Policy and Purpose with Jackie
By Keron Alleyne
Jacquelyn is a dedicated public servant and community organizer. Currently, she oversees advocacy, community partnerships and government relations for 23 public schools in NYC. Prior to that she’s worked as a labor organizer for SEIU oversaw programming for WE NYC, the first major municipal initiative to address the entrepreneurship gender gap, serving over 5,000 businesses. As a native NYer, Jackie is dedicated to magnifying and advocating on behalf of the the City’s marginalized. Jacquelyn is a byproduct of NYC public schools and an alumna of the City College of New York and Columbia University. She is a daughter, sister, aunt and dog mom!
Keron: What does it mean to be a community cultivator? Why is that an important description for people to understand about you?
Jackie: I’ve always had the gift of connecting people from all different walks of life. I consider myself someone who truly thrives within community as I believe it is an integral part of of my life. I hold an immense amount of pride in being able to foster and hold space within so many different communities. I believe in advocating for equity within community and have dedicated my life to such. Service is a huge part of my life—whether I am working to develop programming for families around education equity, organizing a group run or participating in a neighborhood clean-up, it is important for me to ensure that I am working to make others feel included.
Keron: As a fellow community cultivator, people are often intrigued by my love, attachment, and action in the community. What is the driving force for you to do the extracurricular community organizing and cultivating? What is your why?
Jackie: A driving force for me has been my ability to understand systems at an early age. As a woman of faith, I’m driven by ensuring that I put my all into everything that I do. I’ve been blessed with many opportunities and have had to work extremely hard to get where I am. I haven’t had the easiest life but I am grateful to have had others advocate on my behalf and have seen how I was provided with opportunities. I believe as humans we all deserve access to equitable education, housing, healthcare and more. We still see vast disparities within many of our systems. I believe we have so much more to do to ameliorate these systems and ensure that Black and Brown communities are not disproportionately impacted by failed policies.
Keron: During the last days of the presidential election (and before) your skills as an organizer were put to use. Why was doing this work (even in a reliably blue state) particularly important for you?
Jackie: My work extended outside of working in New York. In August I lost my father to COVID-19. He likely contracted the virus from my mother who was a front line health care worker. My father was hospitalized within an Arizona ICU from March until August. Having to see your father on life support via Zoom is not easy and knowing his death, like many others, could’ve possibly been avoided had we had leadership who believed in science was difficult. My mother is still coping with the loss as is my entire family. I temporarily relocated to Arizona and became deeply involved in organizing out there. I started a group with a friend in which we focused on organizing in AZ, PA, and NY. Being able to play a small role in flipping AZ is a huge accomplishment. I was motivated to work even harder upon my fathers passing. He taught me the importance of hard work. Additionally the prospect of having our first female and Black/Asian VP inspired me beyond words.
Keron: My deepest condolences to you and your entire family for this immeasurable loss. Knowing how close to home policy (or lack thereof) of the Trump administration affected your family I’m sure you were really looking forward to the election results. And on Saturday, November 7th in the early afternoon, NYC and other parts of the country erupted into cheers and organic celebration for the result of the election. As we consider the work you put in, what was your response when hearing the results?
Jackie: I was elated and experience a sense of relief. I actually was in the middle of a task force meeting with a Congressmember. We were discussing racial justice issues and strategy. It was a full circle moment to have the news broken within that digital space. I felt like change was on the horizon and my faith in our democracy was restored. I know there’s so much more work to do—but being able to play a role truly made me further understand the importance of grassroots and relational organizing.
Keron: I see that you’re a green (young) marathoner since you’ve recently completed your first one. It’s customary for runners to learn so much in hindsight from the first marathon. Can you tell us about your marathon experience and what you learned about yourself?
Jackie: Never in a million years did I anticipate that I’d run a marathon. I got into running socially as many of my friends run. Honestly, I went through a terrible breakup and decided to channel my energy into running. I started running in early 2018 and it was a bucket list thing for me. My initial 10k got cancelled and I had to run in alternative June race. I got the running bug as I loved the sense of community and empowerment. I then started registering for all different types of races and started meeting some amazing people and got plugged into a few running groups. I started learning more and more about running and realized I was pretty good at it! After completing the Percy Sutton race, a close friend of mine looked at all of the qualifying races that I had completed and she encouraged me to sign up for the marathon. At that point I had done 20 races! Once I signed up I got into full training mode. It took over my life, in a positive way! After completing my first marathon, I realized that this was something I wanted to do for as long as I could. I signed up for the 2020 NYC and Berlin marathons. Although I was saddened they were cancelled—I’m really excited about the prospect in running them (safely) in the future.
Keron: 2020 will forever be remembered in hindsight for the old adage, ‘stay ready so you don’t have to get ready’. How did the pandemic ultimately affect your training for races that were canceled and or postponed? Did you stay ready? And how have you adjusted since this will be our reality for the foreseeable future?
Jackie: Upon the pandemic hitting, I was running extensively. Luckily, I had friends that also held me accountable. I was running about 4x a week and increasing mileage weekly. After my father passed, running became an outlet for me to channel my feelings. Not being able to run races or within group settings was difficult however, I got creative and would organize digital running challenges. I will admit prior to the pandemic, I was hyper focused on time and mileage. While these are important, I think it is equally important to truly enjoy running without some of the external/competitive components. I love running because it’s an individual sport but is also huge of community.
Keron: What can we expect from you in the upcoming months run-wise and in the community? This includes any goals, races you’ve got on the horizon, and are training for, etc.
Jackie: Currently, I’ll be training for a 20-miler within the next two months. Additionally I am working on getting my running certification by the end of the year!
Keron: Do you have any final remarks for our readers?
Jackie: As we gear up for City Council and Mayoral races in the City—I encourage everyone to ensure they are registered to vote and do due diligence in researching their candidates.