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Rev Jesse Jackson tells students: 'Be your own leader'

STRONG MESSAGE: Reverend Jesse Jackson

US CIVIL rights activist Jesse Jackson ordered Britain's young people to stop waiting for a saviour and create their own change.

Speaking to up to 600 students at Middlesex University yesterday, the Reverend told them that they had the power to make a difference to their own lives.

It followed previous trips to Oxford and Cambridge universities as part of a push to get more black talent into Britain's elite institutions where he expressed disgust that last year, 21 of Oxford's 38 colleges admitted not one black pupil.

He said the institution was "cheating [its pupils] of a multicultural and multi-racial experience in a world that is multicultural and multi-racial."

The Reverend said: "You cannot fight yesterday's fight. You fight today's fight, which is lack of access to housing and health care."

He also highlighted issues such as the rise in tuition fees to up to £9,000 per year as a key challenge affecting the younger generation.

BBC journalist Kurt Barling, a journalism professor at Middlesex, revealed how he had persuaded Jackson to visit the university to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech.

He said: "I told him if you want to see diversity come and see us."

According to the university's equality and diversity strategy, its intake of students from ethnic minority backgrounds has "consistently been close to or over 50 per cent."

Paying homage, Barling outlined the difference both Rev Jackson and Dr Martin Luther King had made to the world: "Make no mistake, there would be no President Obama without Reverend Jesse Jackson. What is the moral here? Young people can be the change.

"Dr King and Jesse Jackson had vision. They had clarity, thought, determination and resilience - qualities that made them part of the change.”

During his speech, he recalled pivotal moments in history, such as Rosa Parks who on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger which led to her arrest.

Rev Jackson added: "Don’t hang around people who drag you down. Progress comes to those who stand up and fight back.”

Reflecting on the assassination of Dr King, he said: “When he was killed in 1968, our hearts bled, our heads hung down, we were traumatised. We didn’t know what to do, but we wouldn’t allow one bullet kill a whole movement."

He went on to encourage the crowd of students, academics and guests including Simon Woolley, the director of political lobby group Operation Black Vote (OBV) to chant along with him, referencing his famous poem I am Somebody.

"I am somebody. I am somebody my mind is a pearl I can learn anything in the world if my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it.”

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