Fortune is an operative word for D. John Jackson. Not in the sense that you may be readily familiar with. But, for the corporate executive of a Fortune 50 — a company with the best long-term growth potential on a scale of one to 50 — who is also a global speaker, author and executive film producer with a background in data science, engineering, strategic planning and artificial intelligence, his fortune is comes in an overflowing cup poured by his great parents, by having an enviable career in Corporate America and being a humanitarian.
Unfortunate circumstances, the world’s reckoning with toxicants that is killing Black people disproportionately —racial and social injustice— has really made his new book, What About Me: Walking the Tightrope as a Black Man in America, necessary and proper reading for our culture and ultimately unification. And, the eponymous film streaming on Amazon Prime is required viewing.
The book and film’s title not only serves as a great metaphor for how Jackson navigates and traverses along his successful career path, it spurs critical thinking and interest.
What About Me: Walking the Tightrope as a Black Man in America provides positive messages and examples of hope for fatherless and mentor less Black men and boys. And, it gives examples and answers to the curious outside our race about their roles as deniers and being complicit.
Read his interview here.
Where did you first get the idea for What About Me: Walking the Tightrope as a Black Man in America?
The idea for a book has been inside me from a very early age—six. About 15 years ago, I really started to think about my parents’ teachings and my life experiences, complemented by a desire to give back. The feelings compelled me to walk in my purpose by talking and writing about my life to help others.
I always knew that I wanted to pour into the world the teachings my mother, father and grandparents poured into me pertaining to respect for fellow human beings and how we treat people. But, I wanted to do more on a larger scale and on a larger stage to reach as many people as possible of all races.
Particularly, Black men and boys due to the many challenges they face daily. I also wanted to share aspects of my life and journey to be able to help others experiencing similar situations I was experiencing. Through my stories and lessons, I want to educate, encourage and inspire people while extolling the virtues of coming together as brothers and sisters to make this world a better place.
How did you decide that now was the right time to write a book?
There are a combination of factors that contributed to the timing of my book. What I have seen and accomplished in my career. This stage of my life has afforded me such phenomenal experiences and wisdom. The current state of our society and the social ills we are facing with race, class, racism, diversity, equity and inclusion. Feedback from various audiences over the last several years on the positive and transformative impact my speeches and words have had on individuals’ lives. Many had asked me to right these words down for all to see. There was also an intense, pulsating internal feeling saying “Now Is The Time.” And finally, it all just felt right!
What are three things about you that would surprise us?
1. I have traveled all over the world and been extremely interested in global economics.
2. I am a student of world history, American history and in particular histories surrounding World War II and the atrocities committed during that conflict.
3. I am a futurist that looks at technological trends impacting markets, consumers and global economics.
Did you plan which important issues you would deal with in this book?
Yes. It was important for me to hone in on the human aspect of who we are. Respect and dignity are fundamental to our existence here on earth and I talk about that initially which leads to a discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion. I start off targeting my audience to Black men and boys. But, you will see as you move through the book, it is a book for all people, covering respect, leadership, trust, courage, inspiration, perseverance, encouragement and motivation.
Did you choose to include those as a means of getting closure?
I chose these topics because I experienced all these things on my tightrope, hence the title, Walking on the Tightrope. The book is about my constant balancing act through many circumstances in life that have major consequences. The book was a form of emotional, spiritual and physical release for things I had seen, heard, felt, experienced and lived through to survive.
Are you seeking to be, or feel, understood by readers of your book? Or, is exploring what you wanted to and putting it out in the world enough?
Not only do I want to pour my thoughts into the world. That isn’t enough. I want to invoke a certain visceral feeling in all who read my book to think introspectively, then spread the word about the content, go learn more objectively, then go take action to make this a better world for all people, especially for those who are underrepresented, marginalized, unheard, unseen, and experiencing all kinds of challenges from systems designed to ensure their failure.
How do you see the balance between being really honest and vulnerable in your storytelling, versus needing to have boundaries for your own sake?
It is truly a tightrope experience. Balancing being totally honest, vulnerable, open, authentic, engaging and genuine, while ensuring self-preservation, integrity and prudence and ensuring the message is impactful and easily understood, takes an amazing amount of care, concern and agility. So, again, it is a tightrope experience.
Is there a book you’ve that changed your life? What is the title?
Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? by Louis V. Gerstner Jr.
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Is there a book that you have read over and over? What is the title?
The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson
What is the last thing that made you laugh?
What is your favorite movie adaptation of a book?
Imitation of Life’s 1959 version with Lana Turner, which deals with race, class and gender
Did you ever read a periodical, book or magazine, in secret?
Yes. As a child, I always had encyclopedias or magazines in the bed with me as my curiosity and passion for learning started at a very early age.
What is your writing process?
I pretty much follow the recursive process of prewriting, drafting, revising and editing with one twist. So, before the prewriting process, I spend hours mentally framing. Next, I dissect stories in my head while constructing themes and mental correlations from everyday life. This also includes deep meditation.
Which social causes do you champion?
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Social Change
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
What is a snack you couldn’t write without?
Bottled water and some form of chocolate.