Home Christian News Frederick D. Haynes III on Succeeding Jesse Jackson, Marching and ‘Woke Preaching’

Frederick D. Haynes III on Succeeding Jesse Jackson, Marching and ‘Woke Preaching’

Will you be preaching less, for instance, even as you’ve been studying preaching and sacred rhetoric at Indianapolis’ Christian Theological Seminary?

In light of the fact that I have invested in this Ph.D. program and I’m in the process of doing the dissertation proposal, which will lead to the dissertation, there’s no way I’m going to preach less having done all this work on such a project.

What’s your dissertation going to be on?

I am proposing doing what I’m referring to as a study of woke preaching. Woke is under attack right now. And yet, there is a history in the Black church tradition and in traditions where social justice is a part of the mission and ministry of the church and community of preaching in a way that attacks injustice in all of its forms. I’m looking at doing woke preaching, but especially in the context of the Black pulpit tradition, which has oftentimes married the fight for justice with a sense of an African consciousness or an Afrocentric flavor.

Rainbow PUSH Coalition was more well-known years ago for Jesse Jackson’s work. Do you think it has grown less effective over time?

I think it’s as effective. It’s just that with his health challenges in recent years, it is not as well known. They have continued the work from the headquarters in a remarkable fashion. But Jesse Jackson is larger than life — iconic personality. Wherever he would go, the news would go, and so Rainbow PUSH would benefit from the publicity surrounding his literally being everywhere. Unfortunately, with his health being compromised, he has not been able to travel as much, but, beautifully, the work has continued at Rainbow PUSH.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson announces that he is stepping down as the president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Saturday, July 15, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson announces that he is stepping down as the president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Saturday, July 15, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

You have spoken of being a mentee of Reverend Jackson and a student of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., both of whom were known for civil rights marches and protests. And you have protested at the U.S. Capitol and in your own state of Texas. Do you think that marches continue to be effective or are you looking to new or additional ways to galvanize young people as you seek these key issues we’ve been discussing?

Where marches are appropriate, we will definitely do marches; where picketing and standing with the least of these is appropriate, we will do just that. We see in Hollywood right now that the screen actors as well as the writers are on the picket line as well as refusing to work. That is a dramatic way of exposing the injustice they are experiencing. Those kinds of things, as far as I’m concerned, remain relevant, but it will always be a march with a mission, protesting with a purpose, and picketing with a purpose, but at the same time taking advantage of the resources of technology that perhaps we didn’t have in the ’60s and ’70s.

Is there a singular piece of advice you have received from Jesse Jackson, either over the weekend or longer ago, that will stay with you as you start this role?

Jesse Jackson has been a mentor for quite some time, so I can’t say there’s a singular piece of advice because he has given me so much. It’s almost as if I have multiple choice. But he’s given me advice about leadership. He says it’s one thing to give a speech that’s great. It’s another thing to engage in action that makes a difference. And that’s the most recent thing he shared with me. And I’m really holding on to that. Because we have a lot of great speech making, and if it’s not accompanied by action, things don’t really change. And he often says that Dr. King — we honor him not so much because he was such an eloquent speaker, but because he actually changed the country as policies and laws were changed. So that sticks with me in a singular fashion.

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