LifestyleRobert Jackson's journey from adversity to triumph in media

Robert Jackson’s journey from adversity to triumph in media

Robert Jackson has overcome many trials on his road to triumph. In an inspiring documentary seen on Voice of America Africa’s YouTube page, “Frame of Hope,” offers a raw portrayal of Jackson’s unwavering determination to defy the odds and carve out a path to success in a predominantly white and competitive media industry. 

“There’s always obstacles that [white people] put up. They say it’s not racism, they say ’[Black people] are just not smart enough or they just don’t have what it takes,’” Jackson told The Informer, referencing the obstacles he was up against in the ’70s before becoming a success story. 

In the film, Jackson also reflects upon the difficulties he faced, such as growing up with a single mother who was always occupied with work, having dyslexia and receiving an education in the  D.C. school system, which lacked necessary resources to help him actualize his dreams. 

Eventually, Jackson joined the U.S. Navy but was medically discharged. Determined to make something of his life, Jackson enrolled at American University, where he studied visual media and audio technology.

While he describes himself as a “private person” who likes to control the flow of information, Jackson said sharing his story can help others.

“The reason I think it’s important to share a story like mine is because you never know whom that can affect, whom it can touch, whom it resonates with,” Jackson told The Informer. “I’m going to be opened up for criticism and judgment, but at the same time, I think I’m a lot more than where I come from.”

Throughout the unfolding story of Jackson, viewers learn that he briefly grapples with drug addiction, but despite that struggle, he beat back his addiction and became a success.

As the narrative unfolds, viewers are also given a firsthand look at Jackson’s pivotal moments, including his breakthrough opportunity at Black Entertainment Television (BET), where in 1989, he landed a role as director of audio operations, receiving mentorship from co-founder Robert “Bob” Johnson. 

“I credit that job as giving me the opportunity to learn a lot,” Jackson explains in the documentary. “Bob Johnson, who was one of my mentors in life, kind of took me under his wing and gave me opportunities and gave me the exposure that I think helped me to get to where I am today.”

From BET to an operations technical manager at NBC News in 2001 to overseeing the “Today” show and NBC’s “Meet the Press” among others, Jackson has had quite the career in media.

Through interviews with former colleagues, family and industry insiders, “Frame of Hope” offers poignant insights into Jackson’s contribution to media, highlighting his humility, resilience and unwavering passion for amplifying diverse voices and narratives within the media landscape.

“Robert takes any and everybody who works for him under [his wing] and he would talk to you…on your level,” Helena Johnson, a former co-worker and mentee of Jackson at BET and NPR, said in the documentary. “A lot of people will talk to you with a lot of technical jargon and he would meet you where you are.”

Inspiring Others Through the Arts

After grappling with his own challenges, Jackson started a nonprofit called B-roll Media and Arts, which focuses on teaching students with learning disabilities how to navigate the media landscape and learn technical media-related skills.

Jackson stated that his non-profit organization aims to empower students to develop confidence and vulnerability in various settings without perceiving themselves as intellectually inferior or subjected to ridicule and judgment.

His non-profit helped a young man from Congo, Simms Lumami, navigate the media industry after being fired from BET due to a language barrier – a job Jackson helped him get.

Simms Lumami stands outside of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. (Eden Harris/The Washington Informer)
“Robert didn’t give up on me; he gave me other opportunities that didn’t require me to talk too much, like editing, shadowing him during event production,” Simms told The Informer.

Jackson explained why helping out Simms was important beyond just career opportunities. 

” I think that in order for both Africans and Black Americans to excel in [America], we have to unite and work as one opposed to this divide that is between the two,” Jackson explained.

Years later, Lumami now works as an executive producer at Voice of America Africa and directed and produced “Frame of Hope.”      

Lumami said it was a challenge getting Jackson to say yes to doing the documentary because he was conservative about his past. However, Lumami was determined to tell Jackson’s story, which has served as inspiration to him and a reminder to persevere, despite odds.

“I was attracted to his story because he had a lot of challenges growing up with a single mother, he was dyslexic, he couldn’t read or learn like everyone around [him],” Lumami said. “So every time I was having problems moving forward, I was remembering Robert’s story, and Robert’s story was giving me strength to be who I am today.”

If it weren’t for Jackson, Lumami isn’t sure where he’d be.

“My parents are back in [Africa]; if [I] didn’t have Robert in the U.S., I don’t know if I would be talking to you right now,” he added.

“Frame of Hope” is currently available to watch on Voice of America Africa’s YouTube channel.

Source: Washington Informer

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