Reginald Jackson, Head Griot (docent) of America's Black Holocaust Museum
Educator / Consultant at Nurturing Diversity Partners, a program of Jackson-Kaplan Consulting LLC
Mention the name Reggie Jackson and most think of the Hall of Fame baseball player. However, this Reggie Jackson, Head Griot of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, is also a heavy hitter, but in an altogether different arena. Jackson, who presented to more than 300 HR and business leaders at MRA’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Conference, is taking a big swing at building a racially just society that all Americans will benefit from.
As Head Griot, Jackson is helping to fulfill the dream started by Dr. James Cameron. A civil rights pioneer, Cameron had a dream of “a single and sacred nationality.” Cameron believed in a world without racism and a nation undivided by race. The America’s Black Holocaust Museum was founded by Dr. Cameron as a way to build public awareness of America’s Black history and a place to hold all the stories, pictures and exhibits that had been collected through the years. Jackson is following in Dr. Cameron’s footsteps to continue the story telling and sharing of America’s untold history.
Even when Jackson was young, he was already a curator of stuff. In his teenage years, he made a drawing of hands joined together—one black and one white hand—symbolizing the unity he hoped for. Like Cameron, Jackson too had the idea of creating an organization that would bring blacks and whites together. Born into a segregated world in Mississippi in 1965, Jackson has spent his entire life fighting for equality. Always inquiring and interested in his history and life stories, Jackson had many thoughts and ideas, just no place to put them all, until he came across the America’s Black Holocaust Museum for the very first time in 1994 and met Dr. Cameron. What began as a volunteer opportunity in the summer of 2002 has become Jackson’s purpose and true life’s calling.
Jackson explained that a “Griot” (similar to a docent) is from the French-speaking side of Africa and means a keeper of the history. Griots are knowledgeable of the entire history of its community. They serve as advisors to the leaders of the community. Here in Milwaukee, Jackson is just that—he is a keeper of an important part of America’s history and serves as a community leader and advisor. Through his involvement with America’s Black Holocaust Museum and as an educator and consultant at Nurturing Diversity Partners, Jackson shares stories, gives presentations and educates on seldom-told stories of the African-American experience. In addition, he conducts anti-bias, diversity, and inclusion education.
After working with Dr. Cameron, Jackson knew that he wanted to help this man and his mission. Dr. Cameron became Jackson’s mentor and friend. Their friendship was solidified when Jackson made a trip to the jail where Cameron had been held many years ago and saw the graves of the two others who had also been involved in a lynching with Cameron. The lone survivor of that lynching, Cameron spent the rest of his life sharing his story of peace, equality and forgiveness.
What Dr. Cameron endured at the age of 16 defined and provided a purpose in his life. Jackson said, “This man who survived a lynching had no hatred in his heart. He was so kind.” Repairing relationships and bringing people together, that was Dr. Cameron’s mission; and it is the mission that Jackson continues to this day.
Dr. Cameron began America’s Black Holocaust Museum in 1988 as a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Black Holocaust. The museum continued after Dr. Cameron’s passing in 2006, but the physical building had to close in 2008 during the Great Recession. The museum has continued offering virtual tours through its website and through Jackson’s presentations all over the United States. With community collaboration and much work, the physical museum is once again scheduled to open at the end of 2019. More information can be found on the museum’s website at https://abhmuseum.org.
Jackson encourages us all to share these stories, learn more about the true history of our nation, learn about civil rights, discrimination, segregation, and much more to help us understand what led to today’s racial inequalities. Jackson is seeing this taking place all around him and he is feeling very positive about the direction we are moving.
Jackson recommends, “We need to prepare for the changing demographics of the country, to be more understanding, and end the racism. We have to do better for everybody. Not just those who have been marginalized, but make it better for all. Make the nation what it should have been back when we declared ‘with Liberty and Justice for ALL’.”
An inspiring man with endless stories to share, this Reggie Jackson has hit a home run living the mission and fulfilling the dream Dr. Cameron would be so proud to witness one day.