with a program that featured Jesse Jackson, Jr. as keynote speaker. The author and former United States Congressman had traveled to Raleigh to meet his father, iconic civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., who had originally been scheduled to speak. Jackson learned late the evening before the event that his father was unable to make the trip due to illness, and agreed to step in as speaker upon Rev. Jackson’s request.

The event theme was “Awakening the Dream,” in reference to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of equal opportunity and inclusion. Jackson told the packed audience, “I’m not so sure we need to awaken a dream as much as we need to ‘stay woke’ to this new revolution.”  Jackson recalled how President Lyndon B. Johnson’s failure to embrace civil rights legislation spurred Dr. King’s advocacy, and compared the social, civil, and political climate then and now. Jackson emphasized Shaw University’s long tradition of social and civic activism – the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was founded at Shaw in the 1960s – and said that if current Shaw students truly wish to honor the legacy of Dr. King in a meaningful way they must take up the mantle of leadership. “You cannot hope to address the renewed resistance to change and inclusion that we are seeing across the country today without developing new attitudes and new mental responses. You are making decisions right now that will affect your ability to engage in a leadership role in the future,” Jackson challenged students.

Jackson stressed the need for people to register to vote, pointing out to students of voting age that North Carolina allows them to register to vote using their college residence. By registering to vote locally, rather than in their hometowns, Jackson said Shaw University student voters would represent a larger block of influence to elected officials. He closed by urging the audience, and especially students, to honor Dr. King by being “your best selves. Don’t sleep through this revolution. Be engaged in the process, and work together to build the community.”

Shaw University President Dr. Paulette Dillard said, “Mr. Jackson reminded us all that there is much work to do, and that the time to be involved is now.  I am confident our students at Shaw are more than equal to the challenge.”

Shaw also hosted a “Luncheon and Conversation with Jesse Jackson, Jr.” following the larger Celebration. Jackson spoke with UNC-TV producer and host Deborah Holt Noel during a live-streamed episode of that station’s Black Issues Forum program. The entire conversation can be viewed at www.ncchannel.org.

ABOUT SHAW:  Shaw University, located in North Carolina’s vibrant Downtown Raleigh, was the first historically black institution of higher education in the Southern United States. Founded in 1865 by Dr. Henry Martin Tupper, Shaw is proud to be educating more than 1,800 students who will become the change agents of tomorrow. Shaw University is committed to advancing our mission with Entrepreneurial Thinking, Positioning and Presence, Innovation, and Customer Care. Learn more at www.shawu.edu.