In­vis­i­ble scar

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

Dur­ing an in­ter­view two years ago with the Cri­sis Pub­lish­ing Co., Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary Alphonso R. Jack­son com­mented that by now you’d think he would have ap­peared on the cover of at least one ma­jor black pub­li­ca­tion.

Af­ter all, the youngest of 12 chil­dren had an­swered a call from Martin Luther King re­quest­ing that he travel to Alabama and help or­ga­nize a voter-reg­is­tra­tion drive. From there, he was asked to join in the march across the Ed­mund Pet­tus Bridge in Selma, Ala., what be­came known as “Bloody Sun­day,” when some of Mr. Jack­son’s own blood would be spilled.

Why then, given his civil rights back­ground and im­pres­sive White House Cabi­net po­si­tion to­day, does Mr. Jack­son have such a low profile in the black com­mu­nity?

“If I were black with a ‘D’ be­hind my name, I’d prob­a­bly be in ev­ery lib­eral news­pa­per on the front page the day Pres­i­dent Bush ap­pointed me,” Mr. Jack­son told the in­ter­viewer.

Two weeks ago, this oth­er­wise in­flu­en­tial mem­ber of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion spoke to the AfricanAmer­i­can Lead­er­ship Sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton, where he agreed with Bill Cosby and other black lead­ers “who ar­gue that we must use ev­ery av­enue pos­si­ble to em­power our peo­ple.”

“This will help us di­rectly con­front a cri­sis in the black com­mu­nity [. . . ] crime, health, poverty, un­em­ploy­ment, poor ed­u­ca­tion, lack of home­own­er­ship, mis­di­rec­tion, loss of hope and di­min­ished free­dom.”

He then re­called the “pow­er­ful les­son” of lead­er­ship he learned while a fresh­man at his­tor­i­cally black Lin­coln Univer­sity in Penn­syl­va­nia, when Bernard Lee, King’s top aide, per­son­ally in­vited him to Alabama.

“I jumped at the chance,” Mr. Jack­son re­called. “And we marched to Selma. My life was for­ever changed on a Sun­day morn­ing as I stood, peace­fully, with 600 other marchers on Pet­tus Bridge. More than 200 troop­ers met us on a day now known as Bloody Sun­day. A man named Al Lingo or­dered the troop­ers to re­lease the dogs on us, and the beat­ings be­gan.

“I was stand­ing four rows from the front. I can still hear the N-word rolling from Al Lingo’s lips. They used whips and night­sticks, tear gas, elec­tric cat­tle prods and digs. More than 50 of us went down. One of the dogs tore into my flesh. I still have the scar.”

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