Wilbraham native reunites with Rev. Jesse Jackson
Date: 2/20/2012Feb. 20, 2012
By Matt Murphymmurphy@thereminder.com
WILBRAHAM The influence of Rev. Jesse Jackson has spread throughout the U.S. and the world. His influence has even spread to Western Massachusetts, to a young Wilbraham native.
Bradley Akubuiro, a graduate of Minnechaug Regional High School, spent three years as an advisor to Jackson on education and youth-related issues. Currently, he's a strategy consultant to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services but on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, Akubuiro reunited with Jackson for an overnight stay at the Pacific Gardens Mission in Chicago, Ill.
"Rev. Jackson taught me early on the value of being a global citizen and offering your talents to those who don't have everything that the U.S. does ... If there's one thing that I learned from my time with Rev. Jackson, it's that it is not about what you can get, it is about what you can give. If you look at life that way, then the impact you can make is limitless." Akubuiro said.
He called his stay with Jackson last month as "a big moment for me."
Akubuiro was in Chicago to give a speech at his alma mater, Northwestern University, when Rainbow PUSH, the organization founded by Jackson, invited him to spend the night with the reverend.
"Most things I do [now] are policy-related. This is the first event I've taken part in like this," Akubuiro said of his stay at the shelter.
"I'm no longer involved in the day-to-day affairs of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, but I would say that the influence of Rev. Jackson and of the spirit of his mission and organization has stayed with me in my own day-to-day," he said.
The Pacific Gardens Mission is the largest homeless shelter in the city. It can house up to 1,100 tenants.
"Our intention was to gain the experience of those who are homeless . The shelter was filled to capacity. We didn't want to take any beds, so we slept on the floor," Akubuiro said.
During his stay, Akubuiro talked with many of the tenants and learned many of their reasons for being there. One story was of Mary, 25, a mother forced to flee from an abusive husband. With five children and only a GED, Mary must live in the shelter.
"Mary's story is both sobering and reaffirming," Akubuiro said. "Sobering in that Mary and I are so close in age, and yet our opportunities and experiences seem worlds apart. It is reaffirming in that Mary's daily struggle shows us that the need to revive a focus on addressing the issue of poverty in our nation has never been more real than it is today."
Akubuiro noted that not only has Jackson had a profound influence on him but also his time spent in Liberia, Africa, after graduating from Northwestern University.
"I worked with the Liberian Governance Commission, [Liberian] President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and much of her administration, but equally as important, I would find opportunities to slip away and get the views of average Liberians; the market women, the teachers and the young people who make up that country and who stood to be most impacted by the program and policies we created. Just as I knew Rev. Jackson would do, I took up mentees at the local university, and I attended funerals of people I hardly knew," Akubuiro said.
Jackson praised Akubuiro and his work. "Bradley has shown exceptional leadership and an immense amount of talent. It has been a pleasure working with him on numerous projects at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Bradley is always willing to share his input, perspective and vision. He has a bright future ahead," he said.