Running Short on Cash, Jesse Jackson Works a Glittering Harlem Bash
Bill Cosby clowned, Roberta Flack crooned and the audience loved them both. But it was the guest of honor who really pulled the crowd to its feet at last week’s Jesse Jackson fund raiser in Harlem. Some 1,400 of the faithful—including actress Melba Moore, heavyweight champ Mike Tyson and model Beverly Johnson—paid $5 to $1,000 to see Jackson at the Apollo Theatre, and they greeted his arrival in the old burlesque hall with wild applause. Flanked by his family, Jackson—who won’t officially announce his presidential plans before Labor Day—told the crowd his candidacy would “raise the hopes of our children. If Jesse Jackson can be President, then they can go to medical school or law school, or be a judge or run a company. We must supply the vision.” One woman called out, “Tell us about it, brother.” The old Jackson magic was doing its work.
But even magic has its limits. With something less than $1 million in campaign funds raised so far, Jackson these days is more in need of cash than kisses, and the chicly attired crowd seemed reluctant to part with the former, despite Jackson’s classic revival-meeting pitch. “If you want me to run for president, raise your hand,” Jackson urged. “If you really want me to run, put your hand just as deep in your pocket,” he continued, inviting donors to come up front. Hundreds headed toward the stage with checkbooks in hand. Many more stayed in their seats.
The next day’s tally showed about $150,000 raised during the evening. With a series of similar benefits planned across the nation, Jackson, who leads all the other Democratic hopefuls in the polls, still has a chance to pull his campaign fund out of the basement. “Nobody will carry our bucket of water up this hill but us,” he told the Apollo audience. Only time will tell how close he can get to the top.