Johnnie Jackson grew up in Marion, Ohio, and like many young people left for college at 18. While at the University of Findlay, getting his BS and Masters in Business/Marketing/Finance, he would come home each summer. In his twenties, he moved to South Korea and traveled the world, visiting fifteen countries. For many young people that means never returning home except for an occasional visit, but for Johnnie Marion, Ohio beckoned him back, returning in 2017.
Since that return, Johnnie has been marking his mark on the Marion community, wanting it to be a better community. He has been inspired by family members, teachers, coaches, friends, and his church. Each of them playing an important role for this path today.
His father, John E. Jackson, a very spiritual college-educated man, struggled with addiction and incarceration. He moved Johnnie to be community-minded in his endeavors. His mother, Etesta L. Hudson, a witty community mother, and grandmother, inspires him with her jokes and commitment to people in the struggle. While incarcerated, she received her GED and other certificates that rerouted her life as a woman, mother, and community member. “Both my parents taught me a lot about the will to change myself and therefore change your community,” shared Jackson.
Johnnie’s grandparents, as a result of his parents’ incarcerations, raised him and as well as encouraged Johnnie. Both sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles shared the family’s history and stories, creating a past Johnnie could pull from to create his future. Johnnie recently lost his grandfather, the last of his grandparents alive to COVID-19. He hopes to create a public herbal healing garden at his grandfather’s home in Lima. He also has three brothers – Ryan Heath, Carlos Rogers, and Orlando Rogers and two sisters- Korea and Sherea Rogers most who still live in Marion.
Members of Christ Missionary Baptist Church also moved Johnnie Jackson to better things. His grandmother Willie Ree Goodman sang in the choir. “Even the blades of grass outside stood up when she sang. I am forever grateful for her and the members of that church for giving me the strength of community, love, and radical Black experiences.”
His best friend since childhood, Branson Stinson, inspired him to reach for the stars. They nicknamed each other Marcus Garvey and Malcolm after their favorite African American historical figures.
Johnnie went to school at Olney Elementary School, Edison Middle School, and Harding High School. While at middle school Mrs. Karen Clabaugh, his English teacher, inspired him in the arts, including writing and poetry. She taught Shakespeare, often a dry subject, using modern techniques, like rap, to connect to her students. As Johnnie shared, “That has kept with me throughout my life.” Mr. Jerome Bohanna, Jackson’s track coach in high school and teacher, showed him the importance of work ethic and community dedication. Today, Johnnie Jackson is the education field, serving as Marion City School’s Diversity and Equity Supervisor, which he attributes to the inspiration given by Clabaugh and Bohanna.
In this position, his work can range widely from working with students to assisting teachers and administrators. One project he is involved in is racial literacy. This summer he started a social justice book club to help educators and parents develop racial literacy.
He is passionate about redeveloping a project once called Growing Our Own. The project focuses on creating the next generation of African American educators in Marion City Schools. Kathleen Clemons-Keller and La’Vista Jones are leading this project and redeveloping its future.
Johnnie is involved with the Marion Voices, a county-wide oral history, and folklife project to capture stories from Marion’s recent past that represent its cultural heritages. Focus now is on oral histories from Marion’s Black communities, concentrating on Marion County, from 1960s-now. This project includes three exhibits to be in the community and the Marion County Historical Society.
Johnnie has various goals for the community he calls home. He would love to help develop four community centers in each of Marion’s North, South, East, and West neighborhoods. Next, he would love to host a series of “Brave Brunches” encouraging the community to discuss issues like social judgement and civic engagement. Finally, he hopes to have in the next year a Marion Black History Bicycle Tour, to allow people to learn more about Marion’s Black History while discovering the beauty of our community.
Johnnie Jackson is passionate about Marion. It will be exciting to see his future in the place he is proud to call home.