“I’m a certified life coach now”, I said, she replied “So is that another thing you’re doing?” My mom and my family has supported me and my many different endeavours in the best way they know how; and here I was telling my mom that there was one more thing I’d start doing.
I’m an HIV/AIDs and safe sex educator, women’s and LGBT human rights activist, speaker, survivor of sexual violence, and a university student. With all those already on my plate why did I decide to add one more thing to do? My work as an activist though empowering women and the LGBT community, was at a more general, or broader level. However, I realised that individual empowerment could carry this work of activism much further. Indeed, I had been in multiple trainings and workshops where the intent was to empower on a smaller scale, creating multiple change agents. My co-founder of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica and I, decided to make that an important component of the organisation’s work.
I then realised that there was need for more of that individual empowerment, but beyond the scope of human rights activism. I had been observing the world around me, and being a human rights activist for almost 10 years, I began to notice some of the areas of a person’s life that activism and activists - no matter how hard we worked- could impact. Those areas called for a different type of engagement, life coaching. But I hesitated, what did I -only 25 years old- have to offer anyone as a life coach?
I looked at my life, only 25 years and took stock of the experiences I had and the lessons I had learned, I also remembered the countless times from as young as 16, that friends and strangers commented on my knowledge, often saying “you are wise for your years”, or “you are way ahead of the curve. Many people twice your age are just learning the things you are learning now at your age”. It took me a while to see what everyone else saw but when I did it hit like a ton of bricks.
My idea of the purpose of life coaching is reflected in the title I chose for myself - life guidance coach. Many times, we come upon an area of our life or an event, that no matter how resolute we are we need the support of someone who is impartial, and separate from our lives; someone who can see what we can’t see and who can help us to see it. Thus, as a life guidance coach it is my duty and pleasure to help others find the right path and see things clearly, while also being the person who helps to push them over the hill. Because my work has been with women and the LGBT community, I decided to focus my attention on women in our LGBTQ community and our sister allies.
So at the start of 2016 who is Angeline Jackson? I am an HIV/AIDs and safe sex educator, women’s and LGBT human rights activist, speaker, a university student, survivor of sexual violence, certified life Coach, certified NLP practitioner and certified Law of Attraction practitioner.
For the past two years or so, I do a reflection on my birthday (January 23). It is for me a time of reviewing the year that was and seeing what the year to come can bring.
A very good and dear friend while toasting me on a Skype call, asked me if I felt I had accomplished the goals I had intended.
I paused for a moment because I had to think about it. I said, I hadn't accomplished the things I had set out to accomplish many years ago, and I certainly hadn't accomplished many of the things people at age 26 would have accomplished; but, I said, I've accomplished far more than any 26 year old would have ever thought to have accomplished, much less to have considered as a goal. So while I haven't achieved some of the regular things most 26 years would have, I've achieved so much more.
Over the past four years I've been fortunate to have traveled to 7 countries (not counting the transit countries), 7 US states, and had the opportunity to participate in and speak at many conferences.
My life, has evolved into something so much different from what I thought it would have when I had turned 19 (in January of that year).
The past year has by far been the most unexpected, adventurous, love filled year. I learned new skills (serious people skills from being one of two election officers at ILGA World Conference), met new amazing people and gained new friends, experienced love, and was recognized by the first black president of the United States of America.
I built on my skills as an activist (LGBT and women's rights) and learned some things that I would have never gotten at university. I learned that my faith/belief was undergoing an evolution and I learned to experience the love my family was able to offer me and accept that in their own way they did love me, and recognise the blessing in how my family has been able to work through a very public LGBT figure, while being part of a conservative Christian denomination.
I learned that I had a lot more to learn!
In the latter part of the year, I recognised that I wanted to be able to give more (yes in addition to being an activist) and so I got trained by an awesome Jamaican (Coach Kerri) and then did my certification exam to become a life coach.
The dayDespite our differences I had an outpouring of love from my immediate family on my birthday. My baby sister posted to my Facebook page:
My middle sister gave me a birthday card saying:
My mom and dad gave me the following card:
To end the day, my parents and sisters took me (and my sister's boyfriend) to dinner and presented me with a cake, which they had hidden in plain sight. On my 26th birthday, I've been able to recognise and accept that the love I receive from my family (the Jackson 5) is the love they can give, and that despite our differences our family bond has remained.
I was born to Christian Brethren parents and grew up in that denomination. For many years, my life revolved around home, school and church. I loved going to church and very much wanted to be like daddy, a pastor. But of course women can't preach in the Brethren Church and lesbians…..well, of course, that wouldn't be possible.
I had realized at some point in time that I didn't agree with the religion of my parents, though I had been able to reconcile my sexuality with my Christianity and had even ministered to others about the possibility of being LGBT and Christian. I had received membership with Temple of Light Center for Spiritual Living in Jamaica and was content with that for some time. I then chose to identify as an agnostic atheist and wrote about that decision, it made sense to me, at least at that time I was sure that was my reason.
I had various reactions from my parents over the multiple times I came out to them and the times I was outed to them. The overall reaction however loving was not accepting of my being gay. I had not realized the effect this had had on me spiritually.
In 2014 I had the honor of visiting a PFLAG meeting at the San Diego LGBT Center, it was however for the Spanish speaking community. I decided that though I didn't speak Spanish I would still stay. In that meeting, I had reason to speak about my family and my agnostic atheism. A few of the women suggested to me that maybe the extreme rejection of my parents' religion was because of my parents' reactions specifically that of my dad.
It made me think; indeed, as a child I always knew daddy as a Pastor and I wanted so much to be like him; now as a Christian God was the Father (Jesus the Son, and the Holy Ghost). In the conditional love of my father, the love of God the Father (in Christianity) also became conditional. My reaction to my dad was also projected on my relationship with God the Father.
Upon realizing that I then had to reconsider all that I had come to believe about religion, faith, and Christianity. Whether my agnostic atheism was actually because of a change in my thinking or if it really was about my daddy issues. My conclusion was that it was a combination. That, however, gave room for the reemergence of my desire to be a minister, oh the horror!
How could I be a minister when I had all these doubts, I didn't believe in the God of my childhood, yet I didn't not believe in God per se; but the New Thought teachings appealed to me, of course, that was completely incompatible with my understanding of traditional Christianity.
Now during all this time, as an LGBT activist, I had never not worked with people of faith (St. Paul's Foundation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington VA). In fact, my visit to San Diego was because of my work with St. Paul's, and the visit included a few events with people of faith, even speaking on a panel at Hollywood United Methodist Church, and a panel at Founders MCC (LA). As life would have it, the plans to have me March with the LA LGBT Center were messed up and I ended up marching with Founders MCC at LA Pride.
The Saturday before pride I went to the church service at the MCC church, for the first time in a very long time church moved me to tears. Then if that wasn't enough God (or the Universe -as my preferred language) planted firmly in my life a beautiful soul (now my partner), a lesbian, a Christian, an aspiring minister, first and foremost a dearest friend. I believe God sometimes works in mysterious ways, and those ways were my continued work with and support from faith-based organizations and communities, the Spanish PFLAG meeting, and that beautiful soul.
Despite this, for 2 years I was conflicted, torn and fighting. Was I agnostic? Was I an atheist? Why am I feeling called to ministry? I couldn't be a minister to anyone in this condition! For two years I tried to understand what my faith or spirituality was evolving into and then I stopped trying to figure it out but I still resisted the change.
Then on April 17th my partner took me to Refiner's Fire Fellowship UCC, I'd been there before but this date was special. During the music worship portion, there was something stirring in me. I clutched the back of the seat before me, holding tight as though for dear life, and then the tears started. I felt (in my traditional Christian language) like a pot that was broken, emptied out. I was being remolded. We visited Agape International Spiritual Center and it completed what had been started at UCC.
It was as though I was a new person, reborn, I looked different, things looked different. I knew that day that something had changed and other things were changing. I figured out the first part of what being called to ministry looked like for me, indeed, it was - I believe- Imam Daayiee Abdullah who said to me a few years ago that though I didn't call myself a Christian I was doing work similar to that of the Prophet Jesus.