Rev. Jesse Jackson makes first hometown public appearance since announcing he has Parkinson’s

Protests At O'Hare Airport's United Terminal Over Company's Forceful Removal Of Passenger CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 12: Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson leads a small group from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in a protest outside the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport on April 12, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. United Airlines has been struggling to repair their corporate image after a cell phone video was released showing a passenger being dragged from his seat and bloodied by airport police after he refused to leave a reportedly overbooked flight that was preparing to fly from Chicago to Louisville. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – At 76-years-old, Rev. Jesse Jackson is still working for the people.

“When the playing field is even, and the rules are public and the referees are fair, we can do quite well, and that’s the right in America,” Rev. Jackson said.

He held a press conference at the West End Community Development Center Friday afternoon speaking in part about the 2018 King Legacy Week which is the reason he’s in town as well as the boycott of BMW that the Rainbow PUSH Coalition announced in October.

Jackson says every year, they send a diversity survey to the automotive companies, and this year, BMW was the only one that did not respond. He says the BMW North America has more 360 dealerships but only seven are black owned. He also says the company has no African-Americans in upper management or on the board of directors.

“We should support them, and they should support us,” Jackson said.  “A mutually beneficial relationship, we don’t have that now.”

The press conference was Jackson’s first public appearance in Greenville since he made the announcement that he has Parkinson’s Disease in November.

“I’m feeling well,” Jackson said. “I’m on a very disciplined regimen of medicine and exercise, and prayer and faith, all three of those weapons matter.”

Jackson told 7News Reporter Eryn Rogers that he is honoring that process.

“I’m no stranger to athletics, but you don’t have the option because if you sit down, you’ll wither, you’ll draw up, you have to move,” Jackson said.

Jackson is certainly making moves, and although he’s in town to celebrate the legacy of his friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he’s now thinking about his own legacy.

“I care for people, especially those whose backs are against the wall,” Jackson said. “I stand with them.”

Jackson says that passion started in his hometown of Greenville.

“I went to jail in 1960 with 7 classmates in the Greenville library, trying to use the public library, and I never stopped fighting,” Jackson said. “I lost my fear of jail and death then, and I’ve served now for 57 years.”

He says in those nearly six decades he learned many lessons.

“I’ve learned to care, I’ve learned to love, and I accept the grace of God, and it sustains me in my daily work, and it will, until I can work no more,” Jackson said.

The 2018 Legacy Week culminates with the scholarship Legacy Gala Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at the Embassy Suites on Verdae Boulevard.