Monday, January 7, 2008

Rev. Al Sharpton Speaks on Barack Obama Victor

The winning of the Iowa Caucuses by Barack Obama is an historic event. It shows that America has a hunger for change and can come together to make that change happen. Though I have not made an endorsement in this race, I clearly see this as a positive occurrence at this point in American history. Unfortunately, some of the divisive and archaic forces in American politics are trying to divide us by saying that Obama’s victory in some way translates into an end of civil rights activism by people like me. This almost laughable notion has been repudiated consistently by Mr. Obama himself, who has gone out of his way to include the issues we have raised from the hate crimes to Jena in debates, and making several public appearances with me to show his respect for that work and the need for it to continue. Mr. Obama visited our headquarters in Harlem and had a public dinner with me at Sylvia’s in New York just 30-days ago. He went to the Iowa debates and pushed for our hate crimes legislation mentioning me by name, which clearly shows that Iowans voted with it in mind and that Mr. Obama relates to these initiatives and advocates do not see him in any way in opposition to it. Equally strange is this notion of generational shift. I must remind these pundits that Mr. Obama and I are only 6 or 7-years apart in age and his main supporters Oprah Winfrey and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick are the same age. I think that the hunger for change demonstrated in Iowa was also demonstrated by the tens of thousands of people, mostly young, that joined us in Jena in September and marched with us on the Justice Department in November. We have seen activism and voter participation rise as never before and we can not let those who have denied the need for change and equal justice divide us in moments of breakthrough. They are the same pundits who said there was no race problem. Now they say this ends the race problem. To his credit, Mr. Obama has not only refused to join them, but has publicly sent every contrary signal, as have the rest of the Democratic candidates. If Mr. Obama is successful in becoming President that will not automatically solve racial injustice in America and therefore the need for advocates for racial justice is needed in the same way that when Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court legal impediments in America were not ended; the need for Dr. King and other advocates at that time was just as strong.

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