In 2016, Anthony Jackson (AJ) received REDF’s Stuart G. Moldaw Award for his tenacity and courage in overcoming significant barriers to employment. Anthony grew up in one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods, in circumstances that typically don’t just derail a young life, but typically end it. With the support of the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD)—a member of REDF’s national portfolio of high-impact social enterprises—Anthony dramatically changed the trajectory of his life and his future. This short video tells a bit about Anthony’s story. Two years later, Anthony is still on an upward trajectory, and his dedication to giving back—to the young men and women he mentors at CRCD, to his family, and to his community—remains an inspiration to us all.
As part of REDF’s Ripple Effect Campaign, we caught up with Anthony recently and are excited to share some highlights of his progress.
REDF: Chante (the CRCD colleague who nominated him) tells us you recently got a promotion to Supervisor of Community Beautification. Tell us about that. What new and different things are you responsible for?
AJ: I’m in the office more now dealing with collecting and monitoring the data of the guys on the team and our city contracts. I deal directly with our contractors and attend meetings. I’m still in the field, but I’m slowly transitioning to a more managerial role. Sometimes when I’m in the office I feel the need to be out in the field, so I jump in one of our vans and monitor our guys on a work site. I have to be active.
REDF: So are you still working with young people?
AJ: Yes, I’m still very much working with our youth. The work crew is split up between our supervisors, so I still meet with them. I jumped in one of our trucks today to see what was going on with our new employees and to see how training them was going.
REDF: I bet they look up to you in that role?
AJ: I was just talking to one of the guys today. He’s 28, and I’m 26. He asked me how I got this far so young. I told him that it’s about having a lot of responsibilities. Having responsibilities and knowing that makes you grow up a lot. And being consistent and having that drive to see your destiny. I see things that I want and I go after them. I am not a “standing still” sort of person. I’m so appreciative to have this opportunity at CRCD, and there’s growth in any opportunity that you encounter. I try to do my best to learn and grow from the opportunity. People believe in me, and I don’t want to let them down. It’s about not letting people down but also about not letting yourself down.
A lot of the young folks they see me at the office, and so many people have seen my video. I met a guy at a recent event who saw the video and he was like, “Man I’m inspired. How did you turn things around?”
REDF: When people ask you that question, what do you say? How do you answer what was the thing that changed?
AJ: I always tell them you have to be consistent. You make your own destiny, and you have to follow your own destiny. There’s a lot of distraction here for young people, but you have to put that behind you, look forward, and see where the light is for you. You have to be consistent. The results you put out are the results you’re going to get back. Find the light and move forward.
REDF: Chante also sent us a photo of you getting an award with the Councilman Marquises Dawson for the work you do in their council district. Congratulations! Tell us about that. How did meeting the councilman and getting the award make you feel? (Note: LA City, Council Districts are divided and are overseen by different councilmen. AJ got an award for his work in the CD-8 district).
AJ: CRCD leadership doesn’t get to see the work I do outside of the office, so it was nice to have someone recognize it and say “good job.” It was also great for CRCD to be recognized.
REDF: A’mar must be getting so big. He’s 7-years-old now! Did you tell him about your promotion and award? (Note: A’mar is AJ’s son and was also featured in his video).
AJ: No I didn’t, but I brought him to work with me to see what work is all about. I wanted to show him what I do because today kids are on their phones and tablets all the time. I wanted him to see that no matter what kind of work you’re doing, you have to put in the sweat and tears. I want him to see that instead of thinking things are handed to him.
REDF: Is he grasping that message at his age?
AJ: Yes, because I’ll ask him questions like “what you want to do”? And he’ll say “I want to work hard,” so he’s comprehending the information I’m sharing with him. I want him to know what chores are. So whether it’s taking out the trash or helping grandma with the clothes, I want him to do it.
REDF: That’s so great. What else is going on?
AJ: I’m still in school which is good. I’m only five classes away from getting my management certificate, then deciding if I want to get my associate degree. I’m trying to get those classes done. This is my transition stage. This position at CRCD is training me for when I transition to another job. It’s an essential part of me, so I’m paying attention to every detail and everything I need to learn so I can take it and apply it somewhere else. Making sure our data is collected, making sure we have the equipment we need. They even got me doing all our timesheets now!
REDF: Wow AJ you are fully into the management role! As you reflect back on the past few years, what are you the most proud of?
AJ: I’m most proud of me. Sometimes I don’t know how I do this stuff. You can do so much and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. And you get these awards and it’s like, “Yeah, I’m doing good! I’m going to continue this!” It’s being around good people at CRCD and continuing on this path.
REDF: When you think about where you are now, vs. where you were when you first walked into the door of CRCD, how does that make you feel? How do you feel about the future?
AJ: The future now is definitely different than when I came in. I was just a helper and now I’m supervisor of the entire operation! I can see the future and it’s bright. Things are coming into place. If I continue on this path I’m on, then the future is really promising for me.
REDF: Can you share a little about your background – story?
AJ: I went through a lot – the biggest distraction I ever had was living the gang life and not being able to connect with my parents. Not having their support and growing up in the gang life was the big distraction: distraction from school, distraction from getting jobs, and distraction from living the way I wanted to live. That was my biggest problem.
I’m where I am today and did all these things without my parents, even though I wish I had their support. I’m still doing what I need to do without them. I just had me. I decided to go back to school. I decided to get my diploma. I decided to stop doing what I was doing. All those things together could have cost me my life or a lot of time in prison.
REDF: What’s the one thing you want people to know about you?
AJ: I would definitely want people to know that I’m a fighter. I’m a young individual who went through obstacles, and all these things, who is now going on to a bigger position and bigger things in life. I want people to see that. You don’t just come through these doors to get a job. You come through these doors and do bigger and better things than you never even thought of. Things you didn’t even know were possible. And that’s where I’m going. This is way more than a job.