“Your vote counts, and you count,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, told an enthusiastic crowd in South-Central Los Angeles Tuesday night.
Jackson appeared at the Crenshaw-Imperial Shopping Center as part of a last-minute “countdown” to register voters in the area for the November general election.
His appeal was broadcast over four local radio stations whose listening audiences are primarily black.
During brief appearances on each station, he asked that any unregistered voters come to registration tables set up in the shopping center before the midnight deadline.
“You can vote for houses, decent health care, day care,” he said. “You can vote to raise the minimum wages.”
Speaks of Mandela
He reminded the crowd that Nelson Mandela, founder of the now outlawed African National Congress who has been in a South African jail for 26 years, recently declined to accept his freedom with the conditions offered by that nation’s apartheid regime.
“The fact is that Mandela is free to go home,” Jackson said. “But he will not go. He is free to go home and drink beer and watch TV. But he is not free to go home and register to vote and run for office.”
He said Mandela would rather “be in his grave than be a slave. He won’t surrender. We here in Los Angeles have the right to vote, we can’t surrender.”
Jackson’s appearance, shortly after 9 p.m., sent shouts through the crowd of about 500 as excited adults tried to maneuver in order to see him better.
Mothers held their babies up to see him.
Others simply shouted: “I want to see, I want to see.”
40 to 50 an Hour
Volunteers manning the four tables in the shopping center estimated that they were registering between 40 and 50 new voters an hour.
“I felt I needed to register,” said Jerome Stephens, 25, of Los Angeles. “I thought it was time, this election has important issues that affect our futures.”
Organizers of the registration effort said the turnout was low because of the National League playoff game at Dodger Stadium.
Gary Boze, a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, said they had hoped to register 2,000 people. But he was unable to say how many had been registered by late evening.
Sees Drop in Enthusiasm
Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) pointed out that many groups were registering voters all over the city Tuesday night. She acknowledged that the enthusiasm was less in minority communities after Jackson lost the primaries.
“Jesse Jackson was important to communities like this,” she said. “He talked in ways that touched them. Without Jesse Jackson in the race, his supporters were less enthusiastic.”
The four stations that carried broadcasts featuring Jackson were KACE-FM, KJLH-FM, KGFJ-AM, and KDAY-AM.