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Bernie, Civil Rights and Jesse

Burlington Mayor Bernard Sanders greets presidential candidate Jesse Jackson at a campaign appearance at Montpelier City Hall, December 31, 1988. (AP Photo / Toby Talbot)

download (1)There has been a lot of noise online and in the news about Bernie Sanders lack of street cred with the Black Community and Minorities in general. Reporters who interview Bernie have even been pointing to the lack of Diversity in his crowd, compare to Clinton’s crowd. There has been a lot said and written about a young Bernie Sanders’ possible participation in the civil-rights movement in the early 1960’s. The most vocal was Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the progressive icon who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, on Thursday, February 11th, dismissed Senator Bernie Sanders’ participation in that movement.

When a reporter asked Lewis to comment on Sanders’ involvement in the movement, Sanders as a college student at the University of Chicago was active in civil rights work, the congressman indefatigably interrupted him. “Well, to be very frank, I’m going to cut you off, but I never saw him, I never met him,” Lewis said. “I’m a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and directed their voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”

bernie-sandersA website, Democratic Underground posted a photograph purportedly showing Bernie Sanders participating in a 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery (Alabama) with Martin Luther King, Jr. The website identified the man standing “behind Coretta King, just right of Old Glory in the glasses, white ‘t’ shirt, open collar and dark jacket” as the future United States senator and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.

Two days later after his initial remarks, the Civil Rights Icon clarified comments he made earlier this week questioning Sen. Bernie Sanders’ involvement in the civil rights movement. Lewis, who is supporting Hillary Clinton over Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, had said he never met Sanders.

“In the interest of unity, I want to clarify the statement I made at Thursday’s news conference,” Lewis said in a statement from the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, which endorsed Clinton on Thursday.

“I was responding to a reporter’s question who asked me to assess Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the Civil Rights Movement, I did not meet Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time. The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960’s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”

flyer1I sat back and watched all this while Sanders and Clinton supporters lobbied for the black vote. I can not even pretend to have first hand knowledge on the situation since the March on Selma happened months before I was even born. Some media outlets still question whether or not the individual in question in the picture is in fact Sanders, while there are some similarities, I could not tell your for sure. But there is a moment in time I was old enough to speak more intelligently about that happened 28 years ago, when Bernie Sanders endorsed Jesse Jackson for president in 1988.

I was just starting my brief career as a rap artists. We had a hit single out that afforded us the chance to do a lot of touring and I would always love to read the newspapers in different cities and countries I got to travel to. Rebellious records like “F Tha Police” by NWA and Fight The Power by Public Enemy were on heavy rotation throughout the nation. So it was very noticeable, when a blonde hair, white progressive elected official like the Mayor or Burlington, Vermont, ‘stepped across the color line,” and risked his political career not once but twice, to endorse and support, Jesse Jackson who was trying to make history as the first Black President of the United States.

There was also another white politician, I believe he an agricultural commissioner or something from Texas, not that I can personally tell you about Bernie Sanders.


About AJ Woodson (2369 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale,,, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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