Friday, July 21, 2006

Light Up Detroit:Shanelle Jackson by Akindele Akinyemi

Normally, when I train my candidates to run for office I explain to them the importance of having integrity, direction and faith.

Shanelle Jackson has all three.

I can soundly remember the first time hearing her name in Lansing. Her campaign kick-off card looked like something like a cabaret.

I knew that I had to help her and help mold her.

When I called the number on the card it was directed to her aunt, Nicole. We spoke on the phone for over a half and hour. Then Shanelle called me. We stayed on the phone forever.

I knew she was the one.

She was a newcomer in politics. At the time she was just 23 years old. Energetic and bold she was placing her feet in cold water. She explained to me way she wanted to run for state office.

"I just want to serve," she would share with me. "This has nothing to do with me trying to get a job, I love working with people."

I attended her first fundraiser at her friend house. All I saw was fine sisters all over the place. That night I discovered something else about Shanelle.

Her definition of class.

One thing I love about our sisters is class. Shanelle has lots of it and more.

When she first ran for state representative in 2004 it was an open seat in the 10th district. At the time former state representative Triette Reeves was term limited and the biggest threats in the race was Barbra Long and Gabe Leland. Shanelle was virtually unknown to those in the district began to make an impact almost instantly.

She took a leave of absence from both school and work. She sacrificed her time and money to win this seat. She worked so hard the name I gave her was the precinct-a-day-lady. I gave her that name because i have never seen a young person work so hard. She did door to door daily. It was like working a full shift from 9-5.

Shanelle lacked the name recognition and no one would endorse her. Her major enodorsement was the Black Slate, an endorsement that I told her I would deliver for her. At the time I was a field director for the Black Slate. I mobilized the troops on her behalf. Even the co-founder of One Detroit, James Ribbron, walked with her.

We had so many people working on her behalf. I was with her every chance I got.

But there was something I noticed about her. Her speaking ability was that of a old Christian preacher. She has a raspy voice that you normally hear on Sunday morning. She told me when I met her that she was a member of Word of Faith Christain Center in Southfield. I can tell what Word of Faith had done to her.

It prepared her for ministry.

I began to look at the campaign from a different light. It was like a ministry more than a campaign. The "Reverened" Shanelle Jackson was presiding and nothing was going to stop her from winning this election.

It was later revealed that her whole family attended Word of Faith. I can clearly see why the men and women in her family have a high level of class and integrity.

Shanelle was gunning for the top and did not let anything stop her.

Nothing.

An article that Khary Kimani Turner had written for the Metro Times has stated that several candidates running for district 10 were not residents in those districts. He placed a bullseye on Shanelle.

This came out not to be true but it created a rumor about Shanelle that I felt she was not ready for. Even though she came out of that controversy alive and did not damage to her campaign it created an atmosphere for us to work even harder.

We did work harder and during the primary elections Shanelle had every family member working the polls. She was the only candidate that I checked on heavily on every single poll in the district.

When the numbers were tallied we found out two things. One, Shanelle had beaten everyone on the polls and two she lost on the absentee ballots. She amassed over 1,093 votes in the elections and came in fourth behind Leland, Jim Edmundson and Barbra Long.

What I told her was that she put on a excellent campaign and now it was time for her to run again in 2006. I also told her that she is going to have to learn how to work the absentee ballot.

She learned this process by working on John Kerry Campaign for President. She connected with firebrand campaign worker Tenesha Grimmett-Dunn (who will debate you to the very end), began to learn the ropes together on real campaigning.

Their hard work paid off. I considered BOTH of the sister well qualified to run any campaign and win (except Granholm..LOL).

After working with Shanelle these past two years I have seen a maturity in her that I do not see in most candidates I have worked with in the past. Now, Shanelle is running for the state house seat in district 9. She has reloaded with a different strategy in campaigning, executing her message effectively and walking with a sister who should grace the cover of Essence named Shana Bentler.

Meanwhile, people are busy fundraising for her, getting her mailings out to the absentee voters and touching and healing lives daily.

Shanelle believes that securing jobs will help provide opportunites for new industries to operate where we live as well as suporting small businesses that currently employs Detroiters. She wants to help save city services by seeking alternative funds on the state level as well as incresing state funding for scholarships to our students in our schools.

More importanly, Shanelle believes in improving the quality of life by standing up for health care and community transportations for seniors living in the district.

I originally helped found One Detroit because of policy issues that legislators in the city were not demonstrating or expressing. However, working with Shanelle helped me evolve One Detroit into a more educational training ground for candidates seeking to run for office. Now I have used Shanelle's techniques in two other races (Tonya Myers who ran for school board in 2005 and Kimberly Hill who is running for state representative in 2006). Both are effective and in the case with Kimberly Hill her campaign has evolved and taken on a new life of its own.

If you believe in salvation then people need to vote for a sound Christian woman who is going to light up Detroit and keep it lit with Godpower.

That person is Shanelle Jackson.

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