Shelton Jackson was and will always be remembered as a man of compassion, an agent of change and a loving father. Shelton was a gifted author and an incredible advocate. The words Shelton wrote had a deep and meaningful personal impact on the lives of many people, including my own. After finding out I was HIV positive, I found myself confused, angry and feeling lost. I felt the deep pains of being HIV positive and yet could not find the words to express my feelings. I was introduced to an incredible author, Shelton Jackson, and The Second Chapter: Acceptance and The Dawn of a New Day. The words on the pages provided a sense of relief for what seemed like an overwhelming situation. His poems filled my mind and my heart and was like music to my ears.
Shelton Jackson brought a smile to everyone around him. His sense of humor and ability to make any situation better were always welcomed relief. I remember sharing an RV and being horribly afraid to use the restroom in the woods late at night. There was no fear because Shelton brought a machete for protection. He wasn't a fan of camping -- obviously. He patiently waited while I used the restroom and then escorted me back to the RV under the light of the moon. This was a symbolic gesture and a testament to his personality. It was clear that he loved and protected those he cared for.
I learned much from Shelton. He was a man that deeply and fully committed to those he loved and his life. I learned his story shortly after meeting him and found myself laughing, crying and feeling inspired. His story was filled with love, pain, struggles and dreams. A man that could have been defeated, was so determined to show the world that it is not what our challenges are, it is how we respond that shows who we are. He was a man that lived, laughed and loved harder and more deeply than anyone I know.
Shelton Jackson was a speaker with Hope's Voice International and his story was one of triumph and the need to never regret but to move forward. He would share his story with students and I remember watching them react with a sense of compassion that they had never felt. They were connected and inspired to make a difference in their own life and the lives of others. He was a man that was determined to not let this disease define him, but defined the disease. His story and words touched countless young people and though we will never know the number of young people who's lives have been saved by his work, I am confident that he has saved many.
It is hard to comprehend this loss and I am angry that he is gone far too soon. I know that Shelton's faith and trust in God was a driving force for the person he was. As young people, we must never tolerate or accept that the way it is, is acceptable and that we can simply be content. Shelton was a man that always believed that we could make things better and was committed to living his life by example.
Shelton will be missed, remembered and never be forgotten. It was truly an honor to know and work with a man that educated, inspired and gave hope to so many, including myself. In honor of Shelton's life let us all take a moment to recognize the work ahead and share our love with those around us. You will be missed my friend.
Shelton is survived by his mother, Lyndale Jackson; his brother, Raheem Jackson; his maternal grandmother, Barbara Williams; his paternal grandmother, Georgia Jackson; three sons (Charles Tyson, Richard Keller, Charles LaMont); his best friend, Ming McCall; and a host of cousins, aunts, and uncles. For more information on his work and to order The Second Chapter: Acceptance and/or The Dawn of a New Day, please visit www.sheltonjackson.com.
Funeral services will be held this Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 9am at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, 401 Avon Avenue, Newark NJ 07108. The service is open to the public.
Donations, flowers, and cards can be made to:
Shelton S. Jackson Memorial Fund
c/o African American Office of Gay Concerns
877 Broad Street, Suite 211
Newark, NJ 07102
AAOGC is a 501 c 3 non-profit organizations and all donations are tax deductible. To contribute to the memorial fund online, simply go to the website. Scroll down on the menu that's on the homepage and find "Online Donations." That will take you to our PayPal page and just follow the instructions. No codes or passwords are needed.