Interview with Roger Wilkins
QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

You're on 14th street, and I want a little more personal reaction. What are you seeing, you're watching Jesse Jackson, what's happening?

ROGER WILKINS:

The, the youngsters at the corner of 14th and U were volatile, angry. Um, it was a time when the Black Power movement was around. It was a time when Stokely Carmichael was saying, "If you burn one of our churches, we'll burn one of yours!" Um, and it looked like these kids, at any moment, would just go up and down the street tearing out store fronts, throwing fire bombs. And in the middle of it there's Jackson up on a, up on a flat-bed truck preaching. And he's preaching, he's preaching, really, pride, "If somebody, if you are somebody, you build up, you don't tear down. Say after me, 'I am somebody.'" And so on and so forth. He kept on preaching, he kept on preaching. He was taking quite a risk, because to preach non-violence and to preach no rioting to a group of kids who wanted to tear the place down was taking a risk that you'd be called an Uncle Tom. Jackson took the risk, he preached the people down. They became calm, they went home, there was no riot. It was quite a remarkable performance for a 26 year old kid.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me the same story, and just, but much shorter, and the expression to focus on is, "He preached the riot right out of them?" And you can not start with Stokely Carmichael.

ROGER WILKINS:

I thought we said that we could only get, that these people only get one shot. I don't have a lot of time now.

INTERVIEWER:

OK



ROGER WILKINS:

I got there, and, there at the corner of 14th and U, and there are a bunch of kids who looked like they wanted to riot. Ah, they were angry, they were volatile, and up on the back of a flat-bed truck there was Jesse Jackson preaching to them about "I am somebody." Preaching pride to them. And what he did was he preached the riot right out of them, despite the fact that to do so was to take a great personal and political risk. But he did it.