“Warrior Minister” is how many see Rev. Paul Jakes, Jr., who has been on the front line in many cases fighting against police brutality. Jakes became a household name back in 1997, when police beat up 18-year-old Jeremiah Mearday. Jakes was president of the Westside branch of the NAACP at the time. He also threw his hat in the 2003 mayoral race.
On Saturday, July 8, the community came out to honor Rev. Jakes, pastor of Old Saint Paul Baptist Church, 531 N. Kedzie, on Chicago’s West Side. Cong. Danny K. Davis, former alderman Wallace Davis, civil rights attorney Stan Willis and many other notables attended the event, which took place at a packed Wallace’s Catfish Corner, 2800 W. Madison St.
Jakes was presented with two plaques acknowledging his service to his ministry and the community. Dr. Mbu Walters presented a plaque reading, “We Appreciate You,” honoring Jakes, as well, as his church. Cong. Davis presented Jakes with a “Trailblazer” plaque in recognition of his longtime community service.
Many spoke fondly of Jakes. Eddie Read, longtime community activist and protg of the late Lu Palmer said, “It is with pleasure to stand here with what Lu Palmer would call a ‘freedom fighter.’ Paul Jakes has taken on assignments that have not been fashionable, and he has taken on those assignments without regard for income [or] any type of recognition, but because they were the right assignments to take on.”
Cook County Clerk David Orr spoke about Jakes’ fight over the years against policy brutality, and also mentioned the police brutality report detailing alleged abuses of former Chicago police commander Jon Burge. The report has yet to be released.
“Police brutality is so serious, and we had a while when Harold [Washington] was our mayor, things seem to have gotten a little better because it takes people to understand what the impact of that is before you’re going to get some of the police officers to change their tune,” said Orr. “One of things we got going is the famous Burge case. Let me tell you, coming from some white guy from the North Side, this is an embarrassment to any town.
“We all know there was this police commander named Burge. We know he tortured people for a long number of years, and even when Danny and I were sitting in City Council back in 1988, we were passing resolutions to investigate what was going on with this guy. Now, as far as I know, he’s still in Florida collecting a pension, and we are all paying for that, and there is always some excuse over and over again why this report doesn’t come out.
“Justice is not done, not only to Burge and his fellow cops who were torturing people, but justice to all those people who were the victims of that torture,” Orr added. “Rev. Jakes has been out there raising the issues, fighting for all of us and maybe I’ve got less chance of getting beat up than Wallace Davis?”I don’t know. So Paul, and all the people here, you couldn’t do it without the support of the community. My hats off to you?”keep doing what you’re doing.”
Stan Willis remarked, “We have been fighting many battles, going back to Jeremiah Mearday, to Latonya Haggerty and many others. When I first met [Paul Jakes] it was very clear to me what his mission was: It was to preach to the poor?”that is, to stand by people who were attacked by the police.
“Rev. Jakes can preach in the pulpit, and he can get out on the street and fight. So I call him my ‘Pastor soldier’ [because] there is still a lot of work to do. And bouncing off what David Orr said, many of you know after two decades of struggle to bring justice to the Burge victims, we are close,” said Willis. “The turning point was when we took this case to an international level. My courageous Cong. Davis was right there when we went to Washington to present our case. People around the world need to know while this country is going around talking about democracy all over the world and taking democracy to Iraq, we need democracy right here in this country. Stay with Jakes; he’s a dear brother, he’s a strong brother, I love him, he’s my greatest comrade. We will fight this battle and we will win.”
The standing-room-only crowd included Jakes’ mother Lorraine, his wife Deborah, and many family members. Also in attendance were Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), Rev. Webb Evans, Rev. George Clements, Bamani Obedele, Clem Bellenoff, and Rev. John Kirk, president of Northern Baptist Seminary and chairman of the deacon board of Old Saint Paul.
Rev. Jakes later spoke, acknowledging those in attendance. He especially thanked Danny Davis, who, he said, has mentored him since he was 15 years old.
“Cong. Davis is one of the most down-to-earth and elegant speakers I know, and who deserves the highest levels of support because he has devoted himself to the cause and to our people. He spends his time with worthy causes. As a legislator he has demonstrated statesmanship, as a friend he has demonstrated encouragement, and as a community leader he has demonstrated a heart and spirit for the people. … I also want to thank former alderman Wallace Davis [who] is a real Lazarus, one who died and came back. You stood with Harold Washington and provided our city with a new principle of leadership.”