I’m Jenn M. Jackson, an activist, politics scholar, and writer.
I was born and raised in Oakland, CA. And, from a very early age, I coined the mantra “building something where there was nothing.” Coming from a single-parent household headed by my very strong, beautiful mother, my desire to build ‘something’ became fundamental in my ability to overcome the many obstacles that would face me in the inner-city, in college, and beyond. I have overcome many personal struggles in my life.
And I’ve struggled with knowing my own self-worth.
I was never shy per se, but my cousins will tell you that I have always been a geek. I loved comic books and Tetris. And, I never saw a TLC video until I was well past my tweens. Being over six feet tall by twelve years of age was one of the most difficult things for me growing up. I played sports but never really fit in with everyone else. I got called “young man” and “sir” a lot when folks weren’t paying attention. I questioned my own womanhood, tried to conform to current trends, and failed at “fitting in”.
In junior high school, I was diagnosed with a rare heart condition. I could no longer play competitive sports. And, some of my college dreams were dashed. But, I worked my behind off and made it to college anyway with the help of caring teachers, mentors, counselors, and non-profit organizations who saw potential in me to succeed. I struggled with my personal image, my body, my social circles and even my hair.
In high school, I began reading Zora Neale Hurston, Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. It was then that I became introspective and started to value my perception of myself more than others’ views. These words helped me through sexual assault and abuse. It was my unwavering desire to know myself for myself that helped me through some of the most difficult years of my short life.
Over the years, I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. I became a mother. I changed my hair, my career, and my outlook on life in general. I added authors like bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Melissa Harris-Perry, Patricia Hill-Collins, and Kimberlé Crenshaw to my arsenal of self-empowerment narratives. I started reading about stereotypes of black women, shame, and the contours of the self-understanding process. It was then that I realized how much external pressures had shaped me most of my adolescent and adult life. And I thought, “Someone else has got to be experiencing this too. Right?”
Why Did I Launch The Worth Campaign?
For many reasons actually. Mostly though, because I get it. I know what it is like to try to fit into to a square shaped box when you are clearly a sphere or a cone or a pyramid. As a mom, wife, daughter, sister, teacher, and academic, I understand the trials and tribulations associated with finding your place in the world, carving out that little piece of societal real estate that you can look over and say, “yeah, that’s mine.”
I want to help usher young women and girls along their paths to authenticity. For me, it was through my acknowledgement and discovery of my political self that I was able to understand my value. The Worth Campaign, Inc., too, is meant to awaken the social, mental, and physical awareness of young Black women and girls so that they may find and embrace their most authentic selves.
I am excited about it. And, I hope you are too.