Tragedy comes at many levels at various times of life. The real test is what you do and how you cope with the tragedy. Now, of course, everyone copes differently and at different speeds but sometimes, you’re able to draw some good from it. That’s exactly what Shackelia Jackson has done. She is one of the strongest women I know and that is not an exaggeration. I had the pleasure of meeting her during the last semester of my grad career. We were both in the same social justice class when I had volunteered to help her with social media for a project she was working on. Little did I know that project would help me grow just as it had helped her.
In 2014, her brother Nakiea Jackson was murdered in his cookshop/restaurant. Instead of letting this tragedy paralyze her with grief, Shackelia is rebranding her grief and turning it into a movement, Broken Not Destroyed. BND focuses on helping other’s rebrand their tragedy and usher in legislative changes in the Jamaican Police Force that has potential to strengthen cooperation between security forces and citizens. Without further ado, let’s get to know Shackelia Jackson!
Education: Ma Communication, Ba Literatures in English & Political Science
Alma Mater(s): Convent of Mercy Academy ‘ Alpha’; University of the West Indies, Kean University, NJ
Job Title(s)/Company: Communication Specialist
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Shackelia Jackson, I am a student of life; and a symbol of the power of second chances. As the product of a blended family and what I now realize were humble beginnings, I am lead by the philosophy that she who dreams conquers the world; and I will speak out against the things I cannot accept in order to spur positive change – Richard Branson
Tell us about your work/project.
Broken not Destroyed is a project born from the 2014 murder of my brother Nakiea Jackson as he operated his cookshop/Restaurant during lunch hours.
Was there a specific experience that inspired you to start this work/project?
The murder of my brother made this effort very personal but as I pursued justice I discovered that it was a perverse course from which many are cut off; especially when it involves agents of the state. My inspiration evolved as I traversed this path, for I soon realized that a broken system (the absence of due process, structural barriers, and implicit and explicit biases) was creating a broken society and our inactions facilitated its growth.
What were some of your past jobs and what have you learned/ taken away from them?
Wow, awesome question. I can be best described as professionally nimble/promiscuous, I enjoy balance and so except for my first job immediately out of University all the others I like to say chose me. As such I have worked across industries as a Sub-Editor, Television Producer, Teacher, Marketer, and Consultant all of which I believe were instrumental in my interdisciplinary and cross-functional development. I still describe teaching, however, as my most rewarding. Knowing that you are entrusted with molding young minds and is functioning as the conduit between dependence and independence is certainly a humbling role.
Who the students become is a consequence of your efforts. The knowledge, and social and professional skills that you impart influences and informs their behavior and choices. You wear so many hats as a Teacher and it requires a utilitarian approach to ensure that you uphold the mandate that everyone/child can learn, every child must learn. It taught me selflessness and prepared me for the emotional and professional expectations of life.
What have been some of your biggest challenges you’ve faced with your project and how did you overcome them?
Quitting too quick.
Challenges, the notion that justice doesn’t exist, the disillusionment that has paralyzed society; resulting in the absence of ‘buy in’ and support and sustained mobilization. The normalization of extrajudicial killings by law enforcers, and the desensitization of the public through fear appeal. The absence of cooperation and the reluctance of the state to recognize state executed murders as a problem; and that the loss of innocent lives is not the magical opiate for crime and violence.
Another challenge is the lack of recognition that my persistence or position is not an anti-police stance; but instead, one that looks to harness the power of collaboration and seeks to break the cycle of brokenness that is state inflicted.
I am still learning how to overcome these obstacles but in the interim, my greatest strategy is encapsulated in the statement – I will write until I am heard, I will write until justice is served. Through these posts and speaking engagements, I look to increase public education and awareness whilst promoting the value of collaboration.
What motivates you and where do you get your inspiration?
From other women, to honor the legacy of our forefathers and to save the future of our children.
The fact that to stop would mean I am giving another police officer permission to kill another of my innocent brothers.
My faith in humanity and the power of the collective weal.
What do you want to accomplish with this project?
Legislative and judicial reforms that will protect law enforcers and civilians alike; inform how they engage suspects; and will hold the security forces accountable where there are violations. To end or curtail systemic violence.
The need for cognitive and restorative justice; to heal and find my center. To gain peace.
What does success look like to you?
Success has become a revolving door, but I have certainly learned to celebrate small victories. It has changed in the sense that initially, success had to do directly with the results of my court case and the accused/charged individual be brought to justice. However, as I matured on this journey I realized that success is not only a communal or national achievement but a global one. Whereby families learn from our work how to engage elected officials in policy changes but most importantly for the affected individuals (both the perpetrators and victims) learning how to rebrand tragedy. Success for me is giving a voice to the voiceless bringing the marginalized out of obscurity and being that face in the crowd that gives you hope.
Where do you want to be in 10 years?
Ten years; a college professor conducting research centered around communication- social behavior and change. Influencing the decision makers and supporting policies that reflect social and cognitive justice and intersectionalities.
Who are some women that inspire you?
I didn’t have to look far
- My grandmother’s, Blossom Edwards & Valda Grant – silent leaders, consummate matriarchs.
- My mother, Venise Montague – my main artery, my sacrificial lamb
- My Godmother, Dawn Williams – the selfless giver
- My high school principal, Grace Baston – who taught me the value of second chances
- My High School History Teacher Susan Nelson – who saw in me what others couldn’t
- My University Professor, Dr. Norma Bowe – whose consistency and desire to be the change has infected me.
Any advice for other women out there?
We are not who we say we are we are what we do. I have been the beneficiary of women who were not afraid to transfer their energy and I encourage us to share the inspiration and take the journey together. It is never too late to believe in yourself.