A North Richmond tribute to the man, the ‘Fred Jackson Way’
on September 16, 2011
As one of the dozens of buoyant well-wishers put it Thursday night, these services didn’t have the feel of a funeral – there was too much joy in the room.
Still, Fred Jackson’s body lay in repose beneath the vaulted ceilings of North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church. More than 200 of those he touched were there to see him off.
“Fred has received his crown of righteousness,” said A.J. Jelani, one of more than 35 people who spoke on behalf of one of Richmond’s most cherished men.
Jackson, 73, died Sept. 8 at the Vale Healthcare Center in San Pablo after a long battle with cancer.
The services at North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church, one of the Bay Area’s oldest and most respected congregations, drew a crowd of residents and dignitaries, virtually all people who had been touched by the exalted local activist, artist and humanitarian.
Jackson rode into the tiny community of North Richmond, where he had worked and built relationships since his family came to the region in 1950, in a white hearse and to a heartfelt reception.
The service ran from 6-9 p.m. Thursday at the church that sits on Fred Jackson Way – “not street, Fred Jackson Way,” a notable double entendre of which County Supervisor John Gioia reminded the crowd. The street was renamed this year in honor of the community leader in an instance of cooperation between city and county officials. Fittingly, the street bridges a border that divides city and county boundaries that run through North Richmond. Another service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Municipal Auditorium at City Hall to say farewell to Jackson.
The odes ran past the allotted two hours, and the interludes were filled by bluesy song, some of which was penned by Jackson himself.
Among the words spoken Thursday:
“Whatever he has done still stays with us, and goes on and on and on …” Dorothy Stanton, facilitator of Thursday’s service.
“Fred knew all too well that street violence is rooted in the injustices and inequities of our society,” Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
“It was their love and their support that kept Fred going,” County Supervisor John Gioia, on the Jackson’s family.
“Whatever you needed, Fred would give,” Corrine Sain, friend.
“God gave Fred a more challenging job,” Councilman Tom Butt, on Jackson’s special role, which he said was a more profound legacy than that any local government official has.
“Get yourself checked out. We are men, but you need to go to the doctor to get yourself checked,” Jerrold Hatchett, community activist, on the message that Jackson passed on to him as he battled cancer.
“Honey, when you love like Fred, you can get hugs like Fred,” Eduardo Martinez, resident, recalling what a woman told him when he asked why Jackson got hugs from everyone at a community event where Martinez received mostly handshakes.
“It did me some good to see Fred smile,” Jackie Thompson, chief of staff to Councilmember Corky Booze, on seeing Jackson smile during a visit with him at the hospital.
“Every time I open my laptop, I see him,” Rhonda Harris, resident, on how a photo of Jackson inspires her.
“Because of Fred, I wanted to help somebody,” Robert Dillon, friend, on Jackson’s influence on him as a young man.
The service was punctuated with music, much of which was written by Jackson. Jackson’s friend, Flokey Vanhoon, was one of the artists who swayed and intoned in the bluesy, melancholy rhythms of the Mississippi bayou from which the Jackson family came.
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| Other RichmondConfidential coverage of Fred Jackson
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“Our loss is Heaven’s gain” was another one that stuck with me. Glad you got a photo of Jackie singing to Fred.
Yes, that was a memorable and beautiful one too, Felix. Thank you for reading and responding. It was a lovely event.