Last week in Chicago the Rainbow PUSH Coalition officially transferred leadership as Reverend Jesse Jackson transitioned to emeritus status and the Reverend Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III was welcomed as the organization’s next president. Haynes was formally introduced during the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s 57th annual conference during an event with Vice President Kamala Harris.
For more than five decades, Rev. Jackson has led the Coalition which has global reach and impact in its efforts to advocate for social change and promote civil rights. His decision to step down comes as the 81-year-old has been navigating Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. He is committed however to continuing the movement and in his new role as emeritus, will elevate his life’s work by teaching ministers in the social justice movement.
“The resignation of Rev. Jesse Jackson is the pivoting of one of the most productive, prophetic, and dominant figures in the struggle for social justice in American history,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. “It was my honor, since my mother brought me to him at 12 years old to serve as the youth director for the New York chapter of Operation Breadbasket, down through the last decade, to have been a student and protégé of his. I and others who were a dozen years or so younger from him have gone on to build and lead national organizations, in the generational tradition he started after being mentored by Dr. King. Therefore, we think of him retiring, but rather that he has planted and nurtured seeds that are growing beyond his own organization. We are doing work in various organizations and various political offices that continue his mission.”
It was in 1971 — drawing on his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement—that Jackson aimed to establish a platform that would fight against economic and social barriers oppressing marginalized communities. His vision was to foster a society where equal opportunities were not merely rhetorical, but an actual reality.
In his own words, Jackson emphasized, “Our goals, then and now, have been to expand and protect civil rights, to seek and promote social and economic justice, and to empower people to take control of their lives and their communities.”
“I am looking forward to this next chapter where I will continue to focus on economic justice, mentorship, and teaching ministers how to fight for social justice,” Jackson said. I will still be very involved in the organization and am proud that we have chosen Rev. Dr. Haynes as my successor.”
Jackson’s decision to step down comes at a time of increased racial and social tensions in the United States, underscoring the importance of his legacy and the continued relevance of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s mission.
Haynes III, a noted civil rights activist and senior pastor of the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas is known for his dynamic leadership and passionate advocacy for social justice and expected to carry forward the coalition’s mission of empowering disadvantaged communities and fighting for equal rights. His appointment signals a pivotal moment in the organization’s history, marking a new era of leadership committed to tackling contemporary social issues.
He considers himself a long-time student of Rev. Jackson and has formed alliances with local and national community leaders, and federal officials, to fight social injustice, domestic violence, and poverty.
“As a student of Rev. Jackson’s, I am honored to be selected for this prestigious and important position,” Haynes remarked. “The role Rainbow PUSH Coalition plays today is just as critical as it was in 1963, when the organization was founded. Our communities need organizations like Rainbow PUSH to not only continue the fight for justice and equality, but to shepherd the next generation of advocates into the movement.”
In the meantime, Jackson looks forward to focusing on the collection of his papers and archives, a documentary and the teachings of the freedom movement modalities that will help ground the next generation.
“If we are to perpetuate equality, it is vitally important that the historical philosophies and techniques are deposited in the minds of the next generation of leaders,” said Rev. Jackson. “Each social advocate must realize that their innate quest for equality is not an original concept, but a continuum of the ancestral freedom movement.”