In between politics, PUSH delegates discuss bread-and-butter issues
Atlanta — ''Run, Jesse, run! Run, Jesse, run!'' This chant floats through the air at the Peachtree Plaza as Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) holds its 12th national convention.
Convention leaders, most of them preachers, are addressing issues such as education, international affairs, economics, and jobs with words that have religious overtones and political implications. They stir delegates into a fervor in behalf of a Jesse Jackson-for-President movement.
But at convention workshops, grass-roots inner-city delegates, most under age 35, are concentrating on bread-and-butter topics. These delegates are pleading: ''Save our children. Educate our children. Return to prayer.''
They are more interested in discussing youth problems, jobs, and education than a presidential campaign.
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, national president of Operation PUSH and the black leader who has traveled nationwide to promote the launching of a black presidential candidate, has so far refrained from declaring his candidacy. At his Wednesday night keynote address, Jackson tempered his usual emotional style with statements of policy that are required of a national leader. He discussed ''a vision of a new course, a new coalition, and a new leadership.''
In the workshops, people were speaking out on topics closer to home.
''The more education black parents get, the less they do with their children. I don't understand that,'' shouted Ollie Anderson from Chicago.
She interrupted Alvin F. Tousaint, noted Harvard black psychiatrist, when he said that he advised unmarried teen-age mothers to have their babies, but give them up for adoption. ''These girls usually don't know how to take care of a baby, don't have any money or job to support a baby,'' he said. ''They will not complete their high school education.''
Mrs. Anderson responded, ''Let's get down to business. Children don't know what they're doing. We should teach our girls about sex.''
Statistics show that approximately 50 percent of all births to unwed girls under age 19 are to blacks.
Shirley Roulhac-Lumpkin of Miami, who had her first child out of wedlock, said, ''My parents didn't teach me anything about relations with boys. They knew I wouldn't get into trouble.''
She says she got married and had more children, and she has gone to school with them. She and her daughter finished college together and are studying for master's degrees, she says.
''A lot of parents still have the problems of my mother,'' Mrs. Roulhac-Lumpkin added. ''They don't know what to tell their children. In my community, I get the health center to lead discussions and teach young people about each other.'' She says she works in a drug and alcohol abuse program.
Mrs. Anderson also talked about prayer:
''They took religion out of the schools. Why don't we tell our own kids about prayer? Why don't we open our churches on Saturday and teach our kids about right and wrong?''
Other people talked about getting black churches more involved in community problems. Preachers are key leaders in the top PUSH project for youth, PUSH-Excel. This project helps potential dropouts and troublemakers, encouraging them to stay in school. It has received federal, state, and local funds to work with school systems in several cities.
Black colleges were discussed in various meetings. Speakers encouraged parents to send their children to black colleges, alumni to send their money to black schools, and white educators to recognize these colleges as the source of many of the nation's black achievers. At a preconvention meeting, black students were encouraged to participate in voter registration campaigns on the campuses and in the surrounding community.
But outside of the workshops, the convention leadership continued to prime the pump for the Rev. Mr. Jackson as a candidate. Board members wear buttons reading ''Jesse Jackson for President'' and ''It Is Time.''
Before the convention ends, delegates are expected to approve resolutions on many topics, but their key declaration is likely to be an endorsement for Jackson as a Democratic candidate for president. They will have heard several Democratic Party hopefuls in an evening public forum. And they will have been buttonholed by black Republicans who are mixing with the visitors.