“The Root” writer-producer Danielle Young came out on Monday with claims that she had been sexually harassed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and by filmmaker John Singleton.
Young recalled how, during a meeting where Jackson was a keynote speaker at an event, everyone wanted to take pictures with him, and of course, she was one of the group vying for a picture.
“I walked toward Jackson, smiling, and he smiled back at me. His eyes scanned my entire body. All of a sudden, I felt naked in my sweater and jeans. As I walked within arm’s reach of him, Jackson reached out a hand and grabbed my thigh, saying, ‘I like all of that right there!’ and gave my thigh a tight squeeze,” she wrote in a piece on The Root detailing her experience.
She then recalled how she reacted to her discomfort by trying to laugh it off.
“I did what most women in an uncomfortable position do: I giggled. And I continued to giggle as he pulled me in closer, stared down at my body, smiled and told me he was only kidding. The entire time, my co-worker snapped photos,” she said.
She went on to say that she had remained silent for so long because she felt her experience paled next to others, but it had to be told:
I personally never wanted to say anything because my situation was just a thigh grab. Barely a blip on anyone’s radar, even my own. Jackson’s tight grip doesn’t even measure up to what any of the victims of Harvey Weinstein and others have had to endure; however, I was uncomfortable and had to swallow the lump in my throat as I stood right beside the civil rights leader.
Honestly, I think it’s worth it for women to speak out against men who simply can’t keep their hands to themselves. Because that’s where it starts. My silence gave Jackson permission to continue grabbing at the next pair of thick thighs he liked. I’m hoping that my voice does the opposite.
Young also recalled an experience she had interviewing Singleton and the cast of Snowfall a few months ago at the American Black Film Festival.
“I conducted the interview, and afterward I went over to Singleton to grab my mic and he grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward him, saying, ‘Bring that juiciness over here,’” Young said. “He was sitting in a director’s chair, so when he pulled me, I fell forward and stopped myself by placing my hands on his legs. He then leaned forward and kissed me on my cheek. I said, ‘Oh, oh, OK,’ and stood up, embarrassed because everyone was definitely still in the room.”
Later, when everyone was taking pictures with the cast, Singleton noticed that Young hadn’t wanted to take a picture with him and specifically called her over.
“When he was about to leave the room, he asked if I wanted a picture. In order not to make it awkward, I said yes,” Young wrote. “He grabbed me around my waist and pulled me into him, saying, ‘Oooh, I’m gonna grab on tight to you.’ I laughed, because that’s what I do when I am uncomfortable, and snapped the photo.”
Young continued on to say that she could no longer stay silent on her story:
Ever since I was a little girl, I was warned about dirty old men, but not in a way that held them responsible—it was often in a way that made sure I steered clear or that I dressed and behaved appropriately enough so as not to attract their attention. This was embedded in my brain and how I behaved throughout my life. So when the unwanted sexual attention came, and it always did, I blamed myself. But no woman should do that. I shouldn’t do that. It’s not my fault if a man wants to turn a professional environment into a playground of flirting, grabbing and sexual talk. I didn’t ask for the attention just by existing.
“No one asks for the attention by just being themselves,” she concluded.
While Singleton has declined to comment on the story, Jackson responded with a statement from his rep: “Although Rev. Jackson does not recall the meeting three years ago, he profoundly and sincerely regrets any pain Ms. Young may have experienced.”