Civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, 76, announced on Friday that he’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is 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 in a statement Friday.
He and his family had previously noticed several symptoms, he said.
“I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world. I’m also spending some time working on my memoir so I can share with others the lessons I have learned in my life of public service,” he continued. “I steadfastly affirm that I would rather wear out than rust out.”
The civil rights icon also released a Northwestern Medicine letter saying he was diagnosed in 2015 and has sought outpatient care.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes brain cells to progressively die, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“Symptoms include tremor, rigidity, extreme slowness of movement, and impaired balance,” according to the NIH. “Swallowing and speaking difficulties are also common, as are several non-motor symptoms that seriously affect quality of life.”
Jackson said tests confirmed he had Parkinson’s disease, like his father had before him.
There is no cure for the disease, although medications can help mitigate the symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“This diagnosis is personal but it is more than that,” Jackson said. “It is an opportunity for me to use my voice to help in finding a cure for a disease that afflicts 7 to 10 million worldwide.
Jackson thanked his family members and friends for their support in the wake of the diagnoses.
“Keep hope alive!” he said.
Jackson runs the Chicago-based Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Famed for his civil rights work with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1980s, he’s remained a strong voice in anti-discrimination efforts, including advocating for affordable housing. He has been a fixture at protests nationwide.
Jackson, is a longtime Democratic political activist who began working in the civil rights movement under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960s. He ran for as a Democratic presidential candidate twice in the 1980s.
Jackson’s father also suffered from the disease. His son, Jesse Jackson, Jr., previously served as a Democratic congressman for Illinois.