Interview of Jewelean Jackson
Interviewer: 00:26 Okay, may I have your first and last name the spelling, please?
Miss Jackson: 00:40 Jewelean, J-E-W-E-L-E-A-N, no middle initial, last name Jackson, J-A-C-K-S-O-N.
Interviewer: 00:51 Okay, nice to meet you.
Miss Jackson: 00:51 Indeed.
Interviewer: 00:52 Do you or have you lived in this area in the last 10 years?
Miss Jackson: 00:58 I have lived, played, worked, and prayed in this area for 40 years.
Interviewer: 01:03 Okay. From when you first moved in this area what changes have you seen over the years?
Miss Jackson: 01:09 Oh, even though they say the statistics say otherwise, it seems like there are more non-black folks, more Asians, more Somalis and it also seems as though there may be a little more negative behavior, be it us killing one another and/or the police killing us.
Interviewer: 01:34 I agree. So do you feel that’s a negative or a positive change?
Miss Jackson: 01:41 Well, I think it’s a double edged sword. I think part of the concern is that there seems to be a lack of value in human life too often amongst us and it’s reciprocal among the other folks as well. Now, I think in terms of Euros, it has more to do with they still think of us as animals, they still think of us as 3/5 human, they still think that we’re just a beast. The flip side of that is one of self hatred. The physical shackles were removed but we still have shackles on our minds.
Interviewer: 02:19 I agree with you, by the way. What do you feel caused the changes?
Miss Jackson: 02:21 Oh gosh. Some would say it was all the transplants from Gary, Indiana. Some would say it’s the transplants from south side of Chicago. I am not sure. I don’t know if it’s specific to Minneapolis and north Minneapolis as much as it seems to be different pockets of the country, be it Chicago, be it New York, be it Los Angeles etc. I think part of what makes it seem like it’s more is that with social media you get it faster, quicker, all at once. One of the things that seems to be different is I always tell my scholars, it wasn’t as though we didn’t fight and duke it out with one another, but if you and I had an issue, you beat my behind, I didn’t run home and get Pookie and Mom and them and a gun and come back and try to kill you.
Interviewer: 03:10 To kill you, right.
Miss Jackson: 03:11 Typically, it was done. So you beat my behind and so be it and we shook hands and we went on.
Interviewer: 03:17 And that’s it.
Miss Jackson: 03:20 And I don’t know if this is different either but I think this whole thing of babies having babies, they haven’t been raised so how are they going to raise another little person. And so therefore you pick up all of those bad habits, non-habits, and so with the work that I do I always try to incorporate home visits because I can think about what it might be like but, oh my gosh, once I get into the home it’s like, okay, know what’s wrong. And certainly I’m not researched or haven’t studied it but these are just some of my observations.
Interviewer: 03:53 Okay. And what makes you feel that way?
Miss Jackson: 03:58 One, I think integration did us in. I think that in yesteryear we were forced more to get along and be along because all we had was one another.
Interviewer: 04:12 Exactly.
Miss Jackson: 04:12 Now we figure that we had the civil rights movement and we fought for equal rights and now on the one hand you have too many of us trying to be like them and outdoing them at being themselves, ie. Europeans. And on the other hand you have this whole sense of hopelessness that I’m not sure where it came from.
04:30 I just asked one of my third grade scholars the other day, I said, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” And he said, “Miss Jackson, I want to be alive.” Oh, okay so where, when, and how because in our darkest days as slaves we still wanted to do better. We wanted to learn how to read and write. Today we’ve got to drag our kids to school to get them there, get them there on time and get them there without them throwing chairs through windows and those kinds of things. So, it’s pretty complex, it’s pretty complex.
Interviewer: 05:01 Okay, so we are gathering these stories to increase understanding between the city of Minneapolis and the community on the impact of historic discriminatory government policies and practices in areas like housing, transportation, economic development and more. Examples include housing and employment discrimination in the early 20th century, the war on drugs in the 1990s and others. What impact has these policies or others had on the community in general?
Miss Jackson: 05:27 That was a mouthful. Was I supposed to remember all that?
Interviewer: 05:31 Basically, what changes have you seen in the housing, transportation, economic development since back in the day until now?
Miss Jackson: 05:40 Well, it’s only been recently that they have removed legal language saying that we can’t purchase property.
Miss Jackson: 05:47 People are very surprised by that, white and black. It’s only been recently that the language has been removed in terms of redlining in the district. So I don’t know how soon you would say that’s happened. Are we talking 2018, we’re talking about 1990, etc.? Because, again, I think all of what ails us is this whole thing of racism at its best, sexism at its best, white folks and black folks think we’ve truly arrived. We have not. And the Willie Lynch syndrome is alive and well.
Miss Jackson: 06:22 And I think that’s kind of the underpinning of everything that ails us and I don’t think even with affirmative action at its best that we’re going to catch up. I’m not going to see it. I’m not sure if you all are going to see it either. My child, the one I birthed at 27, oftentimes she says, “You know what? It’s an upstream battle.” And I don’t that even me or my children will be around to see it.
Miss Jackson: 06:46 And as dismal as that sounds that doesn’t mean we work any less hard in terms of change. And again, it still goes to that whole thing of how you feel about folks because even with laws changing and written information changing, attitudes are slow to follow. And so it may be another 200 years before they even allude to the civil rights movement. I mean they still have on the books that we’re not allowed to vote. That’s still on the books.
Interviewer: 07:14 I didn’t know that
Miss Jackson: 07:14 And then on the one hand as a long time head election judge I have to drag my folks kicking and screaming to vote, to register to vote, to pledge to vote, to know where your polling place is. Folks will get to the polls at 7: 50 the polls close at 8:00, you’re at the wrong poll, then you cuss me out going out the door because you can’t get to the right poll. Well come on now, come on.
Miss Jackson: 07:38 So it’s a lot of that. I had one of my 5th grade scholars two years ago tell me, “Well Miss Jackson my daddy says it’s stupid to vote.” Now I ain’t going to take on what his daddy said but I made note, okay there’s some other things I have to do with this little 5th grade scholar of mine in terms of getting him to
see things differently. But it’s hard because I have them, what, 3 or 4 hours a day? Then they still gotta go home to whatever madness that is.
Interviewer: 08:01 Yup, that is true.
Miss Jackson: 08:03 Did any of that make sense?
Interviewer: 08:03 Yeah, that did. I understand it completely.
Miss Jackson: 08:05 Okay. The other piece with housing, with the foreclosure piece that hit a few years back and I lost my house as a result of it. One of the things that I keep telling people that they need to do in terms of policy is that at the end of what I went through, and I fought a hard fight but I lost after about 6 years, they still said they wanted $300,000 from me for my house right around the corner, 1618 Freemont Avenue. But then they turned around and sold it to the white boy for $40,000. What’s wrong with that picture? What is wrong with that picture?
Interviewer: 08:37 Are you serious?
Miss Jackson: 08:39 Serious. And it wasn’t as though he was going to come and move into the community. What he did is he carved it up to rent it out-
Interviewer: 08:46 To make-
Miss Jackson: 08:46 To make more money for a whole lot more than he should have been charging, that’s about policy.
Interviewer: 08:53 That’s crazy.
Miss Jackson: 08:53 You know. And even now the other thing, there seems to be a whole lot more vacant houses as well than there used to be and that’s another policy piece. The city finally heard us a year and a half ago with some listening sessions that we did. We said okay so, what do we do with these vacant houses, these vacant lots? So they said oh okay well we hear you, let’s come up with this system. And I don’t remember all of it verbatim but it was $75,000, I think, if you were a first responder, you could get free money, $50,000 if you were in education, $25,000 if you were a resident in the community. What’s wrong with that? Flip it!
Miss Jackson: 09:29 Flip it! That is policy. And they didn’t even have that before we had these listening sessions a year and a half ago. That’s all policy. That’s the city of Minneapolis.
Miss Jackson:09:40 So.
Miss Jackson: 09:40 I get animated sometimes. Forgive me.
Interviewer: 09:43 It’s okay. We need that. So what impacts have that had on you or your personal family?
Miss Jackson: 09:53 Well, part of it’s my fault and/or part of it’s the system but I have spent most of my darned near 70 years really embracing my community, doing for my community which meant that most of my life I’ve either totally given it away for free or for little or nothing. And so for me if I walked out this door and I broke a hip or whatever I’d be expected to live off of $900 a month social security. What do you do with $900 a month social security? Not much. But, it’s still on me. From that perspective I’m kind of a sick puppy, if you will, because people that volunteer at my level for that length of time got three, four sugar daddies somewhere paying the bills.
Miss Jackson: 10:35 But at the same time, I think that it’s important and it’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it so when I think back on the Miss Black Minnesota pageant that I produced and directed for 15 years, a founding mother for Twin Cities Juneteenth, founding committee for the Minnesota Freedom Schools’ Children’s Defense Fund, founding committee for the National Night Out, at some point part of my legacy will be there she lay, but look at all this good stuff she left behind.
Miss Jackson: 11:02 But in the meantime it would be nice to be able to make a decision and be able to write a check and make it happen as opposed to fundraising and seeing who I can submit a proposal to, so.
Miss Jackson: 11:15 They say God looks out for babies and fools. I think I fall in the fool category which God has decided that, with that, he has given me my health. And so we have figured out that for the next decade, I have until I’m 80, to make up for that social security piece. Because I still have my health and when you have your health you can attain the other stuff or get it back.
Interviewer: 11:39 So what changes have you seen in this community that raised your level of stress or concern about its future?
Miss Jackson: 11:44 Well, recognizing that the police have never been our friend, it seems as though they have become a lot more blatant and I tell the chief and all of the boys in blue often, “Y’all are sharp shooters.” So you mean to tell me I’m supposed to believe that he’s running away and whatever level of his black face, you can’t shoot him in the legs and stop him or tase him or something? It’s always shoot to kill our folks, especially our black boys and the young black men.
Miss Jackson: 12:13 So that seems to be more overt and it’s scary to the point of when I found out I was pregnant I said, “God don’t give me a boy. I don’t want a boy.” Because I did not want to have to think for the next 21 years that knock on the door in the middle of the night that my child- Although, I got a girl, I’m not good with hair either because I have none, but she’s had the police pull guns on her. So it’s not specific just to the sexes.
Miss Jackson: 12:44 So that seems to be a little worse. That’s probably the main thing just in terms of the police and the way that they- I mean I’ve even had them tell me- because you hesitate to even call them, even if you need them, and I’ve had them tell me when they’ve gotten there, “Well, just move out of the neighborhood. Well, you decided to live here.” They don’t do that out in their neck of the woods.
Miss Jackson: 13:08 And I don’t think that more police are necessarily the answer to that because many of them are still, and even with our new police chief, he’s still got this horrible system that he’s stuck with. And so I just heard something recently of how we finally allude to moving forward is we’ve got to have the Thurgood Marshall’s, you all know who that is, right?
Interviewer: 13:27 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Miss Jackson: 13:28 Which I just found out today he had 32 cases of which he won I mean, yeah. So he was saying that you have to have those like him that deal with the system but you still have to have the Martin Luther King Jr.’s who can speak it, who can mobilize, who can organize. And until we have a consistent, incestuous like relationship between those two strategies, I don’t know, it’s going to be a hard time coming. And a long time coming.
Interviewer: 13:56 All right. True that, true that. What part does the city of Minneapolis need to play to relieve that stress?
Miss Jackson: 14:05 For me personally?
Interviewer: 14:05 Yes ma’am.
Miss Jackson: 14:07 Part of it has to do with, and I’ve gotten pretty creative. When you don’t have the check book, so I know where all the food shelves are, I know where the food distributions are, I even know where there’s a free clinic where we can get free acupuncture, free chiropractic, free massage, free counseling, etc.
Miss Jackson: 14:24 And so for me part of relieving my stress is to know that it’s not going under the knife. It’s not taking another pill. It’s dealing with some of these other strategies to help me with my mental and my physical. As a matter of fact, we’ve actually decreased my meds for high blood pressure in half by the acupuncture.
Miss Jackson: 14:43 If we could have more of that I think that that would help because, one of the things that I said is if the real revolution happened tomorrow, we’re such a sick people you wouldn’t be able to carry me and I wouldn’t be able to carry you. Let alone pick up a gun and do it at the same time. And so I think those are a few of the things and then just this whole thing of, this whole unity thing. One of my other hats is I’m the current lifetime national Miss Kwanza and part of my platform is teaching Kwanza, the Kwanza principles as a way of life.
Miss Jackson: 15:15 KMOJ, 50 years ago started with unity, umojah, etc. But we are such a far cry from that at this point and we’re still like crabs in the barrel etc. so I think it’s a combination of us coming together as a people and us figuring out what we have to do in terms of our mental and physical mindset.
Miss Jackson: 15:38 The other part of the unity piece is we got to organize and mobilize and get, and yeah, I’ve said it to them, these Asians that we continue to give our money to that treat us like you know what. But years ago we had a black salon down here Reverend Charles and Marie Graham, Marie Graham sings with the Sounds of Blackness, they didn’t last because we didn’t support them. But we run to the other folks to give them our little bit of money. So that’s another piece that’s sorely lacking.
Interviewer: 16:10 Okay, okay. Moving on to the next question. What gives you hope for the future of this community?
Miss Jackson: 16:17 You young folks. You youngins. I think part of what’s going to help too is with the energy of the young folks and the wisdom of us old folks, if we could truly come together it would make a difference. I don’t know if any of you were involved with the fourth precinct occupation?
Interviewer: 16:33 Mm-mmm (negative)
Miss Jackson: 16:34 Well, a lot of my community children were and the one that I birthed was also part of that. But it was us old folks that did those young people in. What they did is in the middle of the night they ran downtown to [mossa 00:16:45], the city bureaucracy, and literally dismantled it in the middle of the night. Yeah, that’s how it happened.
Miss Jackson:16:55 And I’ve said that to some of those old folks, as well, because what I say, I say it to the source as well. So that’s a huge piece, this whole divide and conquer and I got more education than you and my eyes are lighter than yours and my hair’s straighter than yours and it’s crazy. So until those things begin to change, it’s not going to change. So it’s on y’all. But we have to have the good sense to give you what we know, give you the baton and get the hell out of the way so you can do what you need to do that we’ve trained you to do. Oops, bleep. Okay. The helicopter out of the way. Sorry.
Miss Jackson: 17:34 But there are the John Brown’s too though. You all know who John Brown was right?
Interviewer: 17:39 I do.
Miss Jackson: 17:39 Okay, so he led any number of the insurrections during the slavery times, white boy. And I say that because even during my time with my foreclosure, there was a young Jewish guy that had walked with us through that whole process and what we did is we strategized and we said so when the sheriff gets here and they come, we know that they will react differently to your white face than my black face. And so I’m not saying that it all has to happen with all black folks. There are some white folks too that we need to also coalesce with.
Interviewer: 18:24 Yeah. What part does the city of Minneapolis need to play to create that more hopeful future?
Miss Jackson: 18:30 I think it’s all of the city because too often people think well, it’s them. No, it’s all of us. And I think that all of the city has a part to play When they did Rondo in, in St. Paul, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that story or not.
Interviewer: 18:44 Mm-hmm (affirmative). I heard about that.
Miss Jackson: 18:44 Well initially when that was on the drawing board it was going to be Rondo and Prospect Park. Now the white folks in Prospect Park had the wherewithal and the resources to fight so it didn’t happen to them, whereas we did not and we saw what happened, so. So all of us are affected, contrary to popular belief but, yeah.
Interviewer: 19:14 When you think about this area today, what impact do you still see from these historic government policies?
Miss Jackson: 19:17 Ask me that again.
Interviewer: 19:27 The impact of the discriminatory policies that have been in place historically.
Miss Jackson: 19:31 Oh, okay.
Miss Jackson: 19:34 Well when you look at so often, white folks and black folks, “Just get over it. That was then, now is now.” Well you can’t just get over it because it continues. So that when my significant other says that excuse me but we’re going to this wedding and it’s a young white couple and the parents have given them their house, we don’t have that to bring to the table, let alone be in a position to give it to our children.19:59 And so that kind of policy continues on. People don’t recognize that when they say, “Well it’s not me.” Well of course it’s not you, it’s institutional racism, it’s institutional sexism, it’s all that institutional madness that Trump and the Trumpettes are solidifying and undoing all of the things that Obama did.
20:20 Now the flip of that in terms of hope. I mean I jump for joy. All these young folks we’ve got on city council, get these old folks out of the way. Now, will they have all the answers? No, but at least it’s new blood and it’s young blood and so far I’ve been very impressed with Phillipe and Jeremiah and Andrea’s not as young but, nevertheless, he brings another perspective. I think that’s what’s going to help.
Miss Jackson: 20:48 Did that answer?
Interviewer: 20:49 Yes. How would you describe the relationship between the city of Minneapolis and the northside community over the years?
Miss Jackson: 21:00 It’s been up and down, mainly down. Again, the system looks at us as less than human. The system looks at us in a paternalistic way when they do, it’s like, “Well I know what’s good for you poor slobs over there.” The system thinks of us as a detriment. Everything is always in the negative. An yeah there are issues but there are issues everywhere, there are issues everywhere and I don’t know what it’s going to take to change that.
Miss Jackson: 21:29 And, again, we’ve got a new young mayor, St. Paul has not only a young mayor but a young black mayor and a young black male mayor. Matter of fact he taught my child her first story. He was getting ready to go to college and she was still in middle school? Yeah, middle school. Elementary school. Whatever. So I think the new blood is going to help.
Miss Jackson: 21:48 But what happens is even when you come in with all of these ideas, you too can get caught up in the system. Even with Obama, I told people he wasn’t going to be the Messiah, but I voted for him because he looked like me. I didn’t care what his policy was. He looked like me and that was a historical moment.
Miss Jackson: And you saw what happened. But lord of mercy I’ll tell you he has proven to be the most gracious, and they couldn’t even dig up anything on him in terms of sexual scandal, and I am so pleased, you’d think he was my own child.
Miss Jackson: 22:17 But, ultimately it may happen and then again it may not. But even with the real revolution, I can’t think of a historical revolution where it’s been a real revolution and then the folks that overturned the previous folks didn’t turn out to be like the previous folks they overturned. So, what do you do?
Interviewer: 22:37 Okay. What are your expectations of the city of Minneapolis related to this community?
Miss Jackson: 22:44 Well, I mean, they need to either do it or get off the pot. You all know that expression, right?
Miss Jackson: 22:51 Okay. But we also have to force the issue. People still tell me, “My vote won’t count. Why should I vote? Well I don’t like who’s on the ballot.” And I try to tell folks then if that’s the case you at least get to the polls, register to vote, you pledge, you know where it is, you get to the polls, and write in your own name. Write it Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck because then people know that you at least exercised that a right that we have as Americans because what we don’t realize is when we do vote, we jump to the top, to the presidential. More times than not, the stuff that’s going to affect us is the local. How often are the streets plowed? Who gets the nicer looking parks and those kinds of things. But it’s continuing to try to educate, re-educate, un-educate.
Interviewer: 23:37 I understand that. I agree with you there too. To what extent do you trust the city of Minneapolis to deliver those expectations?
Miss Jackson: 23:54 Oh, that’s funny. Let me first say that there has been changes let me recognize that but the more things change the more they stay the same. And power is not given, you have to take it and people have to be in a position and willing to make the sacrifices to take it. I don’t trust them to just say, “Oh, here’s your part of it.” I mean when they took out Martin Luther King Jr. why was that? Because he started talking about economics. Economics. Hit them in the pockets. I’m still waiting for my 40 acres and my mule, not with bated breath but nevertheless. But that gives you an idea. And everybody has gotten the reparations except for black folks. Well the Natives have been done in too, but everybody else has got- And when we talk about reparations it’s like all of a sudden we’re talking Chinese. But everybody else has gotten them.
Miss Jackson: 24:44 So I don’t trust them to do a doggone thing. That doesn’t mean though that I don’t continue to work because someone still has to be at the table because I tell my scholars, “If you ain’t at the table you’re going to be on the table.” And when they get to slicing and dicing- So I don’t know that we’ll ever get our fair share.
Interviewer: 25:04 What part do you feel you can play in creating that more hopeful future?
Miss Jackson: 25:08 Working with the babies, working with the young folks. Trying to train the young folks, trying to help them with empowerment because once you have the empowerment piece, you have a sense of who you are, you’re unapologetically black, you ain’t trying to do Michael Jackson and change all of that then the more apt you are to say, “Hey, this isn’t right. I’m standing my ground. I’m going to fight.” And even with my foreclosure and some other things that I’ve gone through, [claw in 00:25:35] the case is back against the wall but fighting back.
Miss Jackson: 25:39 I had to sue a former employer. Everybody said, “Ahhh,” and I won’t mention their names because y’all know who they are but everybody kept saying, “You’ll never win.” Whether I never did get one thin dime, and I did win, and they had to write a check, and it was substantial but I knew that I had the- I won’t use that word, I was going to say I had the testicles to fight back but, I guess I could have used another word but I didn’t, but I at least stood my ground and if I had not done one thin dime. They knew that I stood my ground and I had the backbone to do it. And more people have got to do that and we’ve got to stop thinking this whole I, me thing. It’s all of us, it’s a collective.
Interviewer: 26:14 Yeah, a team. Well that’s the end of the interview and we do appreciate you taking time out here to come talk to us. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.
Miss Jackson: 26:23 Thank you. So what’s the next step? What will y’all do with all this valuable information?