Were no strangers to change, disruption, and greatness. No my family is full of some of the grittiest, daring, and loving folks to walk on land in the Western Hemisphere. I myself owe my namesake, Azeem عظيم (meaning great in Arabic), to those before me and have been graciously bond to a life of greatness! Being more for ourselves and those we cherish is a family tradition I embrace!
First into the Fire The Fire Captain of Pa
This is a photo found by a good friend of mine, it’s of my great great paternal grandfather, the Fire Chief of the Creatas Terrance Fire Company. They were Pennsylvania’s first all-black company. RBI’s phot is from 1927, they were known as the “Bucket Brigade,” where anyone strong enough passed buckets of water to the site of the mountain fire.
A great, chief among his community and service leader in charge of protecting him loved; and teaching the next generation how to protect themselves. Truly a Jackson who knew is all was great, and great can change communities.
Men Lie, Women Lie, Math Don’t Lie
Generations of black folks have lived and continue to live the lesson, “you gotta work four time’s as hard to get half as much.” More than an old black saying, I learned this law of nature much the way I truly learned the laws of gravity, through my experience as a black body in school. I grew up hearing the old saying, and early on in school, with my peers, I just knew we were equals. I had the confidence of an 7 year old who knew his letters in cursive and counted to 100 with ease. Plus in Wilmington Delaware’s Red Clay district my knowing was always rewarded. My trust in our class community was reinforced by how I was made to feel. My feelings of accomplishment were 100% aligned with my actions and our class values.
Many of the men in my family served in the military. My grand dad is a 3-tour Vietnam vet who before then kept his family safe from klansmen in Roanoke VA. My Uncle Will was a navy seal and still is a top shelf DJ! He’s also an old school tech brainiac with an unimpeachable sense of style. He inspired my father to join the military, where my dad traveled the world and saw beyond the mountain tops of Northern PA. His military journey took him to Guam, the UK, and Hawaii; he inspired me to turn my missionary work into a journey of self discovery and encouraged me to take risks, to see and make greatness your home.
Dad of Mine, Leader of Sons
My parents met in their teens, and were living full lives before I was born. They made the choice to bring into their worlds and did their best to make room for me to be great, even after the divorce. My mother gave me my first few lessons in being the “man of the house.” After 8 years living under my mom’s roof I moved in with my dad. He was a 27 year old single father and well traveled “man of the house.” Teaching me how to be a great man continues to be his journey.
He continues to find greatness as a coach. In 2018 he led the Woodgrove Wolverines Defense to its first State Championship title. Prior to being a state champ, he was a gifted athlete and self made entrepreneur, serving schools and children through the the northern Virginia area. He’s been my greatest coach and advocate.
2001 was Still a Year to be Great, for Some
In 2001 I moved to northern Virginia, started the 4th grade, and learned how values don’t always translate like report cards and vaccination records. In my first year living with my dad, a navy veteran and single father with a massive heart and solid 3-pointer, I managed to land myself in a parent teacher conference.
My work was stellar, at the same time my moderate inability to sit silently from time to time after finishing my work were grounds for a verbal tag team (so she thought) and a quick run to RITEaid for a prescription.
Sitting through that conversation, verbally inadequate and feeling less than great I learned being, was complicated. Being more, being Great was literally my namesake, and still great wasn’t 100% aligns with my class community’s norms. Being 100%, was impeachable. Being exactly who I was suppose to be in Virginia was highly disruptive. Being a black body was grounds for demanding less of me be present.
Teaching the Teacher What Greatness Needs
That day in front of the teacher my Pops calmly requested I knock off the chit chat and coaches the teacher up, advising her to give me more work. In one moment I was made. And in that same moment she was made whole. Promised “obedience,” in exchange, she must push me to learn more…🤷🏾♂️ (I can’t call it?!?)
Me, I felt I could still be, use every moment to be great, demand joy in my community and find ways to be relentless in my learning. I felt I could live out my namesake, be great. I still feel like I’m learning my dad, Robert Azeem ظيم Jackson Jr, how to be, and be great.
Next Great Thing
I’m still learning how to take care of myself and still feel like I’m living in my fullness. I’m not done, and I’m glad for it. In the near next/ future? I’m building a movement that looks a bit like somethings you’ve seen, but is fittin to flip some stuff around. Im evolving and cultivating a new social ecology. Im finding loved ones who chose each other and coconspirators who know what that word means in its fullness.
I’m being 4x more the leader I need to be to succeed and relentlessly pursuing more for all black children and the people that love them. I know I come from a long line of men who were great to their community and thus found glory for themselves. Like my ancestors, I’m blessed and privileged to chase greatness in all its forms; I aspire to walk a path unbothered with the natural laws my ancestors were forced to face to be great.