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Rev. Al Sharpton
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Reverend Al Sharpton is the President of the National Action Network (NAN) and one of America’s most-renowned civil rights leaders. Whether it was his noteworthy run for President of the United States in 2004 or his use of passive resistance and non-violent civil disobedience, Rev. Sharpton has had an irrefutable impact on national politics because of his strong commitment to equality and progressive politics.

As the head of one of the most well-known civil rights organizations that has over forty chapters and affiliates across the United States, Rev. Sharpton has been applauded by both supporters and non-supporters for challenging the American political establishment to be inclusive to all people regardless of race, gender, class or beliefs. Ever since his surrogate father, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, told him, “you can’t set your sights on nothing little…you got to go for the whole hog,” Rev. Sharpton has been doing just that. He was born on October 3, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York, and began his ministry at the unusually early age of four. He preached his first sermon at that age at Washington Temple Church of God & Christ in Brooklyn where he was licensed by the legendary Bishop F. D. Washington at age nine to be a minister in that denomination. He likewise started his civil rights career very young. At age 13, he was appointed, by Reverends Jesse Jackson and William Jones, the youth director of New York’s SCLC Operation Breadbasket (founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). At age 16, Sharpton founded the National Youth Movement Inc. which organized young people around the country promoting voter registration, cultural awareness and job training programs.

Rev. Sharpton was educated in public schools in New York and attended Brooklyn College. He was later presented with an honorary degree from A.P. Clay Bible College. In 1991, Sharpton founded the National Action Network a broad-based, progressive civil rights organization which he still heads. From 1994 to 1998, Rev. Sharpton served as Director of the Ministers Division for the National Rainbow Push Coalition under Rev. Jesse Jackson while still serving as the head of NAN. Upon the death of Bishop Washington in the late 80s, Rev. Sharpton became a Baptist, and in 1994, he was re-baptized as a member of the Bethany Baptist Church by Rev. William Jones. Rev. Sharpton has rejuvenated the Civil Rights movement while raising the bar for political participation for people of color.

In 1999, when a young unarmed African immigrant was gunned down in the vestibule of his home by four New York City police officers, Sharpton led 1,200 people in the civil disobedience protest arrest. The throngs that followed him to jail in this protest included former mayors, congressman and religious and community leaders across racial, ethnic and political lines. Rev. Sharpton’s platforms against racial profiling and police brutality has reached an international audience, and his work on human rights issues has taken him to Sudan, Israel, Europe and further, where he has formed alliances with international peace activists across the world. But perhaps his most significant international visit was his sojourn to Vieques, Puerto Rico in 2001. Sharpton and three Latino elected officials from New York visited Vieques to protest the U.S. Naval bombing exercises on the island, a practice that has endured for over 60 years. After visiting with hundreds of Puerto Rican citizens who have suffered physical and mental infirmities as a result of the bombing exercises, Sharpton and the other members of the “Vieques Four” led the protest at the U.S. Naval Base in Puerto Rico. They were subsequently arrested, tried several weeks later and sentenced to 40 to 90 days – Sharpton received the longest sentence – in federal prison for their protests. While Sharpton was in jail, he fasted, losing eighty pounds, and even managing to influence the local mayoral election. Because of the stand that the “Vieques Four” took that summer, President George W. Bush addressed the issue and ordered the Navy to end their exercises in 2003. Rev. Sharpton is a member of Bethany Baptist Church in his native Brooklyn neighborhood where the late William A. Jones, Jr., was the Pastor. Rev. Sharpton still preaches throughout the United States and abroad on most Sunday’s, and averages eighty formal sermons a year.

Rev. Sharpton says his religious convictions are the basis for his life. In addition to continuing to run NAN, Rev. Sharpton hosts a talk show on Syndication One that broadcasts in 40 markets, five days a week, and he hosts “Sharptalk” on TV One-- a national cable show based in a barber shop setting. Rev. Al and Kathy Jordan Sharpton have two daughters, Dominique and Ashley.

Entries by Rev. Al Sharpton

Replacing Eric Holder Without Displacing Voting Rights and Civil Rights

(18) Comments | Posted September 29, 2014 | 1:57 PM

Almost as quickly as news broke that Attorney General Eric Holder was resigning, people began assessing and critiquing his record. They speculated over his replacement, and will likely continue doing so until an official announcement is made. But amid all the noise, it's important that we do not lose sight...

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Limiting Voter Participation in the Middle of Crisis

(4) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 4:20 PM

In less than two months, Americans will once again head to the polls to participate in the all-important midterm elections. But unfortunately, not everyone will be able to cast a vote. On Friday, a federal appeal's court reinstated Wisconsin's harsh voter ID law that will in effect disenfranchise thousands of...

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Does the Law Still Apply to Police, or Are Police Becoming a Law Unto Themselves?

(44) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 1:54 PM

When a robbery takes place, police arrive on the scene and either arrest the suspects, or go find and arrest them. When a woman calls police to report a domestic violence incident, they again either arrest the perpetrator or go find and arrest that person. When there's a murder, or...

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Demonstration, Legislation: Hand-in-Hand Towards Progress

(2) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 1:39 PM

As I stood and gave the eulogy for young Michael Brown last week, I kept thinking about the fact that this child should have been in college instead of laying in a coffin. I looked towards his parents and saw the pain in their eyes from such a heavy loss;...

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Become the Change You Want; Correcting Police With a Discipline Movement

(64) Comments | Posted August 11, 2014 | 2:20 PM

Over the weekend, National Action Network (NAN) and I renewed our commitment towards seeking justice for Eric Garner, the father of six who died after NYPD officers placed him in an illegal chokehold according to videotape capturing the horrific incident. On August 23, justice caravans of cars and buses will...

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Police Behavior, James Brown, and the Struggle Continues

(12) Comments | Posted August 4, 2014 | 1:54 PM

After kicking off "Freedom Summer 2014" and opening National Action Network's Birmingham, Alabama office last week, I headed home to deal with yet another police case in New York City. Eric Garner, the Staten Island father of six, died after continuously saying 'I can't breathe' as police officers placed him...

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The 2014 Midterms Just Might Be More Important Than the 2016 Presidential Election

(11) Comments | Posted July 28, 2014 | 1:12 PM

On a Sunday morning in September 1963, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four innocent little girls and injuring many others. That church, the location of such tragedy and injustice, became symbolic of the overall struggle for civil rights and equality in the...

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From Coast-To-Coast, Police Abuse Must End

(70) Comments | Posted July 21, 2014 | 12:16 PM

Every time I comfort a grieving family member who has lost a loved one to police brutality, I hope and pray that it will be the last time. But deep down, I know it won't be.

Saturday morning, I was joined at National Action Network's (NAN) weekly rally by relatives...

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Border Crisis: A Defining Moment of Who We Are as a Nation

(66) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 1:33 PM

When protesters recently blocked buses full of undocumented children from reaching a border patrol processing facility in California, I couldn't believe my eyes. Chanting unbelievably cruel and vicious slogans like "nobody wants you," these anti-immigrant protesters were yelling at the most vulnerable among us -- children fleeing regions where murder,...

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Leave Your Rights at the Door

(9) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 3:05 PM

Just when we thought the rights of women, workers and minorities faced enough setbacks, it appears the nation's highest court has done it once again.

In an outrageous decision today, the Supreme Court ruled (Hobby Lobby case) that closely held corporations are not required to provide a full range of...

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Justice for the Central Park Five

(11) Comments | Posted June 23, 2014 | 12:15 PM

There's a part of New York City's history that some would like to forget. For more than a decade, a group of men collectively known as the Central Park Five have been fighting for justice in a civil suit against the City after an investigation overturned their wrongful prison sentences...

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Why 2014 Should Be Another Freedom Summer

(16) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 1:02 PM

During this very week 50 years ago, Americans -- many of them students and young folks -- gathered in the state of Mississippi alongside civil rights leaders, activists, local citizens and others as they collectively engaged in an extensive voter registration project. Freedom Summer, as it was aptly titled, helped...

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Donald Sterling Debacle: Shake Down or Shake Up?

(4) Comments | Posted June 9, 2014 | 2:50 PM

Last week, several civil rights leaders joined me for an urgent meeting with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to discuss the LA Clippers matter and other issues involving the league going forward. It was a necessary meeting and one where we raised key areas of concern that have actually been prevalent...

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I Am My Brother's Keeper

(6) Comments | Posted June 2, 2014 | 1:51 PM

I could have easily been a statistic. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, it was easy -- a little too easy -- to get into trouble. Surrounded by poor schools, lack of resources, high unemployment rates, poverty, gangs and more, I watched as many of my peers fell victim to a...

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Racism & Bias -- Can We Pause and Be Honest with Ourselves?

(25) Comments | Posted May 27, 2014 | 1:57 PM

There was a time when racism in the United States was defined by the shackles of enslavement and captivity. It was the most overt and vicious form of subjugation imaginable, and it was the norm for many years. As I often say, we have come a long way from the...

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Violation of the Spirit of Brown V. Board of Education

(29) Comments | Posted May 19, 2014 | 2:22 PM

Just a few days ago, we marked the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling that abolished "separate but equal" schools in our education system. It was a landmark moment that not only recognized the importance of integration, but also the value of education. In the...

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Bring Back Our Girls and Let's Stop Ignoring Africa

(36) Comments | Posted May 12, 2014 | 1:28 PM

As I stood in front of the Nigerian Consulate this weekend helping to lead a prayer vigil for the nearly 300 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, I looked out across the crowd at the faces of children, parents, activists and leaders all gathered in support of a crisis inflicting innocents...

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The Death Penalty Must Go

(40) Comments | Posted May 5, 2014 | 4:12 PM

I'll never forget the moment when I watched a man take his last breath after being executed by the state of Texas. The year was 2000 and Gary Graham lost his last attempt at an appeal/clemency when he was killed before my very eyes. Then-Governor George W. Bush said the...

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So Much for a 'Post-racial' America

(155) Comments | Posted April 28, 2014 | 1:11 PM

In 2009 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke candidly about race relations when he said, "Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards."...

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Freedom Summer 2014

(11) Comments | Posted April 21, 2014 | 2:11 PM

People often equate summer with inaction; a time to kick back and do as little as possible. Well in 2014, we must do the opposite -- this must be a freedom summer. Everything from voting rights, minimum wage, women's rights, fair pay, health care, LGBT rights, protection of unemployment insurance/other...

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