Black History Month Feature: Dexter Jackson
What drew you to education?
I honestly just fell into education. I always wanted to be a teacher but the salary for teachers when I left high school was more abysmal than it is right now, so it wasn't really an option. When I did enter the classroom as a para, I learned how important male figures were in the education space and that my impact was profound on the children that I worked with... especially the black and brown boys. I personally did not have a black male teacher until my sophomore year of high school, and I wonder what my relationship with education would be if I had more people who looked like me and were able to relate to my experiences as my educators. This idea of radical representation in classrooms and school buildings keeps me motivated to continue to use my talents and resources to help improve social, educational, and community outcomes for black and brown students across Louisiana.
How do you celebrate Black Excellence in the classroom and your organization?
Not only do I celebrate Black Excellence, but I also celebrate blackness in all its shapes, forms and beauty. I embrace and fall into our fashion, language, music, and swag without shame no matter what room I'm in. Blackness is not something that should be dressed away or changed because of the rooms I'm in or the people I'm around. I talk how I talk, and I dress how I dress. My culture is enough. I will wear my dashiki in the boardroom, I will put jewelry in my locs, I will wear my Air Force Ones, and I will quote Tupac in my writings because blackness and black excellence are inside of all those things and all those things make up black culture, and black culture should be celebrated all the time.
What inspires you daily about education in Baton Rouge?
That there are so many good people out here fighting every day and trying their hardest to make education better. I have had the privilege to work with both community members and district education employees and both always want what is best for the children. There are rarely egos involved or people sabotaging the work from within. Lack of progress is usually a byproduct of unnecessary and/or antiquated barriers to solutions. These are usually no one's fault but are symptoms of a system we are all trying to change.
What makes you hopeful about the future?
It is hard to be hopeful as a black man in the United States right now. Especially as someone who believes in equity in education and representation. However, I love seeing the fight that the younger generation has. The collective commitment to inclusivity, and love, and confronting the societal wrongs that they see. Don't get me wrong, millennials have paved the way for them, but they are taking the fight for black and brown folx, LGBTQIA+, immigrants and undocumented residents to the next level. As Gen-Z reaches voting age, I am extremely hopeful that we will see major shifts in the social and economic structures, and educational structures in our community that have oppressed many and shortened even more on the promises of being an American. I truly see an equitable pathway for everyone to exist in peace, love, and inclusion and that makes me very excited for our future.