Ten years after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. on Sunday urged Oklahomans to turn their attention back to the problems of poverty, joblessness and inequality.
The pain of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building still burns deeply, the civil rights leader said in a fiery sermon at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 5700 N Kelley Ave., which lost four members that day.
"We are groping in the darkness in so many ways," the two-time Democratic presidential candidate told a standing-room-only audience.
"There's conflict in our society today and the bombing in Oklahoma City was just one manifestation of it."
In Oklahoma, 82,000 people are unemployed, 180,000 children live in poverty and 40 percent of state prison inmates are black although blacks comprise only 7 percent of the population, he said.
"There is a growing tendency of locking up our youth rather than lifting them up," Jackson said from a pulpit decorated by a huge spray of yellow and white gladiolas.
Jackson also chastised Oklahoma colleges and universities for failing to educate many of their black athletes. Noting low student-athlete graduation rates at Oral Roberts University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa, Jackson said: "To use these athletes for four years to fill up the stadium and make millions and have no plan for them to graduate, that's violence, too."
In a sermon that was equal parts politics and religion, Jackson criticized President Bush for launching the Iraq war without sufficient evidence of an Al-Qaida connection or weapons of mass destruction, and for allowing a ban on assault weapons to expire.