During a recent USC visit, Rev. Jesse Jackson celebrated his birthday doing what he does best: giving back to the community. Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund Entertainment Project and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative held a workshop on Oct. 3 at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism focusing on diversity, inclusion and equality in the entertainment, film and sports and technology industries.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a non-profit organization that advocates for black social issues and injustices. Formed through the merging of two organizations Rev. Jackson founded in the early 70s and 80s, the coalition’s fight for diversity in the world continues. Its mission statement, as stated on the organization’s website, says its goal is to protect, defend and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields and to promote peace and justice around the world.
The workshop’s panel consisted of Promise Chief Strategy Officer Jotaka Eaddy, former NBA player Etan Thomas, attorney and sports commentator Adrienne Lawrence, Black Sports Online founder Robert Littal, founder of HipHopTV Shawn Granberry, managing partner of Cre8tive Ventures Clifford Chapman, and Digital Mind State founder Mike Johns. Each panelist discussed issues that occur in the tech, sports and entertainment field when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The subject matter for the first panel was “A seat at the table: what it means to be involved and included.”
Granberry is a huge proponent for black people creating and controlling their own things in entertainment.
“We have to just take control,” he said. “I think we have to green-light our own projects, we have to take control of them because if we don’t the system will run the course and that’s what happens.”
The main takeaway from the panel is that people of color need to be seen more in these industries. It also took into account of how hard life is once black people enter into mostly white circles and fields.
Lawrence, an attorney and former sportscaster, spoke on the issue of diversity.
“As a black woman the doors are open to you as long as you acclimate to white culture and you have the look of European culture. Lawrence said. “That is something my mother and father were able to invest in me and they knew that was how to navigate this world and do well in it so they taught me things to make sure that I would do well.”
The 21st Annual Awards Gala and Jessie Jackson’s Birthday celebration took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Oct. 4. The gala featured a silent auction as well a full awards show, all the while celebrating Rev. Jackson’s 78th birthday.
He took photos with almost everyone at the gala before and after the event. The night opened up with the Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Community Servant Award, won by humanitarian and activist Charisse Bremond Weaver. The highlights of the night were speeches from actor and activist Mike Farrell, who won the humanitarian award, journalist Jemele Hill who took home the social justice award and Rev. Jackson himself, who reminded everyone “I am somebody.”
Rev. Jackson called upon his son, Jessie Jackson Jr., to speak on his behalf. Jackson Jr. expressed his appreciation and gratitude for all that his father has done for him and the world. He reminded the crowd of how black people need to continue to move forward despite how the community may be going backwards. He celebrated his father’s message and is committed to fighting justice.
Hill, a staff writer at The Atlantic, received the social justice for civil rights award. During her speech, she took time to recognize the need for journalists, specifically black journalists.
“We have a racist-in-chief and an administration that is calling journalists the enemies of the state, and we need to support journalism and in particular black journalism more than ever,” Hill said. “When you think about how journalists have been able to shine a light into very dark corners, how black journalists have tirelessly put in the effort, tireless hours to make sure our communities are covered fairly and accurately and truly represents the diversity in who we are, a lot of it is because of black journalists.”
The night ended with the crowd singing happy birthday to Jackson as strawberry cake was passed around the crowd.