Founder & President
Rev. Al Sharpton is the founder and President of the National Action Network (NAN), a not-for-profit civil rights organization headquartered in Harlem, New York, with over sixty chapters nationwide including a Washington, DC Bureau and regional offices from coast to coast.
As one of the nation’s most-renowned civil rights leaders, a March 2013 Zogby poll said one out of every four African-Americans say that Rev. Sharpton is the person that speaks most for them. Rev. Sharpton polled higher than any other civil rights or political leader in this public opinion survey.
Rev. Al Sharpton has been praised by President Barack Obama as “the voice of the voiceless and a champion for the downtrodden,” and by former President George W. Bush who said that “Al cares just as much as I care about making sure every child learns to read, write, add and subtract.”
Rev. Al Sharpton is currently the host of a daily television show on MSNBC that analyzes the top political and social news and features the country’s leading newsmakers. ”PoliticsNation” with Rev. Al Sharpton airs at 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The show is so popular it broke MSNBC ratings history with the highest viewership of any show at 6:00 p.m. since the network’s inception.
Rev. Sharpton also hosts a nationally syndicated radio show “Keepin it Real” that is heard daily all over the country as well as two weekend radio shows that air in markets within the U.S.
Rev. Sharpton delivers live remarks at NAN’s weekly Saturday Rally at NAN’s Harlem headquarters the “House of Justice” that is broadcast live on NAN’s website www.nationalactionnetwork.net each Saturday from 9-11 a.m.
National Action Network, under Rev. Sharpton’s leadership, has become the most active social justice organization in the country and President Obama echoed this at the 2013 NAN Keepers of the Dream Awards via video when he said: “Thank you Rev. Al and the National Action Network for the work you do to keep up the relentless march for change. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was marching for change his vision was one of a country that lived up to the promise of its founding documents and today, 45-years to the day after Dr. King was struck down, it’s a vision the National Action Network has carried on as your own, becoming one of America’s most forceful voices in the fight for justice and equality.” (April 4, 2013)
When President Obama gave the keynote address at NAN’s 20th anniversary Keepers of the Dream Awards Dinner, he said candidly: “National Action Network is not the National “Satisfaction” Network, it is the National “Action” Network,” highlighting that “Action” is what Rev. Sharpton and NAN are about.
Recent NAN activism has focused on crucial national cases as the organization continues campaigns around voter engagement, national gun violence intervention, jobs, corporate responsibility, immigration reform, health care reform, and seeking justice in cases including Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, and Kendrick Johnson, to name a few. NAN’s efforts also include calling for reform in states that practice “Stand Your Ground laws.”
Other recent NAN accomplishments include a march of over 40,000 people in New York City against stop-and-frisk policing and racial profiling; a historic march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights and immigration reform; NAN’s 2013 national convention keynoted by the Attorney General of the United States, five Cabinet members and leading civil rights activists; a nationwide labor tour with leading labor organizations including AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) that led to the defeat of proposed bill SB5 (Senate Bill 5) which was an assault on worker’s rights; a March for Jobs and Justice on Capitol Hill; a 25-city Jobs rally; an Agreement with the NAACP, the National Urban League, and Comcast and NBC Universal to expand current diversity initiatives intended to increase diversity in a wide range of areas including programming and employment. This Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding – MOU, was the largest Agreement with civil rights groups in history and commitments were made with at least eight new independently owned and operated networks where minorities have substantial participation either through ownership or operational control will be launched.
Other NAN highlights include the continued growth of NAN’s Washington, DC, Bureau which monitors and works on social policy issues that involve the Congress and White House; the successful 3rd annual Triumph Awards in New York at Jazz at Lincoln center, a star-studded event that was highlighted by presentations to Award-winning filmmaker George Lucas, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and more.
In 2012 , honorary doctorates were presented to Rev. Sharpton from Virginia Union University and Bethune Cookman College. Rev. Sharpton also received the BET Humanitarian Award at the network’s annual awards show.
In 2010, Rev. Sharpton was featured on the cover of Newsweek Magazine and the opening sentence in the story echoed what many have said about him even since he was a child prodigy: “If we didn’t have an Al Sharpton, we would have to create one” and CBS network’s top rated show 60 Minutes in a May 2011 profile stated: “Sharpton is the go to Black leader today.” A recent Wall Street Journal cover story on him described how he has grown from the premier politician of protest to the ultimate political pragmatist (Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2010), and this year, Rev Al Sharpton was selected to be profiled in a cover story in Ebony Magazine along with 7 others, including President Barack Obama, for the magazine’s Power 150 Edition.
In the October 19th, 2009 issue of New York Magazine, Rev. Sharpton was featured as the only African-American listed among the “Top 12 Most Powerful People in New York City. A USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted in July 2008 called Rev. Sharpton the leader in the country that Blacks turn to speak for them on the issue of race, second only to then Senator Barack Obama. In February 2007, Rev. Sharpton was called “the most prominent civil rights activist in the nation” by the New York Daily News.
Whether it was his noteworthy Presidential run as a candidate for the Democratic Party in 2004, or his compelling speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, Reverend Sharpton has had an irrefutable impact on national politics and civil rights because of his strong commitment to equality and progressive politics. In April of 2001, Coretta Scott King hailed him as “a voice for the oppressed, a leader who has protested injustice with a passionate and unrelenting commitment to nonviolent action in the spirit and tradition of Martin Luther King Jr.” It was appropriate that 47-years after the historic March on Washington where her late husband Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech,” Rev. Sharpton and National Action Network led 30,000 people in the “Reclaim the Dream” rally and march.
Rev. Sharpton is a leader on issues regarding education and the fight to ensure equity in the U.S. education system that continues to fail its highest-need students, despite the 55 years that have lapsed since Brown v. Board of Education. President Barack Obama echoed this in his address at the NAACP 100thAnniversary Celebration when he exclaimed “the state of our schools is not an African American problem; it is an American problem. Because if Black and Brown children cannot compete, then America cannot compete. And let me say this, if Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg, and Newt Gingrich can agree that we need to solve the education problem, then that’s something all of America can agree we can solve. Those guys came into my office. Just sitting in the Oval Office – I kept on doing a double-take. So that’s a sign of progress and it is a sign of the urgency of the education problem. All of us can agree that we need to offer every child in this country – every child -”(President Barack Obama, July 16, 2009)
Throughout his career, Rev. Al Sharpton has challenged the American political establishment to include all people regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, or beliefs. In fact, few political figures have been more visible than Rev. Sharpton in the last two decades. Rev. Sharpton’s oratory skills have served as a platform for making changes in the American social and political establishment. He is a nationally-syndicated radio host, T.V. personality, and columnist. He has four popular radio shows broadcast throughout the country, a nationally syndicated television show, and a column that appears in national newspapers across the country. He held billions of people spellbound as he delivered a riveting memorial for the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson—a close friend to Rev. Sharpton and National Action Network– and he gave a heartfelt and memorable eulogy at Michael Jackson’s private burial. On two occasions in 2002, Michael came to NAN’s “House of Justice” to discuss artist’s rights and fairness in the entertainment industry.
Born on October 3, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York, Al Sharpton began his ministry at the tender age of four, preaching his first sermon at Washington Temple Church of God & Christ in Brooklyn. Just five years later, the Washington Temple church’s legendary Bishop F.D. Washington licensed Al Sharpton, his protégé, to be a Pentecostal minister.
Rev. Sharpton’s civil rights career began almost as early as his ministry. At thirteen, Revs. Jesse Jackson and William Jones appointed Sharpton youth director of New York’s SCLC Operation Breadbasket, an organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1971.
At the age of sixteen, Sharpton founded the National Youth Movement, Inc. which organized young people around the country to push for increased voter registration, cultural awareness, and job training programs. It was at that time that he forged a friendship with Teddy Brown, the son of the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown. Tragically, Teddy was killed in a car accident and, in the months that followed his passing, James Brown took Reverend Sharpton in as though he was his own and they developed an inexplicable bond. Rev. Sharpton was shaped by his surrogate father Mr. Brown who taught him, “You can’t set your sights on nothing little; you got to go for the whole hog.” Later Rev. Sharpton went on the road with James Brown. From 1994 to 1998, Rev. Sharpton served as the Director of the Ministers Division for the National Rainbow Push coalition under Rev. Jackson.
Early in his career, Rev. Sharpton set out to stoke the fire of the civil rights movement as “the voice of the downtrodden,” leading marches and rallies to call the public and the media’s attention to racial injustice. Rev. Sharpton’s direct action movements have been credited with inspiring laws on racial profiling and he has influenced police department reform across the nation while working to end police misconduct. Recent cases that Rev. Sharpton has been at the forefront of include the Jena Six case, the Sean Bell case, the Omar Edwards case, and the Troy Davis case. Past cases include the cases of Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima and Patrick Dorismond, to name a few. Results from the Sean Bell departmental hearing are released and the cop who touched off the 50-bullet shooting rampage that resulted in Sean Bell’s death in 2006 was found to have violated NYPD rules after panicking and blowing his cover, authorities said. NAN has been active with this case since Sean Bell was shot and killed by Police the day he was supposed to get married in 2006 (December 2011)
Rev. Sharpton has also been at the vanguard of issues promoting equal standards and decency. He has held people accountable for perpetrating negative and racist stereotypes. He confronted the NY Post when they chose to print a controversial cartoon with racist undertones. He has called upon the recording industry to have standards for artists that don’t include the use of the “N,” “B” and “H” words. Reverend Sharpton’s integral efforts in getting radio host Don Imus off the air after the “shock jock” referred to players on the Rutgers women’s college basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” has further proven that Rev. Sharpton is an invaluable leader and his successful efforts to mobilize a broad coalition of prominent public figures urging the removal of Don Imus from the airwaves was nearly universally praised, receiving the support from newspaper editorial boards across the country and presidential candidates Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama.
Rev. Sharpton was in the forefront of the successful effort to block radio commentator Rush Limbaugh from inclusion in a group of investors striving to buy the Saint Louis Rams due to his history of divisiveness and his penchant for making derogatory comments about players that are anti-NFL and racially charged. In response to his effort to have Mr. Limbaugh sacked, MSNBC television host and political commentator Chris Matthews said of Rev. Sharpton: “I’m just saying you are a powerful voice in this country. When you speak out, let’s face it, the buildings shake. People do listen to you. You had a lot to do with the noise level here.”(October 15, 2009).
In the business world Rev. Sharpton has been successful in getting the private sector to engage in billions of dollars in contracts with minority communities. Sharpton’s stance on behalf of the disenfranchised has taken him, in his own words, “from the streets to the suites.” In 1999, in a united voice with African -American advertising agencies and marketing and media outlets, he launched the “Madison Avenue Initiative” (MAI) to ensure that those who do business with advertising outlets around the country deal even-handedly with agencies, media outlets and publications run by people of color. Sharpton’s work with the MAI has targeted major corporations, including PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, Microsoft, and others, who have subsequently extended their advertising dollars to reach more of African-American and Hispanic communities.
Rev. Sharpton is a champion for human rights and is passionate about the key issues that involve confronting human rights violations. One of his career highlights has been contributing to the end of the United States Navy exercises in Vieques, Puerto Rico, which proved to be poisoning the environment on the island.
Rev. Sharpton says his religious convictions are the basis for his life and on most Sundays he preaches to congregations across the nation. Rev. Sharpton has two daughters from his marriage to Kathy Jordan Sharpton, Dominique and Ashley. Dominique works as National Membership Director of National Action Network and Board President of Education for a Better America and produces NAN’s weekly live radio broadcast. Ashley Sharpton runs a full-scale entertainment company specializing in fashion production.
Rev. Sharpton was educated in New York public schools and attended Brooklyn College. He has an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Bethune-Cookman University, Virginia Union University, and an honorary degree from A.P. Bible College.
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