Culture | March 9th, 2018
Coming of Age: In Conversation with SGA President-Elect David Jackson III
By: Karlyn Sykes
In 6th grade, David Jackson didn’t make the basketball team. “I got cut. Came back seventh grade, got cut. Came back eighth grade, got cut again,” Jackson reminisced chuckling through the sensitive memory. “So, now it’s time for high school and I said ‘You know, I’m not going to get cut this year.’ I worked my butt off, worked out every day.”
Unfortunately, Jackson was met with a similar fate. He was cut yet again from the 9th grade basketball team.
But that didn’t stop him.
“I made the team my 10th grade year, and after that I said I would never play basketball again,” he joked breaking momentarily from his professional exterior.
That experience, though severely humbling, reflected a determination in Jackson. It is a quality that has proved critical in seating him at the most powerful student position at Florida A&M University: Student Government Association President.
Despite his K-12 basketball career, upon arriving at the university in Fall of 2016 Jackson appears to be exempt from taking L’s. His freshman year, Jackson ran for the Student Senate and won first chair by an overwhelming margin. In Spring of 2017, he became a member of the Beta Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and less than a year later he has won SGA President alongside his Vice-President Robyn Seniors.
“I never really planned on being in SGA when I got here…I didn’t know too much about it and I wanted to be involved. I wanted to help people and I felt like that was the right route to go,” Jackson said. “SGA is a part of what I do but I’m very involved on campus. I’m a peer mentor, I’m in NCFO, so I’ve tried to involve myself in different sects around campus so not as to define myself by one thing that I do.”
Jackson joins a legacy of family members who have attend FAMU. His parents met while attending the university, his father, David Jackson II, is a also a member of the Beta Nu chapter and he currently serves as the Associate Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate College.
Admittedly, Jackson seems like the perfect SGA candidate. Sitting before me I too struggle with separating the politics from the person. From an outsider’s perspective he can seem a little too put together: a legacy kid with great talking points, a perfectly pressed suit who appears to have been on the trajectory to take over “The Hill” since he set foot on it.
“A lot of people will say that I feel entitled to this position or its been set up for me to be in this position, but had I not won I would have proceeded on with my life. I wouldn’t have tried to appeal elections. I think that just shows my character,” Jackson adds. “I’m cut and dry and I’m really doing this for the university and to be able to serve the student body. All the extra stuff, appealing elections and impeachment, I’m not really here for that. I’m here for the grind. I’m here for the work.”
Even so, Jackson still has had his doubters. Among his major critiques was his youth and the fact that he chose his childhood neighbor FAMU 21 student Robyn Seniors, a freshmen Business Administration student, to run with him on the ticket.
“I feel like that’s a natural concern or worry about people’s age. They also said the same thing about President Obama when he ran in ’08. But, I believe firmly in myself and what we can accomplish at FAMU. Age is just a number and maturity is not defined by your age,” Seniors argued.
Seniors touts an impressive resume having served in leading positions in student politics throughout her primary education and even interning at both the Capitol and in D.C. In the student senate she has also passed the most bills of any senator in the 2017-18 school year making Jackson’s choice a bit less surprising.
“I don’t think it’s an irrational concern at all, but I think they’ll happily be proven wrong when they see what we set out to accomplish,” Seniors finished.
Even as his best friend, line brother, former roommate and fellow senator Jabari Knox, a sophomore Civil Engineering student from Chicago, IL, was among the skeptics when Jackson revealed his intentions of running.
“At first, I wasn’t really for it. A freshmen and a sophomore running that’s pretty wild. That just doesn’t happen, it’s never happened,” Knox expressed.
In spite of his initial concerns, Knox still believes that to say that David and his running mate were incapable or unfit for the job would be a stretch of the truth.
“David has common sense but he also has the common touch. He has a very caring heart and he’s not going to do anything radical. He understands that he can’t change the world, but he knows that he can do as much as possible. The things he talks about in his platform points are all things that can be changed…it’s the small stuff that can make a big impact,” Knox added.
In the year ahead the Jackson-Seniors administration aims to tackle several aspects of student life. From restarting the campus safety initiative jointly with FAMU PD to authorizing more spirit buses to support athletic away games, Jackson has set the bar exceedingly.
Yet, in spite of all the naysayers and the people waiting patiently for him to miss a beat, interestingly enough Jackson is his own worst critic. More so than any @famuelectiontea page could ever muster.
“I hold myself to a high standard so yeah I can be pretty hard on myself sometimes. Sometimes it can hold be back from doing things. My freshman year I wasn’t going to run for the Senate, I probably decided at the last minute just because I was thinking, ‘what are people going to say about this?’ ‘what are people going to do?’ But lately I’ve just been disregarding that whole notion and moving with my own wave regardless of what people think about it,” Jackson added.
Jackson reinforces this idea that everything he has run for, everything he has accomplished is strictly on his own merit. The perceptions that he came here on a mission to be anything more than himself or to meet some marks is strictly that: an individual point of view.
“I’m just a regular student like each and every one of the people at FAMU. Really anyone can run for the position,” Jackson said.
The Beta Nu Factory for Campus Faces is a myth both Knox and Jackson ardently try to dispel as well, “There’s this stigma on us as Alpha’s that we just want to run everything just to do it, but honestly that has nothing to do with it. Regardless of these stigmas we have on us, I don’t think that should stop me from trying to help people and make a difference on this campus,” Jackson adds.
SGA President David Jackson III is put-together. He’s as comfortable in his suit as he is as in himself and his intentions. Only two years into his time as a Rattler he has adopted many labels, yet doesn’t allow them to define his true character, one that an onlooker may find difficult to assert upon impact.
But being one of his closest friends, Knox contests with those presumptions, “He’s extremely goofy, he has one of the weirdest laughs ever. He’ll make any bad situation funny,” Knox added.
Unfortunately there aren’t many surprises with Jackson. Other than his quieted love for One-Punch Man and a questionable shooting average, he is yet another hardworking student whose hobbies include service and dedicating most of his time toward bettering his university.
“There’s work to be done. This next whole year I’m dedicating that to the students, to working, to accomplishing things for the student body, to elevating the university. Well maybe after that I’ll take a…” he trails off. Looking up at the ceiling as if planning out the next five years of his life in his head. After a moment he’s brought back to reality, “Well I don’t know man, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get some time to myself,” he said smiling at this realization.
Jackson is a man on a mission, and he shows no signs of letting up.