Rainbow PUSH held its national convention last week at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 E. North Water Street. This year’s theme, “A More Perfect Union” was based on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

A gala of celebrities, civic leaders, ministers and educators participated in the 5-day event. The convention always begins with “Reunion Day Picnic,” which brings together old friends and members from the days of SCLC Operation Breadbasket. In 1971, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. founded Operation P.U.S.H. (People United to Save Humanity) later modified to People United to Serve Humanity by continuing the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Saturday, June 11 the sessions began with a discussion on voting rights. Panelists included David Mack, South Caroline State Legislative Black Caucus; Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr.; Cong. John Conyers; Cong. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones; John Sweeney, AFL-CIO; and Barbara Arnwine, Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights.

Sunday, June 12, the topics were “Reauthorizing the 1965 Voting Rights,” “The Federally Protected Right to Vote,” and “The Growing Prison Industrial Complex.” June 13 was “Labor Day: The Right to Organize.” June 14 was “The Right to Healthcare of Equal High Quality.” On this day, Minister Louis Farrakhan and entertainer Harry Belafonte discussed the serious issues regarding black men’s health and assuming responsibility to eliminate infectious diseases, incarceration and school dropouts. Both gentlemen have faced health issues and have been leading the effort to inform black men about their health, especially prostate problems.

Wednesday, June 15 was Business Day. The keynote speaker was dynamic lawyer Willie Gary. The discussion focus was on successful product placement, distribution, and procurement opportunity for minority suppliers with majority corporations. The afternoon business luncheon’s theme was “Where is the Money?” Speakers included attorney James Montgomery of Cochran & Montgomery, and Kwame Jackson, Legacy Development Partners, LLC (Kwame is also known from the TV show The Apprentice). Kwame mentioned the heroes who made it possible for him to attend the Harvard Business School: “Pioneers like Earl Graves, Robert Johnson, Reginald Lewis, John Johnson, A.G. Gaston and our own John Rogers,” he said.

Honorees were: Dean Whitefield, Exeutive Technologies; Amy Hillard, the ComfortCake Company; Lester N. Coney, AON Corp.; Robert J. Dale, RJ Dale Advertising; and Carolyn Adams, Illinois State Lottery.

On June 16, the topic was “The Right to Education of Equal High Quality.” Keynote speaker for the Education Breakfast was Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, whose current book, Is Bill Cosby Right? or Has the Black Middle Class Lost its Mind, is causing lots of conversations in the black community as did his book about Dr. King, I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr. (2001). Dyson is considered one of the most influential black intellectuals. He is also an ordained Baptist minister and has appeared on numerous television programs.

The list of participants were many, including Chicago Defender Editor Roland Martin; CBS 2, Diann Burns, and Antonio Mora; ABC 7, Jim Rose; NBC 5, Marion Brooks and Art Norman; State Senator Rev. J.T. Meeks; Financial Consultant Melody Hobson; WVON President Melody Spann Cooper; Dr. Charles Ogletree; Senator John Edwards; Rev. Willie T. Barrow; N’Digo Publisher Hermene Hartman; Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan; Spoken Word artist Joe Black; TV personality Judge Gregg Mathis; Cong. Maxine Waters; Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean; and The Apprentice star Kwame Jackson.

Rev. Jackson and his organization are planning a national rally on Aug. 6, in Atlanta, Ga., to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965.