Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson argued for the importance of democracy, inclusiveness and unity in crises at an event calling for efforts to help the COVID-hit in India. Jackson, the founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, discussed his views in a short speech to celebrate the federal Juneteenth holiday at a press conference June 18 at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco. He also discussed his ongoing advocacy for helping India, where the coronavirus has claimed about 400,000 lives and impacted about 30 million. The event was co-hosted by Indiaspora founder M. Rangaswami.
The Indian American community has hailed Jackson pushing President Joe Biden to send COVID vaccines to India. “The pandemic is global and it’s real,” he said. “We have to realize we have to work together … and save millions of lives in India.” Jackson, a disciple of Martin Luther King Jr. and a believer in Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, is dealing with Parkinson’s disease but looked active during the press conference. He stressed his India connections, pointing out that he had been there three times.
Asked what he thought about civil rights in India under the current administration there, he told the media, “Democracy cannot just be a word; democracy is about who you care for, your people and education. We are human beings … in jeopardy. I think in India the government is stable but people are poor – too poor… We need to make it right,” Jackson said. Sounding hopeful about working with the Narendra Modi government, he said, “I think the moment we talk [with Modi], we can act together on economic policy and democracy. Modi and I should work together on democracy,” Jackson said. He asked the Indian diaspora to support the poor in India with no homes, work or jobs, saying, “We members of the diaspora are blessed to be in good shape.”
Dr. Vijay G. Prabhakar, Rainbow PUSH Coalition global Ambassador and chairman of the American Association of Multi Ethnic Physicians, USA, has been working with Jackson. He told indica News he was surprised and pleased when Jackson called him in early May to discuss his support of India. Jackson and Dr. Prabhakar met President Biden and urged him to support India. The president has since pledged that of the 6 million he promised to send abroad, 2 million vaccine doses would go to India.
“That will be done by the end of June 2021,” Dr. Prabhakar told indica News on the sidelines of the press conference. He added that the doses, all provided free would include vaccines from AstraZeneca (after FDA approval), Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. There are more 60 million AstraZeneca stockpiled and which could be distributed from July 1. “Our request today is to have the Biden-Harris administration, through Jackson, to at least give us 20 million vaccines in the next 60 days,” Dr. Prabhakar said, adding that he and Jackson would be going back to Washington, DC, to personally pursue the matter again with Biden. Jackson also met President Biden during a presidential visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dr. Prabhakar said.
Dr. Prabhakar thanked Jackson for appealing to President Biden to remove the Defense Production Act ratings on three U.S. vaccine manufacturers to ease the shortage of raw materials to vaccine manufacturers in India. Describing Biden as a “minority-driven man,” Dr. Prabhakar said that he heard the president say he would set aside 15 percent for Black and brown people.
Dr. Prabhakar made an allusion to a wound being held, and explained it to indica News later: “We are aware of the friendship of Modi and Trump and their embrace at the Howdy Modi rally in Texas. Quite a large number of Indians were engaged in the campaign. What has not been forgotten yet by the Biden-Harris administration. This is why Jackson makes s difference. Because of him, President Biden agreed [to supply vaccines] … and the Modi government has accepted. Asked about reports about Modi visiting the U.S., Dr. Prabhakar acknowledged them, saying, “We have to work steadfastly to bring President Biden and Mr. Modi together.”
He said the work wasn’t easy, and had called for many phone calls with the Biden administration, and between Vice President Harris and Jackson. Rangaswami, founder and chairman of Indiaspora, a non-profit network of global leaders of Indian origin and the co-founder of the Sand Hill Group in Silicon Valley, told indica News that Indiaspora has raised close to $3. 5 million for the cause. He specifically cited PreetBharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who helped raise $130,000 for those affected by COVID in India.
Rangaswami said Indiapora’s Chalogive.org is working through a Delhi-based non-profit, Goonj, to distribute funds. He said that while a lot of other groups were working to supply oxygen needed by the COVID-hit, Indiaspora had focused on food and cash relief required in rural India. He said 230 million people in India have fallen into poverty since the pandemic began.
“I am sure the government is doing their bit. It’s such a big problem. Everybody needs to help,” he said, pointing out that hunger had become a big issue there.Rangaswami said that after the pandemic, too, the group would work to see how migrants could be given jobs where they live. “We learned a painful lesson in the U.S. last year, and have over 600,000 deaths,” Rangaswani said. “When the country is burning there [should be] no pointing of fingers,” he said, adding, “Maybe in the future we can give some constructive feedback. Right now the time is for India to get the vaccines.”