The YWCA of Southeast Wisconsin will present ABHM Head Griot Reggie Jackson with its Eliminating Racism Award on December 1, 2015 at its annual Evening to Promote Racial Justice.
About the Event
“Evening” places the spotlight on racial justice by featuring a nationally recognized keynote speaker on the topic. This year, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, a noted labor economist and author of Economy, Race and Justice in the 21st Century. The event – including hors d’oeuvres/cash bar, awards ceremony, keynote and book signing – takes place at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, December 1st from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. Click for more information and to buy tickets.
About Reggie Jackson
In 2002, Reggie Jackson, an electrician, was driving down North Avenue when he noticed a small building with an unusual name: America’s Black Holocaust Museum. He decided to stop and go inside. He was met by an elderly gentleman who gave him a tour and talk that changed his life. That gentleman was Dr. James Cameron, the unsung civil rights hero who survived a lynching in Indiana in 1930 and founded America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee in 1988.
Reggie was studying to become a history teacher and recognized the value of the stories at the museum, stories largely absent from American history textbooks. Little did he know that day that he was to follow in Dr. Cameron’s footsteps as a griot–a speaker and historian–educating the public about race and racism.
Shortly thereafter Reggie began spending most of his free time at the museum. He took training as a volunteer griot (docent) and began regularly giving tours to museum visitors. He has never stopped serving as an ABHM griot, even though the museum closed its facility in 2008, two years after Dr. Cameron’s death. Reggie has continued to this day volunteering countless hours each week as a researcher, writer, and speaker working to eliminate racism by building the public’s knowledge and engaging their conscience in Milwaukee and beyond.
Reggie has an amazing capacity to read, research, and absorb American history. He has a talent for synthesizing the material to make it compelling and meaningful for youth and adults from diverse racial/ethnic, socio-economic, and educational backgrounds. He was quickly tapped to become the Head Griot at ABHM and train the new volunteer griots, which he did as a volunteer for years.
His dedication to ABHM and its mission led to his being invited to serve on the museum’s board, eventually becoming its chair in 2005. When the museum was forced to shutter in 2008, Reggie worked with a group of community volunteers to bring ABHM back to life as a virtual (online) museum. He helped form the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation to operate the museum and other projects aimed at educating the public and combatting racism. Since 2012 he has served as the Legacy Foundation’s board president.
In the past Reggie also represented the museum as a frequent and popular public speaker and diversity trainer at venues around the city, state, and even in other parts of the country. He continues to do so today. He is invited to a wide range of venues including public libraries, colleges and universities, corporations like Harley Davidson here and RBC Dain Financial in Minneapolis, and community organizations and clubs as varied as the Rotary, Jewish Community Center, Wisconsin African American Women’s Center, and the South Shore Yacht Club.
During this past year, Reggie has drawn large audiences to his new 4-part series on Do Black Lives Matter? at libraries in Racine and Milwaukee. He has also been a facilitator of a 6-part film/dialogue series entitled Hidden History: The Black History You Never Learned in School as well as two consecutive book club discussion series sponsored by Rid Racism Milwaukee based on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindedness and Daniel Hunter’s Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow.
Reggie has presented at national academic conferences, such as the Without Sanctuary conference on lynching at the Center for the Study of the New South at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte. He is also frequently called upon as a skilled facilitator of interracial dialogue. Most of this work is unpaid.
Reggie speaks on a wide range of topics that help the public understand the underreported history of anti-black injustice and its contemporary ramifications. His dynamic and insightful presentations lead people to reassess their views on race and become inspired to act to eliminate racism. A small sample of his subjects includes: The History of the N-Word; African Americans in Milwaukee; The Scientific and Medical Devaluation of Black Bodies; The Incredible Journey of Joshua Glover; and Anti-Racism Work: What Can You Do?
Reggie is an independent scholar who carefully researches his topics and develops excellent teaching tools. Liz Caldwell of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, who has attended several of Reggie’s series, recently expressed a reaction common to participants: “He has given me insight into how Americans came to be divided by race….His scholarly, provocative presentations are at times hard to hear, but necessary in one’s journey to unlearn racism…. Mr. Jackson has a way of tying many layers of history into a comprehensive story of how racism has changed its form but still remains present.”
Jackson is also an accomplished writer. In 2014 the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion and the Greater Together project asked him to write “Reflections on 10 Key Issues” for their widely disseminated publication Building Thriving Community: Beyond Segregation in Milwaukee. As a scholar-griot, Reggie has curated exhibits in ABHM’s virtual museum, such as War on Drugs–or War on Blacks? and Traces of the Trade: The North’s Complicity in Slavery. ABHM’s online exhibits reach thousands of viewers each year from around the globe, including students doing research for classes. Reggie also authored the Afterword in the soon to be released 3rd edition of Dr. Cameron’s memoir, A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story (in press).
In addition to his heavy volunteer commitment with ABHM/The Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, Reggie sits on the board of the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion and the Wisconsin Humanities Council. He also serves on the Executive Committee of Rid Racism Milwaukee. These organizations recruited Reggie because he brings a keen intelligence, needed perspective, excellent judgement and expertise in issues of diversity, cultural competency, and racial justice.
Reggie has served for years as a volunteer coach for youth sports, which he does after a full day of working as a special education teacher with children in Milwaukee’s inner city schools. He is also a devoted husband and father.