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Jackson pounds pulpit and pavement seeking much-needed cash

By Luix OverbeaStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 21, 1984



Boston

''I know you never saw a president of the United States raise money this way before. Don't talk; just walk!'' said presidential candidate Jesse Jackson at a fund-raising breakfast at the black Union United Methodist Church.

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When the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson campaigns here, money talks and contributors walk to the collection basket in front of the pulpit. Mr. Jackson, a Baptist minister, does not beg for contributions. He requests them.

Later, at a nonchurch fund-raiser - where people pay $10 a head - Jackson still calls for an open collection, Baptist-preacher style.

''So, you want your rights? They tell me we (blacks) pay for everything we want and beg for what we need. Before I leave here tonight I expect to get some money! Y'all want me to be president? Then you got to pay. I'm just a country preacher. I just ask you all to remain seated while I get your help.

''Will those willing to give $1,000 please stand? Wait! I don't want anybody to leave! I'm coming to you who got only pennies to give,'' says Jesse Jackson at the Prince Hall Masonic grand lodge headquarters in Boston's black community.

Money is vital to the ''country preacher,'' who is running against seven others for the Democratic Party's nod. He has raised barely more than $500,000. And the Federal Election Commission has approved only $110,410 for matching funds on the basis of raising at least $5,000 in each of 20 states. This total will hardly buy more than token television promotion.

Jackson needs votes, too. And warm bodies to work in his campaign. Students - college and high school - are his targets in this area.

''I'm at Harvard, and I'm nervous. Y'all intimidate me here. Yet, half of you don't vote. Wise people vote.

''My challenge to you? Fight to get on the (voter registration) books. Fight to make a choice and a change in 1984!'' Jackson said at Harvard University recently.

A protege of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson appealed to people nationwide to sponsor ''$1,000 parties'' during the weekend of Jan. 14 and 15, the anniversary of King's birthday. All returns are not in, but only an estimated $125,000 was raised, says the Jackson campaign. The socials were hastily arranged, and more parties are planned, campaign workers say.

Jackson launched his appeal at the Arlington Street Church in downtown Boston. ''My mission? Choose the human race over the nuclear race. I'm in the (presidential) race, not just because there's an election to win, but because we have a civilization to save.''

As a candidate, preacher, and civil rights spokesman, Jackson presents various faces on the campaign trail. He seeks money because he ranks near the bottom in campaign funds. He pleads for campaign workers as he has no national organization with local roots to run his drive.

Jackson says he seeks the image of a potential winner who can wield power even if he is not nominated.

''I'm running to win,'' Jackson insists. ''I want to prove that black votes count.'' His flamboyant style and his flare for words attract large audiences to his rallies. His campaign leaders say they hope this creates a bloc of delegate votes to make him a vital force at the Democratic Party convention in July.

Yet, Jackson's magnetism has not attracted the support of prominent politicians, not even blacks, in the areas where he has led voter-registration campaigns. No big-city mayor has endorsed him. Most black officeholders have announced for the frontrunners, Walter Mondale or John Glenn. The latest black mayor to look the other way was W. Wilson Goode of Philadelphia. He gave his nod to Mr. Mondale Feb. 9.

Preachers and black community leaders support Jackson. Some labor groups back him. In Boston, a group of unions announced their backing, but they were dwarfed by a group of national labor leaders who endorsed Mondale the same day.

In his search for money, workers, and support, Jackson travels all over the country, any place people request his presence. He may be in California one day, Texas the next, and Michigan the next. He cannot afford to concentrate on New England and Sunbelt states that hold primaries next month.

His rat-race pace means he has less time to shake lots of hands and talk with people, black-preacher fashion, after meetings. And he often has to find private time for himself or for communication with national aides trying to keep pace with his itinerary.

The only office on the letterheads of the Jesse Jackson for President Committee is the treasurer, Samuel Foggie. In Massachusetts, Jackson has an organization with campaign offices in several cities. In the South and most other regions, he relies on the network of black churches.

Jackson makes basic points in his speeches: ''third world clout'' in foreign policy; ''register and vote'' to high school and college students; a rainbow coalition of blacks, Hispanics, whites, Jews, and Arabs ''to turn things around;'' and a chant, ''Reagan no mo' in '84.''