Rev. Jesse Jackson, long a towering figure of American culture, has revealed he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015. Jackson said in a letter on Friday (17 November) that he would be dedicating himself to physical therapy “in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression”.
“Now in the latter years of my life, at 76-years-old, I find it increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks,” Jackson wrote, adding that “getting around is more of a challenge”. Jackson said he and his family started noticing “changes” three years ago, but that he “resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor” until he was unable to ignore the symptoms.
“After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father,” Jackson wrote. He said he saw the diagnosis as “not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression”.
Jackson said he would still continue activist work and added that he was working on a memoir. “I steadfastly affirm that I would rather wear out than rust out,” the 76-year-old said.
Rev. Al Sharpton posted a video on Twitter saying he had spent the last few days in New York with Jackson, saying that “no one in our lifetime served longer and stronger, we pray for him because he’s given his life for us”.
Jackson has been an activist in the US for decades, often thought of as a protégé of the Rev. Martin Luther King and leader of the civil rights movement. Jackson also twice campaigned for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party and served in the 90s as the shadow senator for the District of Columbia.
The minister thanked family and friends for their care and support in the letter, ending it with “KEEP HOPE ALIVE!”.