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The Rev. Jesse Jackson Reveals Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has announced that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Jackson, 76, described in a letter to supporters how he was diagnosed with the disease and also said that the same disease afflicted his father. According to NBC Chicago, Jackson was diagnosed in 2015.


Read the letter below:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

On July 17, 1960, I was arrested, along with seven other college students, for advocating for the right to use a public library in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. I remember it like it was yesterday, for that day changed my life forever. From that experience, I lost my fear of being jailed for a righteous cause. I went on to meet Dr. King and dedicate my heart and soul to the fight for justice, equality, and equal access. In the tradition of the Apostle Paul, I have offered myself – my mind, body and soul – as a living sacrifice.

Throughout my career of service, God has kept me in the embrace of his loving arms, and protected me and my family from dangers, seen and unseen. Now in the latter years of my life, at 76 years old, I find it increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks, and getting around is more of a challenge. My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago. For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor. But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced.

After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.

Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it. For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.

I am far from alone. God continues to give me new opportunities to serve. This diagnosis is personal but it is more than that. It is an opportunity for me to use my voice to help in finding a cure for a disease that afflicts 7 to 10 million worldwide. Some 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.

I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world. I’m also spending some time working on my memoir so I can share with others the lessons I have learned in my life of public service. I steadfastly affirm that I would rather wear out than rust out.

I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me. I will need your prayers and graceful understanding as I undertake this new challenge. As we continue in the struggle for human rights, remember that God will see us through, even in our midnight moments.


Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Read more at NBC Chicago.

Bye, Kinja! It's been fun (occasionally).

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When he ran for pres, the first time, he won 21 States during the dem primaries. 21. Young folk don’t know and others forgot, but that run was historic. Black folk in the South, where he won most of those States, came out to vote in droves.

And before he ran, when he was just out campaigning, the battle cry of “Run Jesse Run, Run Jesse Run” was a BFD!

He came through Cali and of course came to The E.O. (East Oakland for non cool people) and spoke at a few places - mostly churches - and one was Allen Temple, in East Oakland. Without revealing how, exactly, me and my bestie were in the pastor’s office as the preachers, pastors, handlers, and heat-packing deacons talked with and took pictures with Jesse. And, the few young folk in the office got to listen in, and a few of us got to shake his hand. He said nothing to me when he shook, but he said to my friend: You ain’t old enough to vote this time, but your time will come. Get all your friends registered.

Then he went out and gave his stump speech that was awesome.

He talked of civil rights, of course, and jobs, and healthcare, and policing, and more. He covered all these topics at the party convention, on prime time - because he only agreed to drop out of the race if he were given prime time to give his speech. He delivered, too.

What was historical as well, during that speech - he looked down, and by this time he was full on preaching - and said: veterans - I see you; handicapped folk - I see you; gay folk, I see you; unions and unemployed folk, I see you.

He brought the fire and called out to our foremothers and forefathers who had fought the good fight for all of us in this evil land. It was beautiful and set many young black folk on the path of participating in the system.

Folk forget Jesse was bringing back hostages from many middle east and African countries - white and black hostages - and he could get face to face with so-called enemies of the State because he was a black man and he was accepted by other leaders of color around the world. His biography will show all his many flaws, especially his frequent touching of women, children with admirers, and other faults.

Jesse is flawed. And Jesse was a giant for civil rights.