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Cle Jackson: Q&A on 2017/18 in Grand Rapids

  As 2017 wraps up, WGVU’s Mariano Avila asked four questions of four West Michigan leaders working with our most vulnerable communities. Here is his interview with Cle Jackson.

[Mariano Avila] Cle Jackson is the president of the NAACP in Grand Rapids. He is generally out in the community, especially when serious issues between police and black community members arise. I sit at his Hall-Street office in a more casual if pretty busy morning and ask him what changed in 2017.

[CJ] “We relaunched our youth council. They’re a dynamic group of young people. And at our annual dinner this year, I actually announced that our focus from 2018-2020 will be youth empowerment and engagement.”

[MA] “What are you thankful for?”

[CJ] “Family and their willingness and ability to allow me to do the work that I do and to take the time away from them, with respect to doing this community engagement stuff, because it’s hard work.”

[MA] “What do you hope to see change in 2018?”

[CJ] “I hope people will get more revolutionary. And that could be as simple as attending school-board meetings, city council meetings, county commission meetings, writing your congressional representatives or your state representatives on issues and expressing your opinions on those issues.”

[MA] “What is your general message to Grand Rapids?”

[CJ] “We need to see the humanity in others that we see in ourselves. From the very beginning, when we are interacting with individuals—regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation. We need to operate in a vein of love.”

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.