Dear Jesse Jr.,
If there are words that can express how much I sympathize with your current afflictions, I am not aware of them. As sons of civil rights pillars and great American leaders, we share a unique burden. While we differ greatly in age we are both namesakes of men who cast shadows beyond measure. We grew up hearing, “you’re going to be just like your dad.” Something unfair to a young person who isn’t yet aware of who their parent is, let alone of whom they are.
I sympathize with your depression, though I don’t know the root cause; having been clinically diagnosed at 20, I understand the burden. A life that, from the outside looks pleasing, is confining and lonely. I don’t know your journey although I should; your family has always made it clear that if I need anything to call. But I think as sons of great men we go as long as we can trying to prove that we are sufficient on our own and that we are equipped to handle what may come.
What came was never an answer on how to be or what to be or whom, what did was a single question that lingered and for me still does. Am I good enough? Am I doing the right things to be like my father? Do I even want to be like my father? The last question being the most important because we see what the media doesn’t. We see these pillars, these legends, these men of service as human beings and as fathers, whether present or absent. We know the sacrifice that it takes to be Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. namesake we carry a burden that our younger siblings do not. I applaud you for joining the fight that our fathers fought together. It is something that I cannot do, the passion isn’t there and the people deserve the best from the people that serve them. You have done an incredible job to establish yourself and build a legacy independent of your father.
I don’t want to get lost in my thoughts or emotions due to my sympathy; I just want you to know that I understand. As rare as we are, especially as sons of successful black leaders, you’re not alone. I look at you as a big cousin and I appreciate every time we’ve had to interact, whether it was in DC on the Hill or in Chicago. I’ve realized in my 22 years that in order for us to be great like our fathers, we must be great at being who we are and fight for something bigger than we are, that in essence is what made them who they are today. I pray that your health improves and with the support of Sandi, Jessica, Tre and Uncle Jesse, you will get back to the things you love.
John J. Conyers, III