In an article published by The Root, journalist Danielle Young alleges that social justice activist Jesse Jackson sexually harassed her at a conference at which he was the keynote speaker. Young says she “was originally never going to tell this story,” but decided that it was important to be speak out about her alleged treatment by Rev. Jackson because silence would give him “permission” to treat other women as he treated her.
The alleged incident, which she says she hadn’t taken “seriously” until recently, took place while Young was working for a “very popular media company.” The event ended with Jackson giving the keynote speech to a packed conference room. Jackson’s speech, Young notes, addressed “the responsibility of black journalists.” His alleged unwanted advances took place when she got her chance to take a photo with him.
“One by one, we stepped up, shared a few words and thank-yous with Jackson, snapped photos and went back to our desks. Simple enough, right?” she writes. “I walked toward Jackson, smiling, and he smiled back at me. His eyes scanned my entire body. All of a sudden, I felt naked in my sweater and jeans. As I walked within arm’s reach of him, Jackson reached out a hand and grabbed my thigh, saying, ‘I like all of that right there!’ and gave my thigh a tight squeeze.”
Young writes that while she was “shocked, to say the least,” she “did what most women in an uncomfortable position do: I giggled. And I continued to giggle as he pulled me in closer, stared down at my body, smiled and told me he was only kidding. The entire time, my co-worker snapped photos.”
“In many of the photos, you can see that I am visibly uncomfortable but attempting to laugh it all off. In the last photo, I am pointing to the camera, asking him if we can just take the picture,” she writes. For the article, Young provides an image of her smiling while Jackson was laughing, his arm around her.
“When I was finally able to pull myself away from the Rev. Jackson’s grip, I was deflated,” she continues. “I admired this man who marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who represented our ability to overcome, a man who is really … just a man.”
Young said that she has since contacted a former co-worker who was there at the conference to see what she remembered about Jackson’s behavior.
“I remember him being inappropriate with all the women. And I also remember you telling me that he did something more with you,” said her co-worker. “And then we brushed the shit off and chalked it up to him just being a dirty old man.”
Young says that while she hadn’t wanted to say anything about the incident, calling it “barely a blip on anyone’s radar, even my own,” and nothing compared to what alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein say they endured, she believes it’s “worth it for women to speak out against men who simply can’t keep their hands to themselves.”
“Because that’s where it starts,” she writes. “My silence gave Jackson permission to continue grabbing at the next pair of thick thighs he liked. I’m hoping that my voice does the opposite.”
The Root reached out to Jackson about the allegation. His representative replied, “Although Rev. Jackson does not recall the meeting three years ago, he profoundly and sincerely regrets any pain Ms. Young may have experienced.”
Young went on to recount a similar situation that she said occurred with director John Singleton, whom she claims grabbed her wrist after an interview and pulled her toward him, saying, “Bring that juiciness over here.”
Singleton was also contacted by the outlet but offered no response.
NBC Chicago notes that this is not the first time Jackson has been accused of sexual harassment. “Jackson was previously accused of harassment in 2010 by an openly gay staffer who filed a complaint alleging the civil rights leader propositioned him,” NBC 5 reports. “Jackson flatly denied the allegations in a legal response.”