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Some black leaders may part ways with Jesse Jackson
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson is making it clear he is not going away -- but other clergymen are saying the time has come for a new approach to black issues.
Attending the fourth annual Wall Street Project Conference sponsored by his Rainbow/Push Coalition in New York, Jackson said the recent revelation that he fathered a child out of wedlock will not silence him..
"My voice will be heard and it will be part of a chorus of voices demanding for our nation as we seek to be a more perfect union, demanding human rights for all, economic security for all, health care for all," Jackson told CNN.
Other black clergymen are wondering if working closer with the new Bush administration would be more productive than protests.
"We in the black community have to move beyond the gratuitous use of the race card to retard debate and move forwards towards focuses on measurable outcomes," said the Rev. Eugene Rivers of the Azusa Christian Community near Boston, Massachusetts.
Letter to Bush
The pastor made headlines last weekend by suggesting that Jackson's disclosure about his affair that produced an illegitimate child meant the end of the generation of black leadership from the civil rights era.
He later joined other African-American pastors in sending President Bush a letter, urging a dialogue and action.
One signer, Bishop Charles Blake, the leader of the large west Los Angeles Church of God in Christ, said, "Rather than further radicalize what may be some fundamental and honest policy differences between your administration and many in the black community, we think it better to focus on common areas of potential agreement where your administration could make an historic difference in the lives of millions of black people here and abroad."
Blake's politics are considered right-of-center and he supports school vouchers. But the letter's agenda is mainstream: AIDS relief for sub-Saharan Africa, debt forgiveness for poor countries, universal health care and better education in America.
Deeds, not words
"The challenge to the president is therefore important because if he does not want to give some acknowledgment to the protest, if he does not want to accord respect to the congressional Black Caucus, the civil rights leadership, the fraternal leadership, and those mainline leaders, then he's still faced with this group, which is posing him the same challenge in terms of public policy," said Ronald Walters, a professor of Afro-American studies and government and politics at the University of Maryland.
The group that sent the letter to the White House stressed that they were seeking deeds from the new administration, not words.
"We're trying to resist the impulse to confuse political theater with the concrete results, because children in Harlem and Harare need more than press clips and rhetoric," said Rivers.
Time for new leaders
Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Constitution said the time has come for new leaders to come forward.
"I think we are rapidly approaching the time when the African-American community can look forward to a new generation of leaders who did not come out of grass roots civil rights activism," she said on CNN's "Inside Politics."
"I happen to think that is a good thing," Tucker said. "I happen to think the civil rights movement was successful, that the old-line civil rights activists served their nation very well. But I also think that it's time for a new generation of leaders -- people who grew up as products of the civil rights movement, people who benefited from the civil right movement and quite frankly, people who have been exposed to integration most of their lives."
But Walters said that the black community needs out-front leaders who draw controversy because their role is to kick up dust, to wage the case against racism in the country.
CNN National Correspondent Bruce Morton contributed to this report.
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