The Rev. Jesse Jackson's weeklong whirlwind tour of Georgia brought him to Paine College on Thursday night, where he continued to spread his message and share his vision for a "New South."
The seven-day, 25-city tour of "the other Georgia," as the Rev. Jackson referred to everywhere outside of Atlanta, is designed to redefine a mission that began in the 1960s.
"There's another Georgia," the Rev. Jackson told the hundreds who came to hear him speak at Paine College, "where 60 percent of workers make $20,000 or less and half make less than $10,000. They are living in dilapidated houses, where 2 million Georgians have no health insurance and 25 percent of children live in poverty."
The Rev. Jackson called on Augustans, as he has at every stop of the Georgia New South Tour for Hope, Healing and Shared Economic Security, to close the resource gap, to work together to capture the potential the South has to offer.
For too long, he said, the South has held itself down fighting battles of the past.
He called for equal wages for men and women, equal access to technology, industry and education, and he continued to attack President Bush's tax cut proposal.
"The richest 1 percent of the country's wealthy will get $50,000. Most working people will get $306," he said. "We don't need a tax cut; we need a pay raise! We need livable wages, and we need health insurance benefits."
The Rev. Jackson also urged unregistered voters to register and to exercise the right to vote. More than 600,000 black Georgia residents are not registered to vote, he said.
He called on the governor of Georgia, the secretary of state and local elected officials to change the voting laws of the state and ensure that everyone across the state has access to the same ballot.
The goal of the weeklong bus tour is to bring attention to the need for shared economic security, the rights of the working poor and the widening gap between those who have and those who have not.
"If you look at this problem through a keyhole, you see black," the Rev. Jackson said of his mission. "If you open up the door, you will find most of the working poor are not black. They are white, they are female, they are young. They are unrepresented, misrepresented or ashamed of their poverty."
The Rev. Jackson was greeted in Augusta by a group of local elected officials including Mayor Pro Tem Willie Mays, Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams and former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre.
"It's always great to have Rev. Jackson here in Augusta," Mr. Mays said. "He has done so much to help encourage people to vote. Anytime he is here is a special time."
The reception in Augusta was far different from the reception the Rev. Jackson received at the Boggs Rural Life Center in Keysville earlier in the day.
Although a large group of students, parents and supporters were waiting for him inside, a group of about two dozen white men waited along the roadway, waving Confederate battle flags. A few held up insulting signs as the Rev. Jackson's bus pulled into the center's parking lot.
"One of the amazing things about the Klan being there today," the Rev. Jackson said, "is that black people there were not afraid of them. To rise above the fear of intimidation is important. Secondly, ironically, we are fighting for them. Those are the people who are working and not making livable wages. They're the ones who are working and don't have health insurance. They're the ones whose children are not likely to go to college, and in their desperation, they are ignorant of their friends. When I fight for livable wages, I fight for them.
"That's just one dimension," he said. "The other dimension is, they have been bred to fear, to have hatred and violence. So it's all right for them. They have the right to secede. They don't have the right to take a state with them. They lost that war."
Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.
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