Al Sharpton to Go to Chicago, Take on Jesse Jackson?

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The two leaders at an Amadou Diallo protest in 1999. Photo: AFP/Getty Images


Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have had a difficult relationship over the years — at times a bitterly difficult one — and it's about to get even more complex. This week, Sharpton will go into direct competition with Jackson, his theoretical mentor and occasional father figure, by opening a branch of his civil-rights advocacy group, National Action Network, in Jackson's hometown of Chicago, where the elder activist's own civil-rights advocacy group, the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, is headquartered. "There is a demand in that market, and we're answering that demand," Sharpton told New York, innocently. "Every generation does its own thing. Growth of the movement is a good thing." A Chicago press conference to announce the new National Action Network chapter is planned for Wednesday, and neither Jackson nor anyone from Rainbow/PUSH is on the list of scheduled speakers. But someone interesting is: the Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., Barack Obama's pastor. (He's the guy who once titled a speech "Audacity to Hope," giving Obama book ideas.) While it's unclear if Wright is sidestepping his fellow Chicago clergyman to ally with Sharpton, his daughter, Jeri Wright, definitely is. She'll be running Sharpton's new outpost. She gave Jackson a heads-up earlier this week, she said, and he wasn't upset: "He said, 'Whatever I can do to help, just let me know.'" —Geoffrey Gray

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