Civil rights activist Ben Jealous is coming to Pacific Grove on a tour for his new book, Never Forget Our People Were Always Free. It’s a series of parables featuring intimate glimpses of political and faith leaders from a variety of backgrounds, including Jack Kemp, Stacey Abrams, and the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
His stop at the Pacific Grove Library won’t be like your traditional reading and lecture. Instead, Jealous will host a conversation and will be joined by retired congressman Sam Farr and Seaside community leader Mel Mason.
The book focuses on the shared experiences Americans have, but don’t often talk about. It’s meant to serve as a guide for how we can come together in a time of division. In a prologue titled “Hey Cousin!”, Jealous shares a story of an awkward moment between him and a television anchor. Jealous tells the anchor he is related to former Vice President Dick Cheney, and the anchor responds, “Isn’t he every Black person’s cousin?” giving Jealous pause. It’s an immediate entry into the discussion of race and politics – and realizing how much we all have in common.
Jealous has become a staple in activism across the country, with an extensive resume to match, including former Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland; former (and youngest-ever) national president and CEO of the NAACP; and former executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. In November 2022 Jealous was named executive director of the Sierra Club in a unanimous board vote.
Jealous’ activism stems from a one-of-a-kind American background. He is the son of a white father and a Black mother who had to leave Maryland because their interracial marriage was illegal there. Fred and Ann Jealous settled in Pacific Grove, where Ben grew up. His father says Jealous was able to meet many different people because that’s how he and his wife came up in the world as young adults.
“By the time we met, we had both traveled to different countries and met different kinds of people,” Fred Jealous says. “We were both well-versed in the world.”
The elder Jealous is also a community organizer as the founder of Breakthrough Men’s Community. And Ann, a therapist, is an established writer, co-authoring Combined Destinies: Whites Sharing Grief About Racism.
BEN JEALOUS speaks at 6:30pm Tuesday, March 14. Pacific Grove Public Library, 550 Central Ave., Pacific Grove. Free. 648-5760, pacificgrovelibrary.org
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