(The Dallas Examiner) – With Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III officially seated as the new president and CEO of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the organization can expect some changes. However, Haynes made it clear that he intended to continue the group’s original mission.
Along those lines, while in Los Angeles where one of the satellite bureaus is, they joined the protest of writers and actors who were on strike and had an opportunity to speak with them – though he had not formally started yet.
“With the work of justice, it never stops. And so there is no start, there is no stop,” he added.
He also said he planned to spend some time getting to understand the terrain – the organization, its people and the work they’ve been doing. But he did layout a clear four-part agenda that would guide their mission.
“I will say by a way of first order of business, that we are planning a retreat so that we can basically outline where we are going,” he shared. “For me, I am convinced that Rev. Jackson has laid a foundation that has provided a blueprint for what we should be doing going forward. Rainbow PUSH has roots. It was born in fighting for economic justice. It was born as what, Operation Breadbasket. And Operation Breadbasket was fighting for, not just civil rights, but silver rights. And so we live in a time now where what the wealth gap between Whites and Blacks is 10 to 1; it said that by 2053 the net wealth of Black people will be zero. We know that the that income inequality is real, that in this day we have a rising rate of inflation, but we have wages that are not reflective of that. And so we need to fight for a living wage, which is why we were picketing in Los Angeles this week.”
Haynes stated that economic justice would be at the top of their priority list in the fight for civil rights.
“As Rev. Jackson said, ‘We don’t want charity, we want parity.’ Way back then he would say that,” Haynes recalled. “And so building Black businesses, building Black communities, fighting for the poor, so the poor will again not receive handouts but a hand up.
Second on the agenda was voting. He reflected on the record-breaking 7 million individuals that Jackson registered to vote in 1984 and 1988. Haynes said no one had accomplished that before. But with some important elections coming up, they would pick up that mantle – using voter education, registration and a mobilization campaign to impact local and national elections in 2024.
“There is a war that has been declared on democracy by neo fascist, and so we must be on the front lines of fighting that war,” Haynes declared. “And a part of that has to do with a civic education that energizes people to get engaged and involved in the electoral process and beyond the electoral process.
A classic example he used was the year President Barack Obama was elected. While the Democrats were partying, the Tea Party was planning a way to take over state and local elections. As much as he did not like their politics, he did admire what they did to get things done. Now, the group is making plans to organize and take over local and state elections that will make an impact across the nation.
He spoke passionately about the third item on the agenda.
“Jackson, you know – long before it was popular, was in our schools, encouraging our students, exhorting them with ‘I am somebody. My mind is a pearl. I can accomplish anything in the world,’” Haynes recalled. “He was rapping before rap was the thing. And so how ironic it is that there is a war on public education that is taking place all over this country, right here in Texas, in Florida. School boards fighting for a culturally responsive education. And so we’re going to be right there in our local school.”
He said, at the same time, the community could do things to save its youth – much like Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund who developed Freedom Schools. There are so many churches that are open Sundays and Wednesdays, then remain empty the other five days of the week. The empty churches could be used to educate the youth in the Black community.
“We need to have Freedom Schools so we don’t depend on Pharaoh to teach us what liberation looks like. And so we’re going to be leading that. That’s at the top of our agenda,” he announced.
Fourth on the agenda – looking at the extreme heat across Texas, hurricanes and earthquakes in certain areas for the first time, Los Angeles getting hit by both in one day – was climate change.
“The earth is fighting back. The planet is on fire,” Haynes said. “And here’s what’s unfortunate; as bad as it is that the planet is on fire, we know that the first ones to catch hell when the planet is on fire are Black, Brown, poor White and Indigenous communities. And so we have to assume a role on the front lines in the fight against climate change, but especially the fight against what? Environmental racism right here in Dallas.
“There’s a wonderful book called A Terrible Thing to Waste, and the author, Hart Washington, talks about Dallas leads the nation in the number of days missed in school by students because of asthma directly related to the air that they are inhaling. Now, if we’re not on the front lines fighting against environmental racism, then we are going to watch our kids get sick, miss school and therefore their future gets aborted because we’re not fighting climate change.”
Though Haynes has admired and followed Jackson for many years, he acknowledged that, as an individual, he would be something different to the organization.
“I hope to stand on the shoulders of Rev. Jackson, having learned so much from him, and apply those lessons for such a time as this,” he expressed. “Because again, one of the things that we’re going to be dealing with in a strong way is partnering with those who are fighting environmental injustice, environmental racism.
“But unlike Rev. Jackson, a preacher, I am a pastor. I’m a clergyman,” he compared, “And Rev. Jackson having great ties to the church community – I’m blessed having served as pastor of Friendship-West for 40 years, being involved in church life – nationally, statewide, locally, all of that time. I believe I am going to bring that dynamic into this movement. Because again, I mean the Civil Rights Movement, the Movement for Emancipation, there was always that faith component. And so that faith component I think is another piece I’m going to bring, having deep roots in the Black Church, especially the Black activist church.”
Haynes also discussed the changes that would take place at Friendship-West Baptist Church. He began by stating he had been blessed with a great staff. He said the current pastor has taken over his past duties.
“My executive pastor, David Malcolm McGruder, is a phenomenal preacher, but also a great leader,” he said. “And the beautiful thing is, I won’t have to leave Friendship-West. I’ll be at Friendship-West until the Lord decides otherwise.”
He shared that Jackson wanted him to stay on with his church because this was an extension of what he was already doing. Now, he will have the Rainbow PUSH platform, as well.
He went on to say that he had a very supportive church community that has been excited about his new position. He also appreciated the global support that he has received.
“I’ve been so inspired by colleagues all over the country, even the world, who reached out to me saying they want to be a part of what we’re gonna be doing with Rainbow PUSH,” he said.