Civil rights crusader the Rev Jesse Jackson brought his whistle-stop UK tour to Birmingham hot on the heels of American electing its first black president.
The American preacher addressed the enthusiastic congregation at Mount Zion Community Church in Aston yesterday morning, saying it was important to come to the city as the economic struggles experienced here in Birmingham, are not far removed from the struggles of those in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.
He was also quick to praise the success of Barack Obama in last month’s American presidential elections. He told the congregation: “We are facing an impending recession and we are experiencing poverty.
“When I think about Birmingham, UK today, it reminds me of Birmingham, Alabama.
“I think about what we went through but I know that even then we had to keep on hoping. We never gave up.
“Today poverty is being experienced in the Western World but we must – as a people and a nation – champion human rights.
“Here we stand today facing poverty both in America and in the UK but in this we still must see a great light.
“Barack embodies both hope and leadership in this time.”
Mr Jackson was in the UK as part of the Annual Equanomics Convention.
The Equanomics movement commemorates leaders who champion equality and economic justice and organisers cite Dr Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi as mentors.
Mr Jackson runs his own organisation called the RainbowPUSH Coalition. His tour – which has included London, Nottingham, Leicester and Liverpool – includes talks entitled “The Barack Obama Ripple Effect: Planning for a new phase in leadership” and “From King to Obama”.
Speaking of Obama’s success in the presidential elections, and his much talked about emotional response to it, Mr Jackson said: “People felt the time for joy had come.
“People have asked me why did I cry on that night and I tell them I did not mean to. I felt the joy of that moment.
“But now we have new leadership we need the infrastructure to change.We need to help the poor.”
Maxie Hayles, from Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit, said: “It was important for Mr Jackson to come to the city, not just because of Birmingham, UK, and Birmingham, Alabama, being namesakes, but because we are a city with a minority ethnic mix.”