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  Goodbye to Fred Jackson
September 17, 2011

A North Richmond tribute to the man, the ‘Fred Jackson Way’

(photo by Robert Rogers)
By: Robert Rogers | September 16, 2011 – 8:28 am

Other RichmondConfidential coverage of Fred Jackson

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 jackson at north richmond missionary
Jackson's casket was open, but the community celebrated his life more than moured his loss. (photo by Robert Rogers)
“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.
jackie thompson and fred jackson
Jackie Thompson, right, says goodbye to her friend Fred Jackson. (photo by Robert Rogers)
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.
john gioia speaks to crowd
Gioia, addressing the crowd, credited Jackson with bringing people together. (photo by Robert Rogers)
“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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Goodbye to you, Fred Jackson

A mourner salutes Fred Jackson, who died of cancer at 73, during the performance of "Taps." Jackson was a military veteran. (photo by Robert Rogers)
By: Robert Rogers | September 16, 2011 – 5:06 pm

Other RichmondConfidential coverage of Fred Jackson

A news report that features Fred Jackson from year 2000.

Fred Jackson’s final send-off was a celebration.
The outpouring of emotion and thanks to one of Richmond’s most revered figures Friday at least matched that of a service the night before in a North Richmond church, but the funeral in the Richmond Municipal Auditorium drew an even larger crowd.
Nearly 400 friends, family, dignitaries and well-wishers turned out for the midday service, which was a medley of love and music and anecdotes that all agreed would have induced Jackson’s trademark wide grin.
“I get chills just thinking about him,” said Congressman George Miller (D-Martinez), who became friends with Jackson over the years while working on countless community projects together. Miller called Jackson a “citizen in the classical sense of the word,” and said his tireless service and relentless prodding held elected officials accountable and pushed them to new heights.
congressman george miller
George Miller delivers remarks about friend and partner Fred Jackson. (photo by Robert Rogers)
“He didn’t cut you much slack,” Miller said, drawing laughs from the crowd. “Oh, he’d tell you about high office.”
Jackson, 73, died Sept. 8 at the Vale Healthcare Center in San Pablo after a long battle with cancer. On Thursday, many of the same people paid tribute to Jackson as his body laid in an open casket in North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church.
On Friday, the City Hall complex came alive with incoming traffic just after 10 a.m. Fire Chief Michael Banks, who attended the services, estimated the crowd to be between 300 and 400 people.
In addition to Miller, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, County Supervisor John Gioia, State Senator Loni Hancock and Councilmembers Corky Booze and Jovanka Beckles were in attendance.
Gioia, who this week posted to his youtube channel a decade-old news clip featuring Jackson, strung together a series of anecdotes about the work of the late community leader. Gioia noted that county and city officials had no trouble agreeing on naming North Richmond’s biggest street after Jackson, “Fred Jackson Way.” And there was something to the name, too.
“It’s Fred Jackson’s ‘Way’ that made a difference in people’s lives,” Gioia said.
Barbara Becnel, who worked with Jackson at Neighborhood House of North Richmond, a historic African-American run social service nonprofit, focused on Jackson’s strength, which she said could be overlooked given his unwavering gentleness.
“Fred was a very powerful man,” Becnel said.
Becnel, who co-authored books with former death-row inmate Stanley “Tookie” Williams, said she grew disillusioned after Williams’ execution in 2006.
“Fred really worked with me for years to get me back,” Becnel said. “My spiritual brother helped me get back on my spiritual path.”
Rev. Raymond Landry said Jackson’s work in the community will live on. Echoing the sentiments of baseball player and humanitarian Jackie Robinson, who famously said that the measure of a life is its impact on other lives, Landry said Jackson packed his 73 years full of service.
“It wasn’t a wasted life,” Landry said.
The event was punctuated with music, including the Jackson-penned song “Chains,” which was performed with power-vocal aplomb by singer Robin Hodge-Williams.
But the story from the start Friday was Jackson and his innumerable acts of service.
Hancock recalled the hunger strike Jackson led in Sacramento in protest of cuts to Contra Costa County schools, calling his exhausting protest at an advanced age “extraordinary.”
Other speakers talked about how Jackson was unafraid to walk the streets anywhere in North Richmond, and felt love everywhere he went. If there was one thing Jackson wasn’t willing to give, it was control over his car stereo – he was very particular about his music.
But in the end, the overall theme that emerged during all the recent celebrations of Jackson’s life has been his ability to bridge differences and bring groups together.
Jackson was always a man for all conditions, his admirers said.
“He knew the foolishness of power, but he also knew the power of kindness,” Miller said.
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