The children of several black activists -- the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan and D.C. congressional delegate Walter Fauntroy -- yesterday called upon their peers to continue the struggle for black achievement and self-pride.
Jesse Jackson Jr., a 20-year-old college student whose strong and clear voice resembled that of his charismatic father, spoke especially of the need for blacks to address their own problems. "Before we can learn to lead anybody else, we must first learn to lead ourselves," he said. And he urged his audience not to give up hope. "We must be productive," he emphasized. "We must bear fruit."
His remarks, and those of the others, were heard by approximately 375 people who attended a day-long Howard University program sponsored by Mayor Marion S. Barry's Youth Leadership Institute, a city-funded group.
Yesterday's theme was "1999 -- You Are The Future," an appeal to the new generation of leaders, even though most on the panel and in the audience were too young to draw upon first-hand memories of the bitter and violent civil rights struggles of the 1960s.
"What we're doing is trying to prepare a lot of young people for the future," said institute spokesman Johnnie L. Fairfax. "We want them to develop their own message, to blaze a path of their own."
Dexter King, 23, whose father was killed 18 years ago, told the audience that success depends partly on getting to know oneself ("find out what it is that makes you tick"), and in developing confidence and pride.
"Because, if we don't care about ourselves, no one else will," he said.
King also emphasized the setting of hard but realistic goals. "Work for the goal that you really, really feel deeply inside that you can achieve," he said. He warned against becoming discouraged by societal barriers, or by people who "try to pull you down."
Third, he stressed the importance of religion. "Faith can give you the strength to carry on when times get harsh," he said. "Realize you don't have to prove anything to anyone but God and yourself."
He advised against quitting when the going gets tough. "If you give up, then we have no future," he said.
Santita Jackson, 22, another of Jackson's children and a student at Howard, spoke briefly of the need to address poverty, unemployment and education.
Marvin Fauntroy, 21, stressed the importance of education and of keeping abreast of current issues and events. "Understand what's going on in the world around you."
Fauntroy also spoke of the need to act as a role model for younger children, and he listed three things to stay clear of -- drugs, street crime and sex.
He qualified the sex warning by saying the important thing is not how many babies one creates, but whether one can take care of them, and help them grow up as responsible adults.
For that, he received applause.
Fauntroy also urged members of the audience to develop themselves, then use their acquired knowledge to act -- to get involved. "There's nothing that you cannot do, once you put your mind to it."
Maria Farrakhan, 33, spoke briefly of the sacrifices she and other children of public figures have made. But, she said it was important to learn to "care and share."
She said it was important not to dwell on the sufferings of other generations, but to learn from them.
"Let us use the experiences of our parents as guides, so we can move," she said.