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Operation PUSH reopens doors with 'bailout' by black groups


CHICAGO -- A week after Operation PUSH laid off its entire staff because of financial difficulties, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson said yesterday that the civil rights organization he founded 20 years ago would continue operating, thanks to an economic "bailout" by black churches and businesses.

Mr. Jackson said that businesses had contributed or pledged $150,000 at a meeting earlier in the day and that an additional $100,000 had been pledged by about 75 ministers who met at a Chicago church the previous night.

Calling the contributions "bailout money," Mr. Jackson said that they would reduce PUSH's current $350,000 deficit. In addition, he said, to help the organization meet its expenses, he would seek long-term commitments "from people we have served."

"PUSH across the years has been a servant that stood tall to go to the community's rescue," he said at a news conference, surrounded by about 60 business leaders and PUSH officials from around the country. "Today the community has come together to PUSH's side for rescue and for a continuation of service."

The 12 staff members who were laid off last week have remained on the job without pay, allowing the organization to remain in operation, but Mr. Jackson said they could not yet be rehired.

Mr. Jackson founded PUSH, which stands for People United to Serve Humanity, in 1971 to encourage corporations to hire and promote blacks and to contract with black businesses. The organization also has several subsidiaries, such as one that deals with education issues.

Economic boycotts have been the organization's primary weapon, but a boycott last year of Nike Inc., the athletic shoe manufacturer, failed to gain unified black support, leading to speculation that the organization had been weakened by Mr. Jackson's departure and by the appointment of the Rev. Tyrone Crider, a young minister, as director in 1989.

The organization, housed in an aging complex on Chicago's South Side, provided the platform for Mr. Jackson's emergence in the 1970s as the pre-eminent national spokesman for black causes.

Some have charged that it was Mr. Jackson's departure in the mid-1980s to run for the presidency and his recent move to Washington that most hurt the organization.

Mr. Jackson said, though, that economic recession was the culprit.

"These are tough times," he said. "For a long time we've operated with maximum service on a minimum budget. It's just that so many people who once supported us are now out of business or unemployed."

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