Miami – Rev. Jesse Jackson compared Latinos and Mexicans who would help build President Donald Trump's proposed border wall to "blacks building slave ships" as he exhorted Hispanics and communities of color to unite under common, shared values.
"When we close ranks on common interests, we win. When we don’t, we lose," said Jackson to a packed crowd at the Hispanicize conference, an annual event that brings together Latino influencers, bloggers and journalists.
Jackson held a "fireside chat" moderated by UNICEF'S Claudia González Romo, who asked Jackson how Latinos can overcome the challenge of galvanizing their combined economic and political clout amid the current social and political climate. He reminded those assembled of civil rights giant Dr. Martin Luther King's letter to César Chávez recognizing the suffering of farm workers as a shared cause.
In a later one-on-one interview with NBC Latino, Jackson said, "We are either bound by suffering and marginalization or bound by hope," in response to how Latinos can overcome their national, ethnic and cultural differences.
"Those who are facing immigrant challenges of gaining citizenship are bound by that. Those that share a common language are bound by that. Those who want equal protection under the law [and] justice enforced are bound by that dream," said Jackson, who also exhorted to fight mass deportations.
Jackson said at Wednesday's talk that he flew to Miami late Tuesday night “with a great sense of spiritual urgency,” a day after being in Memphis for the anniversary of the assassination of the late King.
He said African-Americans and Latinos “have a common interest in the protected right to vote," which he called the "crown jewel" when it comes to civil rights and advancement.
Referring to the Democratic presidential defeat, Jackson said "the election was lost because black and brown votes were suppressed."
He also threw a jab over what constitutes a Latino politician, saying it's not about color but about "who has a common set of shared values."
He added that large Latino numbers does not necessarily equal political force.
“That’s potential. Unless it’s organized it’s not actual power,” Jackson said.
Jackson's message resonated at the conference, where many of the panels as well as the political conversations have revolved around how Latinos "in the age of Trump," as some have called it.
At a Wednesday panel, Hispanicize founder Manny Ruiz challenged Latinos to find creative ways to generate community involvement and foster Latino leadership. "We are not going to find the next Latino quarterback in the safety of a nonprofit," said Ruiz.