Sunday, May 31, 2009

Women in Rainbow PUSH

You’ve heard the saying, “behind every good man is a good woman.” When it comes to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the phrase could be paraphrased, “behind every great civil rights organization is a principled group of committed women.” Filling such key roles as Education Director, Trade Bureau Director, Automotive Director, V.P. for Legal Affairs and Public Policy Director. The women of the Rainbow make the organization the effective advocate for civil and human rights that it has become. There is no question that Rev. Jackson is the visionary. According to Trade Bureau Director Marshette Turner, “Our job is to make the vision real. We do the follow up, design and implement the programs and respond to the calls for assistance.” Today, Rev. Jackson is crusading to Reduce the Rate (for college student loans) that experts say are saddling too many young Americans with tens of thousands of dollars in crippling student debt. Education Director Dr. Bonita Carr has implemented a petition drive to galvanize popular support for better financial aid so that college grads don’t start their professional lives deeply in debt. Her department also produces an annual college tour and routinely screens hundreds of applications to the PUSH Excel’s scholarship programs. Kimberly Marcus, an innovator and trailblazer, orchestrated the first ever Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearing at a civil rights headquarter in September 2007. All 5 FCC Commissions gathered at Rainbow PUSH Coalition in Chicago, IL to participate in a media ownership hearing were more than 2000 people testified on the importance of women and minorities having an equal opportunity to enter into the very white male dominated world of media ownership. In 2007 when Rev. Jackson began to warn the nation that home mortgage foreclosure was a “tsunami” that would engulf the nation’s economy, Jackson went to policy makers like Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Franks to say, “restructure mortgages, don’t repossess homes.” Janice Mathis, a lawyer with RPC working out of the Atlanta office, immediately began to assist families facing foreclosure work with their creditors to modify toxic mortgages. Janice recently arranged for Rainbow PUSH to file a brief with the Supreme Court when Section V of the Voting Rights Act recently came under legal attack and organized the huge Keep the Vote Alive march and rally in Atlanta in 2005.Glenda Gill, a highly respected automotive expert in her own right, makes sure that black dealers and suppliers are heard when automotive contracts are being negotiated. It was Glenda who spearheaded the research that forced Toyota’s historic $7.8 billion dollar diversity initiative and she also worked to expose race-based auto loans, resulting in better industry practices and hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation. According to Glenda Gill, “Rev. Jackson sets the agenda…the women in the organization (and highly capable men) set the table to make the dream a reality.” Women in the upper echelon of Rainbow PUSH leadership are part of the organization’s tradition. Mrs. Jacqueline Jackson has been a key confidante and advisor to Rev. Jackson for decades. She went to Cuba and to Syria before Rev. Jackson did, and in many ways introduced him to foreign policy. Rev. Willie T. Barrow, chair emeritus of RPC keeps an active schedule of speeches well into her eighth decade of service. So far, women have rarely led major civil rights organizations – and those that do are typically widows of a slain organizational President. The Movement remains a largely male-led bastion, with a few exceptions. Mrs. King created real power as Dr. King’s widow and Myrlie Evers (widow of Medgar Evers) briefly led the NAACP. Melanie Campbell, President of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation is a rare exception. But the women of the Rainbow are undaunted. “The day will come when a woman leads a major civil rights organization. Women have too much talent and commitment to be ignored.”Janice Mathis
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