On July 12th, during the summer edition of GAIN Power’s Black Consultant Series, I sat down with the first ever consultant I had interviewed. I was far more nervous than I had expected – hands shaking, I logged onto our session expecting to find someone successful but out of touch. Instead, I was greeted by the compassionate, down-to-Earth, and mentorship-focused Arkesia.
Arkesia Jackson is a passionate and determined Black consultant whose story about getting started in on-the-ground activism and leadership positions in a college community was incredibly relatable to me. Like many other activists, myself included, it was hearing conversations about what our community needed and a drive to represent their voices that drove her to carve out her path in the political field.
Below are some featured quotes from our interview:
Q: Let’s give Arkesia a hand. Why don’t you tell us all about yourself and what brought you to the work of being a consultant?
A: So my name is Arkesia Jackson, I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin […] and then I left to attend college in South Florida, and had a great old time. But that is where I got involved with student government […] I became the secretary for the student government, as well as the interim secretary for the Black Student Union. That is where I really started getting engaged […] And so when I left Florida, I came back home to Milwaukee and I just wanted to be more engaged in, you know, my hometown. […] And I had the opportunity to connect with the Democratic Party in Wisconsin. Ahat’s where I started volunteering, had opportunities to work on several campaigns. And it allowed me to take a lot of necessary trainings, including Emerge. […] And then I started working for organizations. And having that opportunity to work with different people in different organizations […] [I realized] there was something missing. […] [D]uring that time, I realized that black women, black consultants, black folks […] It’s like we’ll tell you what our community needs […] and it [wouldn’t be] received. Someone else would tell us what our community needs. And you know, it got to a point where it [was] really frustrating. I had great opportunities to work with different organizations that gave me the opportunity not only to learn […] but to also train other people.[…]. But I knew we had a long way to go. And unfortunately, out of frustration, I said, “You know what, I need to stand on my own and be able to represent my community and be confident in what I’m saying to my people.” […] So that is a little bit about me. Thank you.
Q: Thank you so much for sharing. That’s a really inspiring story. And I think that you’ll have a really unique perspective on our next question, which is why is it important to be intentional with the work that you’re doing and how do you personally implement intentionality in what you do on the job?
A: [S]howing up is intentional. Communicating and listening to people, it has to be intentional. You have to have a purpose, it has to be that driven for why you’re doing what you’re doing […]. [T]hat is the key to being able to connect with your community […] to hear what [they are] saying. So you will be able to connect with your community to create the necessary narrative that is needed to help uplift [them].
Q: Has there been anyone throughout your career who you would say has been a mentor or inspiration to you? And why would you say that having people like that is important when doing this work?
A: It is hard work, right? If you enter this hard work […] you forget to eat, you don’t sleep because your brain is just like a bag of popcorn popping off in the microwave with ideas and ideas. So it’s necessary to have that mentor that’s going to keep you level headed, encourage you to take care of yourself, as well as encourage you to write it down. [Say] “Let’s create a strategy behind it.” So my when I first got into this […] I created this nonprofit where we’d bring women together to talk about how they feel when their sons leave the house, and women would come and cry and talk about it. I used to have the opportunity to bring in candidates [and] elected officials to come talk to them. So during that time, it was necessary to have that level headed person. And it started off with a lady named Leticia Minor. She is no longer here with us. But she was the one that read all my ideas, helped me formulate [them] […] [w]hen I didn’t know what I was really doing. I was just so passionate about uplifting my community’s voice and the concerns that we had. […]. She was one person I’d call and she would tell me to take a breath. […] I’m very fortunate that I do have a list of people to support me.
Q: Finally, what are some things that you’re working on right now?
A: Well, here’s the good part. I’m really excited about […] my consulting firm. The actual name is Pope, Associates and Consultants because I’m bringing other people on. So […] the name Pope is named after my grandmother, who’s the matriarch of our family. […] My grandmother was adopted and didn’t know her family. And so I wanted to be able to […] pay it forward. You know, she’s a trailblazer; she did what she had to do with her family and, and she’s very excited [about] what her grandchildren have been able to do. Just recently, we found her family so we’ll be meeting with her family. So I called it Pope and Associates: people over profit every day. […] Right now I’m in the process of working with a young black lady that will be running for Wisconsin, US Senate seat [against] Ron Johnson. So I’m really excited about that.
Q: Would you say that the idea of mutual and community aid inspires you throughout the process of your work? […] I see in your responses, a lot of you trying to help advance other black consultants and black people […] through the work that you do. What role would you say that that plays in your inspiration?
A: The motivation that’s behind all of this […] [is that] building [a] network is so necessary because we always have to pull someone with us, especially within a black community. But I’m fortunate enough that I have been able to build coalitions throughout the state, not only with black women, but also native women, to Latinx women, [and the] LGBTQ community. […] Because right now, we [have] so many communication directors and […] they’re already doing something. So how do we, as a community, get into these public schools and start talking about the future of working with a state party, the future of having a working with a consulting firm, a political consulting firm? It’s so necessary to have those relationships where you’re able to build […] the younger generation up.
Q: Is there any message of inspiration that you would have to anybody coming up in the political field right now?
A: Oh, most definitely. I do want to encourage everyone to have a desire […] to engage with the community and create something […]. Just go for it, try it, write it down, […] then look at it again, and just figure out how to take the first step because there’s going to be many nights where you’re going to want to give up. So I don’t want you to give up at the beginning of this idea. I want you to write it down and start taking one step at a time […]. Start asking questions, start building relationships. And that will take you much farther than not doing anything.
Attached is the link to view our full conversation: https://www.instagram.com/p/CRhnBuxAcId/