In the song, “The Greatest Love of All,” sang by the late Whitney Houston, she expressed within the song the sentiment that children are our future. Children are a gift from God, and it is our responsibility as parents, teachers and role models in our communities to see to it that we do all that we can within our power to show them the way.
Anthony Jackson has taken the circumstances that that he faced as a child growing up in poverty and had used it to be his inspiration for making a difference in communities that are in lack; by providing resources to help bridge the gap.
I had the pleasure of speaking with him about his experiences and his God given vision.
The Empress Dee: Can you tell a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do?
Anthony: First and for most, I am a child of God. I was born into this world by my dear mother, Michelle Denise Jackson, who is also my hero and Cornelius Walker who is my father. My father never had any intentions of being in my life, although he was well off financially. My mother had me when she was 16 years of age and as result, we lived a life of poverty; living in the projects…at times we were homeless and there were stints in the foster care systems. My mother was vigilante in the love that she had for her children and she so was able to turn her life around. By the grace of God, we made it through poverty. I am the oldest of four; I have 2 brothers; and a younger sister. I went to college, lived my dreams and played professional basketball. In my city of Austin, I am the founder and president of, “We Can Now,” and we are an organization that services the homeless every weekend, we mentor the youth, we provide assistance for families that are living below the poverty level, we also assist felons by helping them to obtain job opportunities.
The Empress Dee: That is awesome. That is amazing and it is a beautiful story. What inspired you to start your organization and what made you want to work with the youth?
Anthony: My life was the inspiration. So, everything in our organization that we help with, I experienced it in my life. I grew up in a single parent home, living below the poverty line. All the males in life including family and friends were felons. So, I got to see up close how hard it was for good men, who are talented, to be able to feed their families and to be able to live a simple, normal life. As I mentioned before, we were homeless for a number of years and as a young boy growing up in that environment, I saw how important it was to have the presence of male role models in your life; in order to lead us and that is what inspired me.
The Empress Dee: What was the inspiration behind the name of your organization?
Anthony: It was God-inspired. We Can Now, I wanted to make a statement because a lot of times there will be people that will tell you that they can do something but then they will say hold on…but when you are in real need of assistance and you are being told to fill this application out and we will get back to you in 2 weeks (hold on) and when you are growing up in poverty, using government assistance, we are taught to depend on someone else for our needs. So, just wait and when I come and give you “this” then you can live and do whatever it is that you need to do. So, we…as in everyone who is in this world can do whatever it is that we need to do, and we can do it…right now and we are not going to wait on nothing.
The Empress Dee: I agree and one thing about working with the youth, like you said, people will put things off and just having a certain level of spirituality, I also understand that when God gives you a vision there is a sense of urgency there and so with that name it is beautiful to really put that into practice.
Do you find yourself able to bridge the gap with children who come from single parent homes?
Anthony: Absolutely! We are absolutely bridging the gap because, we are showing up and we are providing a service where they are lacking. So, we might have a single parent family or household and the mother has a job and she is doing all that she can to provide for her family. So, she pays her rent and she is putting groceries in the house and by the time it comes to making a car payment she might only have “x” amount left because, she is living below the poverty line to begin with…you are only getting so much money to begin with and it is not enough. So, we come in and we want to help bridge that gap by either paying that bill or whatever the necessity is. So, I do believe that we are bridging the gap.
The Empress Dee: When you are working with the youth and different people and you are providing these services; do you find that you become a counselor or a therapist for people who do not have a lot of emotional support?
Anthony: I would not consider myself a therapist or a counselor, but we do resonate with each other and we do talk and work things out because communication is important in general. You do not have to be a therapist to tell someone that it is going to be ok or to give someone advice that can make things easier for them. You do not have to be a counselor or a therapist…we are people and everyone has a voice and we all have knowledge and if we just open up our mouths and communicate with one another it would be better for all of us.
The Empress Dee: What are some of the issues that you come across when it comes to the mentoring process?
Anthony: Some of the main issues that I have observed is the lack of resources for the children and frankly, the motivation is not there for the children; those are the main two. The motivation is not there for the child to thrive and become who they want to be because of everything that they are going through daily. All children might show up to the same school, but their households are different. So, you might have one household that has both parents and does not have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from or going to school with a stench in their clothes and facing laughter from other children. At the other household, these are all the things that you do worry about. There is only one parent, they live in the “ghetto” they are just not happy with the living circumstances. So that alone affects the motivation for these children to be all that they would like to be. Lack of resources, lack of motivation; you have a lot of kids that do live in the hood or the ghetto and they want to do great and they have everything in order to be great and they do not have the resources.
The Empress Dee: What are some of the challenges that you face maintaining these different roles in the community?
Anthony: It is really the parents or other adults within these communities that do not want to tackle these issues that affect all of us. That is the biggest issue. People look at one person and think that they will do it all and no, it needs to be a collective effort, and, in my organization, it says WE not I. We Can…if you get on board and you and you, then we will be able to do all that we need to do…ourselves and right now! Period.
The Empress Dee: I agree. A lot of times people will place the responsibility on one person, and they are not thinking about where they fit or how they can help.
So, what advice would you give to those people, how can they help in their communities if there so not know where to start?
Anthony: Well, you need to be in the community so that you are aware of what is going on. Once you have gained the knowledge of the things that are going on there, ask yourself a question, what is it that you want to do or what is it that you want to see improve? Once you answer that question, then get on board. There is volunteer work; there is all kinds of things that you can do. We do not have to be millionaires to start this. We do not have to extreme resources to start this because we are the resources; we are resourceful ourselves. With this intelligent mind that we have and with this great body that we have to work with…we should be able to come together and get it done.
The Empress Dee: Speaking of starting …how did you start, because you are this great place where you are able to provide all these different services and I am sure that all of those opportunities were not present in the beginning…so how did you start?
Anthony: By doing the work. So, as I mentioned earlier, I was inspired by the things that happened in my own life and so when I became old enough to make my own decisions, you just ask yourself what is it that you would like to do? Well I can go over here and party and do all the stuff that my friends are doing…it is fun, and I have done that, but these issues over here are more important. We really suffered in our lives. There was a lot of pain and emotion and so, these issues matter the most…and most of us, live in these conditions. So, we should really focus on these issues instead the things that do not really matter. So, that was how I got started. When we lived in the projects, we used to get food stamps, I am the oldest of four, so she had five mouths to feed. She would get the food stamps and she would make the meal and we would be fed and well taken care of and we would have leftovers. She would say to me, “Anthony, take this plate across the street to that homeless man sitting over there. Take this over to that man that guy who is doing a lot of drugs…who is not even worried about eating…that is where I got the vision from. My mom instilled that in me. When I got older, I would just naturally do that. So, if I had any extra money, I gave it to the community and after years of doing that work; people recognized me for it and encouraged me to start a business because they loved what they were seeing me do in the community. People would enlighten me about things, and we all need that. God pushed me and showed the vision and that is where I am at now.
The Empress Dee: I am so glad that your mother instilled in you a giving heart to give. You must have a giving heart, and this is not something that we teach our children. I think that sometimes because of our conditions we get used to being selfish to a degree because we do not have much, and when we do have extra, we want to keep it to ourselves. I believe that it is important to teach our children to be giving.
I also noticed on your website that your organization also assists those who were previously incarcerated find jobs and other opportunities. How important would you say that support is in the Black community?
Anthony: It is super important considering that they have laws and Jim Crow and all these tricks and things designed to trip us up. It is super important for us to build with our own hands and to stop waiting for someone else to do it when we have the power to do it ourselves. What organization do you know of that specifically says that if you are a felon you can come here? We are telling you that if you are a felon…come here. We are going to help you get acclimated back into society and we are going to help you live your dreams and to be consider a regular, living citizen. But we do not have those types of resources, so it is up to us to do it. Those felons are fathers, those felons are brilliant men who can contribute and do what ever they want to but because they have a felonious record, that handicaps them.
The Empress Dee: It is hard for them to transition without any support. We have seen in movies where they end up right back in the same circumstances because they do not have the support. I have not personally seen these services provided anywhere else and so thank you.
Anthony: I am glad that God has allowed us to do it because it is important.
The Empress Dee: How do you handle the weight of leadership and do you believe that it is difficult to build leaders in this era?
Anthony: I handle the pressure with a smile on my face and an open heart. Because growing up in poverty like I did as a child with my mother, brothers and sister; that is a lot of pressure that you do not want to deal with and that we should not need to deal with, as children and as hard working people; it is a lot of pressure. So, since I have felt that pressure and I have overcome it, I really do feel the pressure of doing good, positive things for the community; even though it may appear that way. I think that it is important to teach our youth how to be leaders because if we are not able to lead ourselves than that means that someone else will and we cannot trust that someone else to lead us. So, just from that aspect alone, we must do all that we can to instill leadership qualities into our youth.
The Empress Dee: Where is your reward in all of this, what do you find to be most rewarding?
Anthony: Fulfilling my purpose. As a man, you know how they say that your word is your bond? So, when God gives you your purpose and you say this is who I am, and this is what I am going to do, and you do that then that is fulfilling. Because that purpose is a huge blessing for you and a whole lot of others. So, it is never about one person. When you are a leader and God gives you certain powers and abilities to do things, you do those things accordingly and righteously and it does not only bless that person, but it blesses a magnitude of people. So, serving the purpose is the reward.
The Empress Dee: What is the ultimate vision that you have for your organization?
Anthony: The ultimate vision that I have for my organization is for it to be up and running, successful in our missions and a platform and a tool that can be to utilized in life forever for those who may need it. That is the ultimate vision.
The Empress Dee: I wanted to get some insight from a Black man, what would you say is your definition of success? I know that a lot of times, success to us can mean having a lot of money; being able to purchase certain things. So, what is your definition of success?
Anthony: My definition of success is fulfilling your purpose. When we enter this life, they tell us that you are nothing unless you have money and when you start believing that then you start to get away from your purpose. But your purpose means way more than money. So, we are sitting here chasing “paper,” chasing the dollar thinking that that is what makes us successful, but we have depleted all the richness inside of us for one thing…money. So, my definition of success is fulfilling your purpose. which comes from within, which is a gift that God gave you or us and it is uniquely yours.
The Empress Dee: How were you able to monetize the services that you are providing, because I know that there are times when people who have non-profit organizations end up to things for free and are looking for ways to be able to get some revenue for their services; so how did you find the way to do that?
Anthony: I do not think about that as crazy as it may seem. I do not think about the money, I just focus on the purpose, and the purpose itself is so rich that it provides everyone with everything that they need. As a non-profit you do hear about all the ways to get money and yes, it is good to hear and yes, it is tempting and there are some things that you are supposed to do because those are the benefits of a non-profit. When I started off doing that, I was thinking so much about the money and that is not who I am and that is not what we stand for. I need to see this purpose through; so, from that point on, I remained focused on the purpose. When God blesses us and you serve your purpose, you will have all that you need. You will not have to think about the money, it will come, and when it does come, you will know that it is righteous and it is what you are supposed to have and you will be able to have your peace because you are serving your purpose and you are not just thinking about the money.
The Empress Dee: I completely understand that because I have experienced as a non-profit myself different organizations out there encouraging me to monetize and I believe that you do miss your blessings when that is all that you make it about. I am providing a service that I want children of color to have access to, so why would I charge? I appreciate your services and the fact that you are doing what you do from the goodness of your heart.
There is a lot of civil unrest going on right now in our country, what words of wisdom can you give at this time, especially for the Black community?
Anthony: Keep your love intact, and to not allow the hatred of others develop within you, the energy that is flowing within the universe, do not be receptive to it…keep your heart beating, keep smiling, keep God first. In war it is all about destruction and in destruction, there is no God. So, I would say keep loving…people want to take God and love away from life and do not forget to laugh sometimes.
The Empress Dee: For our viewers if you would like more depth on wellness, Black excellence, wealth building or if you would like to chat with like minded individuals, please go and visit our Awakened Lounge by tapping the link in our bio.
Thank you so much Anthony for taking the time to speak with us we appreciate you and all that you are doing for the community and the culture. We wish you the best of luck on all your future ventures. Have a blessed day!