February 27, 2014

Jackson's victory over can't

Jessica Lane, Staff Writer,
The Express-Star


From a young age, it was instilled in Loretta Y. Jackson, that she could do anything she set her mind to. 

Jackson was the youngest of seven children of Lillie Bell "Curry" Blunt and Clarence Blunt. The Blunt household was not home to self-doubt. 

When Jackson would say "I can't," her mother would respond, "I killed can't–so yes you can." 

"Can't" hasn't been safe since. 

Jackson is a wearer of many hats: guest speaker, facilitator, author, instructor, moderator, documentarian, coordinator, orator, member of many boards and organizations and often, dispenser of hope. 

The multifaceted, near octogenarian, Native Oklahoman is well-traveled. Jackson has been to 40 of the 50 United States including Hawaii as well as visited Germany, Austria and Canada.

Renowned for her rescue and preservation of a one-room school built in 1910, the Verden Separate School, Jackson is more than a preserver of history.  She is as familiar with oversized ribbon-cutting scissors as she is with gold groundbreaking shovels.

Jackson's contributions are recognized across political, social, economic and educational lines and she has volunteered tens of thousands of hours. 

One need not look far–in distance or time–to see Jackson's contributions. 

Earlier this month, on Feb. 15, Jackson coordinated the annual "Storytelling and Soul Food Event" which celebrates the contributions of African Americans in Chickasha and Grady County. The 2014 fifth annual event was entitled "Chickasha's New Lincoln School Dedication Program (1937)." The event included a reenactment of the school's dedication through speeches from current Chickasha School Board members as well as songs from the original dedication performed by the Langston University Choir. 

During the soul food meal, guests enjoyed a video presentation comprised of film clips of former Lincoln students recalling memories of the school that ranged from poignant to humorous. It was touching how many of the former students remembered the names of the teachers who impacted their lives. 

As a curator of Chickasha's African American story, Jackson's affection for the school was evident in the care which was taken in the evening's procession. However, Jackson does not reserve her devotion to the school's past. She has periodically returned to nurture the school's future. 

In 2013, Jackson donated a book to Lincoln School about film stars from Oklahoma, in which she had written an article about Dudley Dickerson, Jr. During his acting career, Dickerson appeared in about 160 films and is best known for his role in "The Three Stooges." During her visit to the school, Jackson told the students that Dickerson was a student from Lincoln School, from Chickasha. Just like them. 

And, just like her. 

Jackson completed grade school and high school at Lincoln. Her school activities included Girl Scouts, Girls Y-Teen Club, Girls Glee Club, Girls Basketball Team, narrator for school fashion shows, radio skits and a multitude of other programs. Jackson even lead the way as the Drum Majorette in high school band. 

Jackson went on to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration/Sociology with a minor in economics from the University of Science and Arts Oklahoma. She then took postgraduate studies in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. She earned a Real Estate Diploma from Blackwood Business College, Oklahoma City, Sales Associate License in 1978, Broker's License in 1988 and established Jackson's Real Estate in 1991. Jackson has been certified as a Real Estate Instructor for the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission. 

Jackson shared her knowledge of real estate as a Real Estate Instructor at Canadian Valley Technology Center for 14 years. She was the first African American to be employed as an instructor at CVTC in Chickasha. 

While Jackson has certainly branched beyond her own backyard, giving back to Chickasha has been a life mission. Here again, Lillie Bell Blunt had an impact on the Loretta Jackson philosophy. 

"Mama said you should grow with Chickasha. Do something to improve the community. Then when you grow, give back to the community."

Jackson was the first African American and often the first woman of many boards of Chickasha when they were newly integrated. She started several organizations to improve housing and education in Chickasha's primarily African-American east side and expanded these programs to help all of Chickasha while working to end segregation. 

In 1991, Jackson served as President for the Chickasha Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. That same year, Jackson was elected a member of the Board of Directors for the Chickasha Chamber of Commerce. 

Jackson was the first African American elected as a Democratic Party Official in Grady County and the only individual elected to serve as the county chairperson, co-chairperson and secretary/treasurer of the Grady County Democratic Central Committee. 

Jackson was the first African American to work at the election polls as counter, judge and inspector in her ward, and tabulator for the Grady County Election Board. She has organized and participated in mass voter registration drives locally and statewide. 

Jackson served as Chairman for the Board of Regents for USAO. She has said that serving on the USAO board of Regents was a favorite honor, "where our service contributes to and enhances the lives of so many people." Jackson also served as chairwoman on the Board of Trustees of the USAO Foundation. 

The Loretta Y. Jackson African American Historical Society was officially recognized on July 25,  2002. Jackson said the purpose of the organization was to establish an African American Museum and History center and to restore a one-room African American school, the Verden Separate School, which stands today on Ada Sipuel Ave. in Chickasha. 

The Verden Separate School has been designated an official Oklahoma Centennial Commemoration Project by the Commemoration Commission. The National Park Service has listed this historic structure on the National Register of Historical Places. 

Moreover, on June 6, 2003, the New Hope Baptist Church in Chickasha was also listed and was also recognized by the Oklahoma Historic Preservation.

Jackson is the author and publisher of "Chickasha's and Grady County's African American Heritage and Culture," a history book that has been designated as an official Oklahoma Centennial Commemoration Project by the Centennial Commemoration Commission, though this is not her only publication. 

Jackson has been drawn to groups that utilize an inclusive approach. She was a member of Grady County Triad, which combined the forces of the police, sheriff's department and seniors within the community to prevent crimes against senior citizens. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of Jackson's contributions just within Chickasha. Other local accomplishments include: being involved in the Chickasha YMCA Organizing Committee, the Chickasha Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Chickasha Planning Commission, Chickasha Centennial Committee in preparation for the Chickasha Centennial Celebration, Chickasha Chamber of Commerce Chickasha Ambassadors, assisting in locating city manager at the time, Lloyd Rinderer, serving on the Grady County Emergency Medical Service District  and even being named "Favorite Female Grady Countian" in the Chickasha Express-Star's Reader's Choice Awards in 2000.

Jackson's influence has touched not only her hometown, but to her home state as well. 

February has long been celebrated as Black History Month unofficially, but in 2006, Jackson coordinated a ceremonial signing with Governor Brad Henry to designate February as Black History Month. In attendance to this ceremonial signing included members of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, Buffalo Soldiers and citizens from around the state. Also in attendance was the woman who always told Loretta "you can," Lillie Bell Blunt, then 99 years old. 

Jackson also helped sponsor the first senior reception on the campus of Langston University. This gave graduating seniors an opportunity to learn about AAUW projects, fellowship and research grants. AAUW members had the opportunity to learn more about Langston University and the gateway it opens for African American students. 

In 1998, as a member of the Leadership Oklahoma Class XI Norman program committee, Cultural Diversity Strategies for Change in the 21st Century, Diversity was added as part of the Leadership Oklahoma curriculum. Jackson served as the Oklahoma AAUW Diversity Coordinator from 1991 to 1993. 

"I joined AAUW because it is an organization that supports education for women and allows me to be myself and achieve my goals," Jackson has said. "AAUW is inclusive. I don't have to transform myself to imitate the majority membership." 

Jackson was also the first woman in the state's history to serve on the Oklahoma Banking Board. 

A member of the National Diversity Advisory Group, American Association of University Women and State Diversity Coordinator, Jackson provided workshops on diversity in Oklahoma across the country. 

Jackson has been invited to and attended inaugurations for governors as well as two United States presidents, including Jimmy Carter and Barak Obama. However, Jackson generously passed Obama's invitation to her daughter, Cynthia Anderson. 

In 1979, Jackson was summoned to the White House by President Jimmy Carter to discuss Black Community concerns with the president and his senior advisors. Was a member of Jimmy Carter's Conference on Black Community Concerns in 1979. This conference focused on jobs, education and inspiring the young black community. 

After meeting with Carter, Jackson received a thank you letter from the president's special assistant, Louis Martin,  thanking her. 

"I look forward to staying in close touch with you on our mutual concerns of improving the quality of life for Black Americans," Martin wrote in a letter to Jackson.

Jackson was one of the 20 woman selected to receive the National Women's Political Caucus/ Women of Color Achievement award in Business, Washington D.C. in 1991. 

In 1984, she was a member for the international Congress on Art and Communication with more than 40 countries participating. She delivered greetings from the State of Oklahoma and Chickasha mayor to the mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She also appeared on British Columbia TV supporting American women and the Equal Rights Amendment.

She worked in Germany for two years as a chief-teller, savings account clerk and assistant loan supervisor for American Express International Banking, Heilbronn, Germany, 1969 through 1971. In 1984, Jackson was part of a group that welcomed four guests from Japan during the 1984 Japanese Study Mission. 

A citizen of the world, Jackson said she has never suffered stage fright. She just always researched and prepared for what she needed to say and then said it, Jackson said. She is quick to credit God for guiding her direction as well as her words. 

"Before, I always pray for the right words and to be understood,"Jackson said. 

Her fearless flexibility as a communicator has given Jackson the opportunity to talk to many different kinds of people and in some cases, sing "Happy Birthday" to them. Jackson was the featured singer during the 78th birthday celebration for former Speaker of the House Carl Albert. She earned distinction as the first woman to serve on the State Banking Board as a state bank regulator, serving from 1980 to 1994. 

Jackson decided she would introduce herself to Colin Powell at an event where both she and he were in attendance. When she told her husband, he said "You can't do that! You can't just walk up to the general!" Jackson turned to him and said, "Yes, I can!" And she did. 

"I just walked into situations where they said I couldn't go," Jackson said. 

Jackson's ability to go places and do things, while unencumbered by "can't," seems to stem from a sincere motivation to improve the lives of others. 

"I work to find the best in every individual I meet. From so many, I have gained so much. I work in the community for a better understanding and to be understood. My goal is to work with people for the betterment of society."