Rev. Jesse Jackson, 80, to join Howard University students protesting poor campus conditions

EXCLUSIVE: During a Zoom call with alumni and demonstrators, Reverend Jackson said, “Students should not be punished but appreciated for standing up for justice.”

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Reverend Jesse Jackson is the latest — and one of the most recognizable names — to meet with Howard University student protesters when the civil rights icon pays a visit to the historically Black institution Saturday evening on day 18 of campus protests over students’ living conditions and other administrative issues, theGrio has learned.

Reverend Jesse Jackson
Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks onstage during The 16th Annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit – Day 1 at The Roosevelt Hotel on January 31, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Jackson, 80, took part in a zoom call with supporters of the Howard student sit-in on Friday night. A protest leader, who wishes to remain unnamed due to fear of retaliation for the demonstration, detailed the strength of the days-long protest but also the tremendous cost of waging this battle against the prestigious HBCU and its president. 

Reverend Jackson said on the call with a small number of alumni and other supporters that the, “Students should not be punished but appreciated for standing up for justice.” At the end of the virtual chat with the Howard collective, Jackson ended with a prayer for the students and their efforts. 

#BlackStudentsMatter has been trending for days as Howard students turned to activism in an effort to bring attention to a host of campus issues, including mold in dorms, classrooms and other facilities. Students also want the university to reinstate student representation on the HBCU’s Board of Trustees.

One of the unnamed leaders of this movement tells theGrio that student protesters are reiterating a call for a vote of no confidence for Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. In the past, Frederick has survived several attempts to remove or replace him with a no confidence vote. 

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick
Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick attends a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on “NCAA Athlete NIL (name, image, and likeness) Rights” on Capitol Hill on June 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress hopes to pass legislation on NIL compensation at the federal level before it takes effect in several states across the country on July 1. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Donald Temple, an attorney supporting student demonstrators, told those on Friday’s Zoom call that President Fredrick requested the students to retain a lawyer. The key leaders have retained legal counsel. Even with legal representation, school officials have refused meetings on three occasions with the students and their lawyer.

The latest Howard University uprising started with 26 students and has grown to about 150 student protesters with about 50 inside the campus’s Blackburn Center and another 50 outside. In addition to these numbers, there is about another 50 that comes in and out of the building in support of the effort. Organizers contend that the demonstration is not just about Howard but for all HBCUs to do and be better.

Student demonstrators are seeking amnesty after being threatened with suspension, expulsion, and more due to claims from administrators that they damaged the building during their occupation. The attorney for the students emphasized on the Zoom call that there is no damage to the building.

Howard University Student Protests
(Photo: Twitter/@ReddIsAri/@scorptini)

A student leader affirmed they “are not leaving until our demands are met,” which include mold abatement in dorm rooms where mushroom is allegedly “growing from the floor” and inside the “ventilation system.” A student leader said one person was seen coughing up blood due to the mold.

The list of notable politicians supporting the students include Democratic U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and activist Marcia L. Dyson had sent pizza to the students on their 15th day of protest. What’s more, protests on the campus of Howard have also sparked other demonstrations on the HBCU campuses of Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark-Atlanta University and Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia.

The National Bar Association, an organization that boasts over 67,000 members, on Thursday condemned the deplorable mold infested and flooded conditions the students inhabit daily on a campus known as “The Mecca” of HBCUs where they pay $40,000 a year.

“As a believer in HBCUs, I would like to suggest that Howard University’s administration consider entering into a public-private partnership with a real estate developer like The P3 Group,” Judge Carlos E. Moore, the national Head of the National Bar Association, told theGrio.

“Affordable student housing could be built with little to no debt on Howard’s books. I’m here to offer possible solutions and not just criticisms.“

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