Black History Month Reflection by Garrett Jackson, 2022

What is your name and role at APAH?

Garrett Jackson, Director of Resource Development and Communications. I started on February 2, 2022!

How do you identify and what makes you proud of that identity?

I come from a rich African-American heritage, one that I am learning more about every day. Identity is rooted in discovery –as I have discovered more about my family and my heritage, it has helped shape my understanding of who I am and where I come from. I am most proud of my family’s resilience and the unique stories that have shaped our experiences as black people in America.

What does this month mean to you? Why is it important for us to celebrate?

To me, Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect on what so many have sacrificed to pave a path for me to thrive. It is also about celebrating the living history happening in front of us—simple things like my son being born in 2020 and knowing he will carry my family legacy, to witnessing history unfold in the arts, film, science, music, religion, and more. Celebrating this history is critical because without it, stories of black people, both the painful and the progressive, largely goes overlooked or untold in mainstream society.

Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you? If you could have dinner with them, what would you ask them?

I am deeply inspired by Lonnie Lynn (know as “Common”), who has used his art form, hip-hop, to traverse music, film, business, and social activism to protect and promote African American culture. Likely over bourbon, I would ask him about what it was like living in Chicago when Harold Washington (the first black Mayor of Chicago) was in office. I would also ask him what it was like to perform at the White House, and if he could maybe put in a good word for me! Lastly, I would ask him how he believes the arts can inspire youth in affordable housing and if he would be willing to partner with APAH to design a program and build a studio in a future development—dreams do come true, don’t they?

Is there a project on which you’re currently working – either at APAH or in your personal life – that is advancing this space for others who share your identity?

When I’m not working for APAH, I create music! In December 2020, I released my solo debut song called “Letter to a Nation” in response to the disparate impacts of COVID-19 and ongoing injustices toward African Americans. That song has led to a curriculum that will hopefully inspire students at every age level to use their gifts to speak out about circumstances in their world as they see it. It is absolutely humbling to see the evolution of this song and the impact it can have on the lives of others. Listen here:

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

I joined APAH at the beginning of Black History Month in 2022. I cannot overstate my gratitude to the amazing staff who have immediately embraced me, my value, my worth. I am prepared to bring a lens of racial equity to all aspects of our work, and I am grateful to join an organization like APAH who is actively prioritizing this critical work as well. There is much work to be done – our residents are counting on us.