The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson took to the streets of West Baltimore yesterday and urged neighborhood residents to join him in picketing Major League Baseball at tonight's All-Star Game at Camden Yards.
About 100 people joined Mr. Jackson as he led a march from Payne Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1700 block of Madison Ave. to Lafayette Market on Pennsylvania Avenue.
While the march was organized to find volunteers to picket the game, Mr. Jackson also used it to call for increased federal aid to the nation's cities and to highlight discriminatory practices in "corporate America."
Mr. Jackson plans to picket the game to protest what he says is baseball's exclusion of minorities from top front-office positions. He led a similar protest on Opening Day at Camden Yards.
"Fighting Major League Baseball is fighting corporate America," Mr. Jackson said. "There is a plan to bail out Russia, but there isn't a plan to bail out America's cities.
"We are marching for jobs. The All-Star game is for the economic development of others," he said.
In March, Major League Baseball unveiled a program of "minority incentives" in areas such as hiring and contracting with outside businesses.
Since 1987, the percentage of front-office workers who are minorities has risen from 2 percent to 17 percent, Major League Baseball says. But the program does not include affirmative-action goals, which has irritated Mr. Jackson and some other black leaders.
During yesterday's march, which covered about eight blocks, Mr. Jackson stopped to talk with neighborhood residents, urging them to join him in picketing the game.
Verna Jones, of the National Black Women's Health Project, joined the march when it passed her home on McCulloh Street.
"It's good for leadership to walk the streets when they have something legitimate to talk about," Ms. Jones said. "The issue is bigger than baseball, and the opportunity should be seized to get that across."
The Rev. Vashti M. McKenzie, pastor of Payne Memorial, said she approached Mr. Jackson on Saturday with the idea for the march.
"Baltimore is particularly sensitive when it comes to sports," Ms. McKenzie said. "Not only is it fun, but it's also big business."
Joining Mr. Jackson during the march were Minister John Taylor of the Emmanuel Christian Community Church; the Rev. Eleanor G. Bryant of the Agape AME Church; the Rev. Louis Shockley of the Metropolitan Church; the Rev. Harold A. Carter of New Shiloh Baptist; and the Rev. Willie Ray of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church.
and the Rev. Willie Ray of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church.
"I'm participating in the rally because we need jobs for our youths and options to stop the violence and drugs," Mr. Ray said. "Jesse Jackson brings a sense of urgency to the complacency that has been in our neighborhoods for 20 years."
About 150 people also gathered last night at Enon Baptist Church in West Baltimore for a rally before tomorrow's picketing.
Oliver W. Randall, a resident of Edmondson Village and a former correctional officer, said he believes in the picketing. "It's the only thing we can do to let people know how we feel. It's time we get a piece of the pie instead of crumbs from the table," he said.