North Carolina prays for Rev. Jesse Jackson

North Carolina prays for Rev. Jesse Jackson
January 04
07:00 2018

It was Sunday, Dec. 12, just over a month after veteran civil rights leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson, announced that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Bishop William Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, and former president of the N.C. NAACP, was back in his pulpit after being away for several weeks. During his remarks to the congregation, Barber stopped, and suddenly asked worshippers to say a prayer for his friend.

“You all pray for Rev. Jackson,” Dr. Barber asked. “He has been suffering from … Parkinson’s, and the last time I was with him, he had to hold onto my arm to steady himself. I didn’t know exactly what was happening then.”

That “last time” was during the 74th Annual N.C. NAACP Convention in Raleigh in October, where Rev. Jackson came to participate, on his way to Greensboro for N.C. A&T University’s Homecoming. Jackson is a 1964 alum of the historically black university, one of his many ties to the Tar Heel state.

It was also at the N.C. NAACP Convention that one of Rev. Jackson’s closest friends from the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Cardes Brown, president of the Greensboro NAACP branch, last saw him, but didn’t realize that anything was wrong.

“I didn’t know at the time, but there seemed to be something [wrong with him], but we didn’t discuss it,” Rev. Brown, who is also Senior Pastor of New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Greensboro, recalled two weeks later.

Rev. Jackson, 76, revealed his affliction – the same one that claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016 – on Nov. 17. Jackson’s father also suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

“My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago,” the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition said in a statement issued then. “For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor. But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced.”

According to Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, which diagnosed Rev. Jackson’s condition in 2014, Parkinson’s disease is a “progressive degenerative disorder that results from loss of cells in various parts of the brain that control movement.”

Those who see Rev. Jackson more often say they noticed a “change in his walk and a slowed speech.” 

Charmaine McKissick-Melton, a professor at North Carolina Central University in Durham, has long been a friend with Rev. Jackson since the days he used to work with her father, legendary civil rights attorney Floyd McKissick.

She says she’s known for years that Jackson was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, but said nothing.

“We knew something was wrong, because we saw Ali at the beginning,” McKissick-Melton said. “So I had seen that shake thing, but I didn’t say anything to Jesse.”

She added that the symptoms were apparent to her when she saw Jackson at NCCU in 2012, two years before he was diagnosed.

On Christmas Day, Rev. Jackson continued his decade-long tradition of ministering to the inmates at the Cook County jail in Chicago. He told The Associated Press that he’s adopted a daily regimen of physical therapy, medication, and prayer. He is also traveling less now, but still continues his civil rights work.

“This is a man who wore his body out trying to empower the lives of others, as well as continue to fight for freedom,” Rev. Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, and another close friend of Rev. Jackson, said Wednesday. He adds that there is a message in Rev. Jackson’s courage.

“You cannot stand for the cause of civil rights and justice, without courage.”

Rev. Brown agrees.

“Jesse, in my opinion, is a very courageous person. He doesn’t focus on himself. We’ve been friends for years, and he’s a person of faith, and we’re trusting that he will continue to do the work that he’s been doing, even with the diagnosis and the condition.

“I know him well enough to know that he will fight to the finish,” Rev. Brown added.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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