PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Reverend Jesse Jackson was in Providence Tuesday – and while he was here, he got a chance to check out a city program designed to bring the community together.
Rev. Jackson, who was in town to pay his respects at his longtime friend Mark Weiner’s funeral, spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News during a sit-down interview Tuesday afternoon.
He said he was planning to attend a Providence Midnight Basketball League game – and he did. Jackson attended two games and watched the men and women play at Bucklin Park.
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According to Jackson, Providence is headed in the right direction with the league – because it offers hope and inspiration to the community which is otherwise divided in a time of ongoing violence. He said he hopes he can relay the message from Providence back to community leaders in other places.
“Trying to inspire our youth not to self-destruct through violence. To affrm education in its power,” Jackson said. “Bring strong change and not give up because it’s difficult.”
The Reverend shook hands and gave hugs as he spoke to players in the middle of the court. Everyone listened as his quiet words resonated.
“I mean he’s a world leader to us as well, so it’s certainly a kind gesture of him while he’s here in Rhode Island to spend some time at the summer league,” said Sean Holley.
Jackson gave credit to Providence for trying to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community – all while offering a safe place. But he said more work needs to be done.
“That [basketball] is so meaningful. And many cities have given up on it because there’s been a cutback in resources from Washington. Midnight basketball is a step [but] we also must have midnight classes,” he said.
“We must have the same kind of value on access to fast media as we do to athletics and if we do that we’ll all be better off for it.”
The Reverand Jackson said he is also pushing voter registration – and the Midnight Basketball League is offering a voter registration drive.