Hazel Duke, president of the NAACP New York State Conference; the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network; Roslyn Brock, chair of the National Board of Directors for the NAACP; and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. (126991)

We should not be surprised that the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would deliver New Year’s messages with a similar resonance, evoking Scripture, history and the Civil Rights Movement.

As if anticipating Jackson’s stirring op-ed in Monday’s New York Times that focused on the Emancipation Proclamation and the fact that 2019 will mark the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of Africans in the Americas, Sharpton observed that the international slave trade was an immigration policy. “And the first commodity was a Black body,” he told the audience Saturday at the National Action Network.

Moreover, to underscore his point, he discussed the “Door of No Return” on Goree Island off the coast of Africa and how important it was to remember that for all the millions who would never step back through that door, President Barack Obama did.

“Countless number were taken from Africa as slaves, and a Black man walked back trough as president,” Sharpton exuded.

At the opening of Jackson’s comments was an epigraph from Exodus: 13:13—“Then Moses said to the people, ‘Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.’”

With this piece of Scripture, Jackson connected the determination of the Hebrew people with the relentless fight for freedom waged by Black Americans.

“Yet in the darkness of chattel slavery,” Jackson wrote, “the enslaved were able to sustain enough of their humanity to maintain a light of hope for a better day, for freedom and for equality. African-Americans were able to see the dimly lit outlines of a more just social, economic and political order, even during slavery, apartheid and centuries of discrimination. But Black people did not wait for freedom to fall from the sky. The Colonial era and beyond bristled with slave rebellions and resistance.”

For his Scriptural reference, Sharpton cited the courage and leadership of Gideon, from the Book of Judges from the Hebrew bible. “He felt he was unworthy to lead his people,” Sharpton said, but in the end he was successful in battle, overcoming his adversaries in the same way Rosa Parks “had broken the chains of slave mentality.” He added, “And keep in mind that there were other Blacks on that bus.”

In their own special way, each leader addressed the current political and social climate. Although Jackson did not mention Trump’s name, his inference was clear when he noted, “The lies, myths, and insanity of white supremacy contaminated the soil and the soul of America.”

He continued, “The Academy said African-American minds were inferior. The medical establishment said our bodies were inferior; the church, our morality. The banks determined that we were unworthy for loans or investment. These barriers have yet to be completely broken down. We are free but unequal. Yet still we rise.”

On the other hand, Sharpton was more direct in assailing the president. “We have the most reactionary and backward president in our history,” he charged.

He was particularly incensed that Trump had made a surprise visit to the troops in Iraq and took credit for a 10 percent raise they didn’t get.

“If he opens his mouth,” Sharpton said, “he’s going to lie.”

Both ministers recalled their recent activities and commitments. “I spent Christmas morning—as I have for more than 40 years—visiting and praying with the inmates and staff at Cook County Jail, the sprawling warehouse of the poor and dispossessed on the West Side of Chicago,” Jackson said. “As I looked out over the faces crowded into the jail’s gym, I saw that they were overwhelmingly Black and Brown. Although African-Americans make up just 24 percent of the population of Cook County, nearly 74 percent of the jail’s population is Black.”

Sharpton, after noting that his eldest daughter, Dominique, had given birth to his grandson, recited a litany of police abuse in which African-Americans were victims. “We were in Sacramento in March where Stephon Clark was shot and killed by two officers,” he said. “We were in Mobile, Ala. for the police manhandling of Chikesia Clemons and in the ‘Stand Your Ground’ incident in Clearwater, Fla. We will be there long after the cameras are gone.”

Jackson closed his op-ed by his trademark “Keep Hope Alive.” “But in the meantime, he concluded, “we the people—red, Brown, yellow, Black and white—must do what African-Americans have done for 400 years, from bondage to emancipation, from lynch mobs to great migrations, from the back of the bus to Rosa Parks, from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis to President Barack Obama on the balcony of the White House.”

Two clarion voices with a common message, one that each has been delivering from year to year, and time has not muted or stifled their resolve to speak truth to power, and to remind us of the struggle ahead.