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The student news site of Milwaukee Area Technical College

MATC Times

The student news site of Milwaukee Area Technical College

MATC Times

The student news site of Milwaukee Area Technical College

MATC Times

One person refusing to quit

A Flashback Feature
Chawona Jackson, Vice President for West Campus Student Senate, at a Senate meeting. Shes had to overcome many years of adversity.
Photo by Alexis Scheel
Chawona Jackson, Vice President for West Campus Student Senate, at a Senate meeting. She’s had to overcome many years of adversity.

This feature story was originally published on February 5, 2009. (There have been minor edits to the original story.)

Any person who states that she was robbed at gun point just days after having emergency surgery and had the day end with losing almost everything in an apartment fire, and calls that just the tip of their life story, is an interesting person. Meet Chawona Jackson.

Jackson was born in Chicago to “a drug-addicted mother and an alcoholic father,” she said. Jackson explained that although she is in school now, studying anesthesia technology, and is the Vice President of the Student Senate at the West Allis Campus, it has been a long journey that has gotten her to this place.

Jackson said that her parents were not married, and she spent the first nine years of her life primarily with her mom. She also stated that although her mother had a job as a legal secretary, she continued to use drugs regularly.

Jackson said that her mom used to beat her, and she signed away her parental rights after the school reported abuse. She describes her mom “whipping” her hand with a flat-heeled shoe to the point of it looking like a “baseball glove.” Someone told her that “one more hit, and my hand would have been broken,” she said.

Jackson said that she went to live with her father. Although she witnessed her father beating her mother, she still “was excited to live with him.” Jackson explained that she thought it would be “fun” because she was an only child with her mother, and her father’s girlfriend had three children. But it “ended up being a nightmare,” she said.

Jackson said her father was abusive to her, adding he would take his anger out on her by calling her names, never letting her forget past mistakes and even beating her. She expressed that if the other kids did something wrong “he wasn’t allowed to whip them, so he took it out on me.”

Although she tried to run away to her grandmother’s house, she said she would get sent back because her mom was living there and had given up her rights.

Jackson explained that the cost of running away was for her to remove her clothing and be beaten with a brown extension cord.

She said her father abused her often, including making her stand on one leg and hold her arms out “like an airplane and bend my leg.” Jackson stated if her arms fell or her leg drooped, her father would beat her with an extension cord – wherever it would land. “Being a kid was not an option,” she said. She still has scars on her body from when her father threw her into a wall and hit her with the cord.

Not too long after this, Jackson said her cousin molested her. Even though she told, “Everybody said I was lying,” she said. After walking in on her mom “tooting” cocaine, which hurt her, it all became too much for her, and she said she joined a gang.

As a member of the Black Gangsters Disciples (or BGD), she sold drugs, she said. However, it wasn’t until she stole drugs from a gang member that her mother made any attempts to get her out of the gang lifestyle, Jackson said. Jackson was attracted to this guy, but he pointed her out to get a beating during “gang initiation week,” she said. So, she stole $1,500 worth of drugs, selling them for only $300 because she “wanted to hurt him,” she added.

Jackson said her mother moved her to Milwaukee and into the Hope House, a family shelter on 2nd and Orchard Streets. About a month later, she and her mom moved into their own place, she stated. Adding that on that day, Jackson’s mom bought her McDonald’s, told her to stay in her room, and gave her a bucket to use, and she closed the door, Jackson explained.

However, Jackson snuck out of her room, only to find her mom “smoking crack, playing cards, and drinking beer,” she said. The attempt at a better life didn’t work for either of them, Jackson said.

During her teenage years, she spent time in and out of detention, as well as many group homes, including New Beginnings and Pathfinders, Jackson said. However, it wasn’t until she was pregnant with her first child that Jackson tried to make changes in her life, she explained. Although she was sick and had to stay with her mom for some of time, because of her mom’s drug use, she did move out, Jackson said. She eventually got her own place after staying at the Hope House, Jackson stated.

Jackson explained that she did live with her boyfriend, and the father of her baby, for a little while, but he became abusive. She did get her GED by age 20, and then worked a few odd jobs, she said.

However, life wasn’t done with her yet. Jackson said she had gotten pregnant again by the same guy. Sadly, during the ultrasound she was told her little boy was missing his kidneys and bladder, she sighed. Jackson explained she was afraid of getting an infection, so she decided to have labor induced during her fifth month of pregnancy. She said this was a “tough decision” but she was concerned she could die, leaving no one to raise her daughter the “right way,” so she did what she felt she had to do.

Her little boy was born still alive, and was so small that he fit right in her hand, she said. She said she prayed and told him “Mommy will never forget you.” Jackson said she held him as he breathed his last breath, and she refused to let him go until she was leaving the hospital.

Jackson said she had a small funeral for her son. Carrying a casket only ten inches long, she laid it “flat on the ground, then laid the casket in the ground myself,” she explained. “It was the worst hurt experienced throughout my life.” Even to this day, she still has the hat and blanket, and his little hand and foot prints that she got from the hospital.

Jackson said she soon returned to running with gangs and dealing drugs because she had no support from her family. Jackson stated that she had spent time in shelters and had another child, which was planned. However, everything was getting “out of control,” she said.

Jackson stated she did try to keep her children away from the drug world by having them stay with grandparents. When they were home she would “close shop,” she said. Jackson admitted she didn’t use any hard drugs herself because she saw what it did to her mom.

Soon, it became too much for her, so she started going to Power of God Church Ministries, Jackson stated. When the opportunity came for her to move to West Allis, which was away from her world, she took it. She wanted to stop selling drugs. Jackson explained, that it “was in my head to start fresh.”

Jackson started working for the pastor of a different church, and soon realized she was living close to MATC, she said. She soon started attending MATC, but again she had adversity. Jackson said that she had to deal with many illnesses while going to college. Even now she has medical issues she contends with daily, she said.

Jackson stated that she had been feeling very sick for two weeks before doctors realized that her appendix had been leaking and was on the verge on rupturing.

About six days after the surgery, she borrowed a neighbor’s car to take some information to her pastor, she said. As she was returning back to the car, she saw a man running down the street, so she moved out of his way, Jackson said, but “then he stopped right in front of me.”

Jackson said the man pulled out a gun and pointed it at her face. She said that he told her to “give it up bitch.” Not knowing what he wanted. she threw the truck keys at him. She said that he responded, “Naw bitch, give me the purse,” which confused her for a second because she doesn’t normally carry a purse. Jackson said that she just threw the purse in the man’s face. She said that it wasn’t until later that night when “it dawned on me I could have been shot.”

While she was telling her mother what had just happened to her earlier that day, she started to see a “light reflecting off the house next door,” Jackson said.

At first she didn’t think much about it, Jackson said, and continued to talk to her mom about what had happened. She had just taken a prescription pain killer, and planned to go to sleep after she got off the phone, Jackson explained, when the light got brighter. Jackson said she soon realized that her house was on fire.

Jackson said she had lost everything made of fabric, from furniture to clothes, yet people would see a smile on her face, which caused them to think she had gone “crazy.”
She explained that she told them that she had been spared from death three times in seven days. Jackson explained that three is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the number seven means completion.

Jackson said that God had not only spared her on that night, but her daughters as well because they were at their father’s.

Since that night, Jackson said she has grown closer to God and thanks Him for everything. She said it has also caused her to look at people with more compassion, because you don’t know what they have gone through, “that day, that week, or their life.”


Jerry O’Sullivan, along with Senate members Chawona Jackson, Lisa Evans and Steve Whitlow came to celebrate fellow Senate member Pastor Ron Madison’s 50th birthday at his church located at 12th and Keefe Streets on January 26. (Alexis Scheel)

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