By Ed Brock and Trina Trice
The Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared before the Clayton County Commission shortly before going to Mundy's Mill High School on Tuesday. He spoke on the need for an equal playing field for people in the county in terms of employment and the granting of contracts to black-owned businesses.
"Whatever is required to make Clayton County a county for all the people," Jackson said. "We simply want all Americans, black and white, to live under one big tent."
Jackson met behind closed doors with Commission Chairman Crandle Bray and Commissioner Virginia Gray prior to making his public statement, and at least one other member of the commission, Charlie Griswell, left before that private meeting finished. Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer also attended the meeting.
Jackson compared the process to a football game in which all of the players compete under one set of rules. He also said the county's leadership policy should reflect the changing demographics of the county.
He said he wants to see more African Americans working high-paying jobs in the county and more minority companies involved in the bidding process for county contracts.
"There must be a plan for inclusion," Jackson said. "That process should be non-violent but deliberate."
The commission will look into the points Jackson made, Bray said after the meeting.
"The problem is what fits on a national level doesn't always fit here," Bray said.
The county has included minority-owned companies in the bidding process before but for some reason they did not take the job. Also, the county handles many projects in house.
Gray thanked Jackson for coming.
"I certainly look forward to continuing this communication," Gray said.
At Mundy's Mill High School, Jackson spoke to a gym full of ninth, 10th and 11th graders about staying in school and staying away from drugs and violence.
Jackson roused the young audience and got them to chant his famous motto for youth, "I am somebody."
"Respect me, protect me, never neglect me," the students said with enthusiasm following Jackson's lead. "My mind is a pearl, I can learn anything in the world."
Jackson also gave students a quick, yet somber lesson in the civil rights movement.
Cheering Jackson on were several Rainbow PUSH Coalition representatives, including Gail Davenport, president of the local chapter. Also present were state Rep. Victor Hill, D-Riverdale, and Clayton County Board of Education Chairwoman Nedra Ware, Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens and member Carol Kellam.