Black leaders weigh in on Rainbow/PUSH chief’s resignation less than 3 months into role (2024)

Mystery still surrounds the resignation of the Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III from the storied Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Much fanfare was made in July 2023, when the Dallas pastor agreed to take the helm of the civil rights organization headquartered in a former temple in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood.

On April 16, less than three months into the job, Haynes resigned from the position that Rainbow/PUSH President Emeritus the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. founded through its predecessor, Operation PUSH.

Since then, conversation about why he resigned has picked up, with a number of Black leaders weighing in. Roland Martin, a journalist and CEO of Black Star Network, told CBS 2 that Haynes did not have the autonomy to lead the organization as Jackson’s successor.

“You had the friction there,” Martin said to CBS. “He did not have the full authority to actually do the job.”

Former Illinois senator and senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church Pastor James Meeks is a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition board member. He offered a statement after Haynes stepped down: “Transitions can be very difficult. We respect Dr. Freddy Haynes and appreciate the time that he was able to give to Rainbow/PUSH. As an organization, we will continue our national search for a replacement for Rev. Jackson.”

Atlanta-based attorney and Rainbow/PUSH Coalition board chair, CK Hoffler, said she was surprised by Haynes stepping down. Hoffler has worked pro bono with Jackson for 37 years.

“Of course we’re sorry it didn’t work out because this is who we envisioned would be the next person to be the immediate successor,” she said. “It didn’t work out but in this movement, we expect things will happen. But we have to regroup. The good thing is Rev. Haynes remains a great friend and supporter of Rainbow/PUSH and Rainbow/PUSH remains a great friend and supporter of Rev. Haynes. Now both have to continue with their mission.”

An April 23 statement from the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition said that a strategic planning committee has been appointed by the board to lead the process to appoint an interim president. Hoffler said the search for a new leader of the organization “will be efficient and swift, but not rushed.”

In the meantime, Jackson’s youngest son, Yusef Jackson, will serve as chief operating officer with day-to-day operational oversight.

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition has long been an advocacy platform to promote economic, educational and political change. Hoffler said people continually seek out the organization’s help for basic needs such as food, clothing and scholarships, and that mission will continue.

“Rev. Jackson always said that Rainbow/PUSH has never been a vessel for a single person. It’s a vessel for a movement,” Hoffler said. “Dr. Haynes is a friend of Rainbow; we all stand in solidarity in this movement. He and Rev. Jackson. So we didn’t lose a friend. He’s just no longer our leader. But he is still working in solidarity, just as we are.”

When asked if a new leader will be selected before the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Chicago Aug. 19-22, Hoffler said she hopes it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

“It is a setback not to have a leader for this moment, but when you have a setback, it prepares you for a hell of a comeback,” Hoffler said.

Black leaders weigh in on Rainbow/PUSH chief’s resignation less than 3 months into role (1)

In his resignation letter, Haynes said he made the decision to step down from the role as chief executive officer and president after continual prayer and deliberation. But he didn’t offer further explanation.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all who have expressed their support since my appointment in July of last year,” Haynes wrote in the letter. “I remain committed to honoring the rich history of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the legacy of its esteemed leader, the incomparable Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and most significantly, to the calling and pursuit of social justice.”

Haynes, a senior pastor from Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, embraced the presidency of the civil rights organization at Rainbow/PUSH’s annual conference last summer.

Jackson accepted Haynes’ resignation in a written response, and said the board of trustees as well as Rainbow/PUSH staff and members are grateful to Haynes for his service and leadership. Jackson said he looks forward to the continued collaboration between Haynes and the organization in the pursuit of justice and equity.

Black leaders weigh in on Rainbow/PUSH chief’s resignation less than 3 months into role (2)

When asked if medical issues led to Haynes’ departure, Hoffler said she’s not aware of anything along those lines and will not discuss details of any former employee’s tenure with the organization. Calls to Haynes went unanswered.

When Haynes, 63, was formally installed as president and CEO in February, he told The Associated Press he appreciated what Jackson “poured into” him. In 2023, Haynes said it was an honor to be chosen for the role, even though it was a lot of pressure to take up the mantle after Jackson, who ceded day-to-day operations in 2022.

Hoffler said filling the role is challenging. “Anytime you’ve got the organization’s founder, who is huge and iconic, and when that person stepped down from the day-to-day leadership, as the reverend did (he wore so many hats), of course, it creates challenges to be able to find someone who’s going to step in to be on his shoulders,” she said. “There’s only one Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson Sr., so when we’re looking at his successor, it’s someone who’s going to stand on his shoulders. We take that very seriously.”

Black leaders weigh in on Rainbow/PUSH chief’s resignation less than 3 months into role (2024)
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