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Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III

Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes, III speaks on continuing the legacy of Rev. Jesse Jackson on Sunday as he takes on the role of leading the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Haynes told reporters Tuesday his initial priorities include advancing for economic justice and going on the offensive against the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision against affirmative action.

Anthony Vazquez

The new Rainbow PUSH leader vows to fight recent Supreme Court decisions

The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s replacement to lead the Rainbow PUSH Coalition said Tuesday the civil rights organization’s agenda will be on the offensive against a U.S. Supreme Court that “has declared war on justice and freedom.”

Jackson said Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court has “threatened 60 years of work,” and his successor the Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III cited the high court’s recent decision rolling back affirmative action in higher education as one area the civil rights organization will push back on.

“We’ve got to go to the Supreme Court, lie down on the steps of the Supreme Court and tell the Supreme Court that we’re going to stay right here and have our own affirmative action,” Haynes told attendees at the organization’s annual convention on the University of Chicago’s campus.

To do so, Haynes pointed to picking up where Jackson left off with his 1984 and 1988 presidential bids by registering and mobilizing voters to “help to push the court back to being a normal court.”

“But at the same time, we will have a defense, protecting the rights that we have fought so hard to gain so that we can maintain them,” Haynes said at a press conference.

Haynes, a Dallas pastor, is taking over the civil rights organization’s leadership after Jackson recently announced he would be stepping down from the helm of the group he founded more than 50 years ago. Jackson on Tuesday praised Haynes for his ability to speak with a sense of authority and compassion.

“Take it and run with it,” Jackson told Haynes.

Haynes said the civil rights icon taught him his faith must extend beyond the confines of a sanctuary and also be tied to the pursuit of justice. According to his church biography, Haynes attended Bishop College for his undergraduate degree and earned ministry degrees from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary the Graduate Theological Foundation. Haynes joked he was also “a-thank-you-lordy graduate of Jesse Jackson university.”

“I have too much sense to stand in his shoes. The shoes are much too large,” Haynes said as he stood beside Jackson. “And yet, because of where those shoes have taken us, I’m able to stand on his shoulders.”

Haynes has served as the senior pastor at the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas for four decades, according to the church’s website.

He said he plans to continue to lead his church in Dallas as he takes on the new role, and also tackle issues such as the impacts of climate change and furthering economic justice. He emphasized Rainbow PUSH’s headquarters won’t be going anywhere.

“Chicago and Rainbow PUSH have a rich history, and we are not going to break that up,” Haynes said. “Chicago will be the headquarters of Rainbow PUSH. I want to be real clear about that.”

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is headquartered on the South Side of Chicago, with branches across the country in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and more. Haynes said the organization needs hubs across the country, and in Texas in particular, “because I think everyone knows that we have a governor who is doing everything he can to attack diversity, equity and inclusion,” Haynes said in reference to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Jackson announced in 2017 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and one of his sons, U.S. Rep. Jonathan Jackson, D-Chicago, cited his father’s health as part of the reason for his departure from the organization.

“I want to pivot to a new platform,” the elder Jackson said Tuesday, adding he’s interested in teaching.

A bevy of civil rights and political leaders have praised Jackson’s leadership, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who said Saturday from the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood that Jackson’s presidential bids paved the way for former President Barack Obama and her elections.

Speaking during a Rainbow PUSH luncheon Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said “the movement is in good hands” under Haynes, and praised Jackson, who endorsed Johnson during his mayoral bid.

“We all know you could have been mayor,” Johnson said of Jackson, “but instead of becoming just simply a ruler or a king, you decided to make kings and make rulers and be the prophetic voice for this generation.”

Tessa Weinberg covers Chicago politics for WBEZ.

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