Doris Jackson, a quiet grandmotherly champion of the downtrodden, known in Mamaroneck’s Washingtonville neighborhood as Mother Jackson, will receive the 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award as an individual who embodies the ideals of the historic civil rights leader. The award will be presented at the 23rd annual program celebrating Dr. King’s memory to be held 7:30 pm, January 13th, at the Emelin Theater.
Ms. Jackson was chosen, in large part, because of her work in bringing together members of the local African-American and Hispanic communities in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood championed by Dr. King, explained Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe, co-coordinator for the event with Larchmont Village Trustee Anne McAndrews.
The volunteer-run Tri-municipal Human Rights Committee, which is hosting the event, made selections after first soliciting nominations from the community. A second award, for an organization, will go to the now-international movement, Kids For World Health, which was started in 2001 by 3rd graders at Chatsworth School, guided by their teacher, Kay Kobbe. The original founders, who are still working for the cause as seniors in the Mamaroneck High School, will accept the award on behalf of the organization.
Kids for World Health now has 13 chapters, including one in each Mamaroneck school as well as others in France and Nigeria. One of their accomplishments is the establishment of five pediatric clinics, two in Sudan and one each in Tanzania, Uganda and Chad.
Mother Jackson’s Story
Mother Jackson was born in New Brunswick, N.J. Her father was a construction worker, her mother a housewife. As a child she loved to sing and dance. “I still do,” the 65-year old activist said. She performed at various events and was in the company of James Brown and Little Anthony, then well known performers.
As an adult she realized she loved to cook and was good at it. She raised two daughters and a son as a single parent, supporting the family for 27 years as manager of baked goods and delicatessen at A&P stores in Mamaroneck and New Rochelle. She retired in 1992 after an accident. Though she now lives in Larchmont, she spends much of her time in Mamaroneck, where her daughter, a son and grandchildren live and where she is an active member of Victory Temple Pentecostal Church. Equally important, it is in Mamaroneck where “there are many people I need to help,” she explained.
Mariana Boneo, former executive director of the Hispanic Resource Center (HRC), told of getting to know the community activist in 2007 while Mother Jackson was seeking help for her church damaged in the floods. “She introduced me to many in the Washingtonville community and also showed tremendous interest in the work of HRC and its advocacy for the day laborers,” said Ms. Boneo. “HRC was in the process of opening a worker center and dealing with tremendous resistance from many of its Washingtonville neighbors.
“I was very touched by her taking a stand at a time when befriending our organization and its members was not a popular thing to do. While many protested outside the Worker Center, Mother Jackson came to visit, and brought friends and family to meet us. Thanksgiving was close and both HRC’s staff and Mother Jackson felt it would be a good idea to celebrate Thanksgiving together and share our culinary cultures. She brought turkeys for the Worker Center members and enjoyed a community meal with all as neighbors and friends.
“She helped us build the bridge that the HRC mission intended,” continued Ms. Boneo. “She extended a helping hand in understanding and also shared history and experiences that helped us understand.”
Others who nominated Mother Jackson for the award noted:
- She will go from door to door to get donations to help with different community events and to help some people with their personal financial needs.
- She has even spent money of her own to make sure children have Easter baskets, Christmas toys and school supplies.
- She often visits the sick and sheltered and sends letters of comfort to those who have lost their way, hoping to help them come back to the community in a more positive way.
- She and her family have provided….a place and food for people who are….dealing with burying a loved one and financially have no resources. She finds a way to make sure this is one thing you don’t have to worry about.
- She is always willing to put others before herself.
The Story of Kids for World Health
Kids for World Health began with a group of eight-year-olds becoming horrified when they learned in class about the huge numbers of people dying unnecessarily from illnesses, such as sleeping sickness, where treatment exists but is unavailable in the world’s poorer countries.
As the group developed, they decided that their mission was three-fold: to provide education about neglected diseases, to raise funds to support specific assistance, and to expand their membership
In the intervening years they have made presentations to Laura Bush at the White House and before national legislators such as Representative Nita Lowey and then Senator Hillary Clinton. They have had press conferences and TV appearances. They have published educational material which they have distributed in African villages. They have sponsored workshops for doctors and other medical personnel in diagnostics, construction of hospital kitchens and other facilities, in the procurement of laboratory equipment and in research for new and more effective medicines.
Harold Wolfson is a past recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award