How Meeting Obama Changed the Attorney that Now Fights for Justice and for Black Boys

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January 03, 2017 By Millions Two One Staff

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"You want to go to jail or do you want to go home?" - Attorney Jackson of The Ross Firm, P.A.  During the day, Vernon Jackson, attorney, founder of Building Powerful Minds, author of "Nothing to Show for It" and self-proclaimed "Freedom Fighter," fights for justice for those who would normally face felony counts and exorbitant amounts of prison time and in the evenings and weekends, he fights for the hearts and minds of young Black males in Jacksonville, FL.  In one of his most recent cases, Attorney Vernon Jackson won a court victory in which he was able to get all charges dropped and no probation for a client that faced two felony counts.   

In 2006, Jackson was a collegiate athlete on a football scholarship at the University of Iowa.  Amid his time at the university, Jackson met a White gentleman named Doug Fern who was in charge of the youth ministry at a predominately White church named, Parkview Church.   As Jackson explains it, Chicago at the time was going through gentrification and an enormous amount of lower class African Americans moved from Chicago to Iowa and to surrounding areas.  Parkview Church established a program that was focused on helping the African American children that moved to the area.

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After meeting Fern, Jackson began to get involved with the African American youth that were attending Parkview Church.  Not only did Jackson get involved, but as time went on he began recruiting other collegiate athletes to be a part of the group.  "That was my first chance at seeing what impact you could have when you can impact the minds of our youth," said Jackson.  Jackson appreciated the work that the church was doing, but he felt that they could not understand African American kids like a Black male could.    


Jackson said to himself, "these are our people and it is our responsibility to help them and one day I will have my own organization and will build it in a scientific way to specifically address Black youth recapturing their spirit, mind and ambitions."


 

During the election cycle of 2008, Jackson met Obama several times as he campaigned in the battleground state of Iowa. Obama spoke to a small group of campus leaders in which Jackson was a part of.  Obama said something that changed the course of Jackson's life.  Obama said, "If you want to make a change in the community, you need people to listen to you and if you want people to listen to you, become a lawyer."  Jackson was considering going into law enforcement, but after hearing Obama speak, he shifted his dreams to becoming an attorney.

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Jackson was accepted into several law schools, but chose to return to Jacksonville to attend Florida Coastal because he had a younger brother that he felt was very charismatic who at that point could have become President of the United States or a kingpin.  Jackson stepped in as a father figure for both his little brother and his best friend.  He began to mentor them and Jackson said, "they were the first two official members of Building Powerful Minds". 

One of Jackson's close friends told him, "You can't wait for the perfect season to go be great."  He started laying down the foundation of Building Powerful Minds while he was in law school.  Jackson's aim was to fight against the prison industrial system.  He met with officials at a local middle school over an eight month period in efforts to begin holding his Building Powerful Minds' meetings there, but found the process arduous after running into too much red tape. Jackson then went to his pastor and outlined his plan in detail and he gave him the greenlight.

 


Building Powerful Minds has had as many as 80 young Black men at its meetings.  Their meetings are held every 1st and 3rd Saturday and they have over 30 volunteers.  Jackson starts every session with a lecture that takes Godly principles and Black figures like Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner and he teaches Godly principles and Black history at the same time.  "Our focus is to take out Lil Wayne, take out cocaine, take out strip clubs and put in Christ, Marcus Garvey, Shaka Zulu, entrepreneurship and discipline," noted Jackson.   After the lecture, the young men are broken off into tutoring sessions.  "We have tutors on hand that are strong in different subjects.  I'm really proud of our tutors because we have lawyers, engineers and entrepreneurs.  People who are really strong in those subjects."

Jackson makes sure that the young men take part in physical activities.  "Boys love to get physical; the wrestling, the boxing, the football, the basketball and they're supposed to love it!  There was a time when every boy wanted to be tough and strong, but nowadays, not so much.  We make that an intricate part of our program." exclaimed Jackson.  "It's healthy to be moving around playing sports and every man should have principles of strength, toughness and determination.  We get physical and that's what draws a lot of kids."

Building Powerful Minds now has chapters in Orlando and Las Vegas.  The Las Vegas chapter opened in late 2016 with 60 young Black men and the organization now has plans to start a Building Powerful Minds Girl Power Chapter


"We teach our youth real African History.  You won't get that in other organizations.  When our youth learn who they really are, when they learn about the multi-genius of Imhotep in Ancient Kemet who was not only a doctor, but an astronomer, an architect, a philosopher, a priest and a government administrator.  When they learn about how Imhotep designed the first step pyramid, how he wrote out multiple bone surgery procedures and studied the herbs, created nurseries and how he was the true father of medicine.  When they learn about the wealth of Mansa Musa and Nzinga who ruled two nations and revolutionized warfare.  How she was an expert in psychological warfare and how she fought the Portuguese for forty years and how Black people infiltrated Europeans. When they learn what they were before slavery and what they are capable of, it changes everything!  We've studied young Black boy's history, we've studied their problems and we've studied how to best address them."

 

 

Building Powerful Minds uses the principles of God, Family, Education and Community.   "When you stay true to the mission, you realize that you do not need that many people."  Jackson feels as if there is not another youth program like this in America because it is founded on Christ.  "We're founded on Christ, so we can't lose!"  

If you would like to donate to Building Powerful Minds, you can log on to https://www.gofundme.com/5d5p5hng.

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