The Rev. Jesse Jackson has Parkinson's disease, he announced in a letter to friends and supporters Friday. The civil rights leader opens the letter by recounting the 1960 arrest that started his activist journey and noting that God has "protected me and my family from dangers, seen and unseen" throughout that journey. "Now in the latter years of my life, at 76 years old, I find it increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks, and getting around is more of a challenge," he writes, per NBC Chicago. He says the symptoms began about three years ago, and he finally decided to see doctors, who diagnosed him with Parkinson's. Per a statement provided to USA Today, Jackson was diagnosed in 2015.
His father had the same disease, he writes. "Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it. 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," he continues. He says he will now use his voice to help find a cure and is also working on his memoir, but he will still continue his work "instill[ing] hope in the hopeless, expand[ing] our democracy to the disenfranchised, and free[ing] innocent prisoners around the world." (Read more Jesse Jackson stories.)