Never Forget the Past: Reverend Jesse Jackson Wants Africans at Home and in the Diaspora to Remember the Importance and Relevance of Their Historical Struggles. Andrew Togobo Reports

Article excerpt

During his recent visit to London, the American Black rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, did something few other prominent world figures manage to accomplish. In speaking to those who need his message most, he humbly accepted an invitation to give a motivational speech to the young people of New Initiatives' Origin programme.

His message of empowerment implored the youth to repeat affirmations such as: I am somebody; Up with hope, down with dope and; If my mind can conceive it, I know I can achieve it. The organisation was founded in 2000 by Pablo Reid in an attempt to engage young males of African descent between the ages of 13 and 18 and living in the UK, through the principles of African culture.

Impressed by the achievements of Origin, Rev Jackson sung the praises of its work, referring to his visit in interviews as the highlight of his trip.

Though modified to address contemporary urban issues, the organisation's method has spawned impressive results. Individuals from various backgrounds are put through an intensive year that engages their strength, courage and intellect. They are required to partake in weekly workshops which discuss a range of issues from identity, history and life skills to slavery, sexism, and music. The year culminates--for those that pass the challenges--in a ceremony where the new graduates are welcomed into the Origin community by the young men who completed the programme the previous year. The effect is evident says 2004 graduate Hasani Blundell: "I have gained immensely. Before I went on Origin, I didn't have much focus, I didn't have much direction. But now I know what I'm doing."

Accompanied by his two sons and members of the London Mayor's office, Rev Jackson was welcomed to New Initiatives by African drummers and dancers. Visiting Britain to urge black people to vote in the recent general election as part of Operation Black Vote, he suspended his timetable to specifically address the congregation of past and present "Originites", their families, teachers, community workers, grassroots activists and council representatives.

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Rev Jackson's speech was peppered with waves of affirmation and biblical references imploring them to remember the importance of their historic struggles. …

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