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An ode to Richmond’s own Fred Jackson

Fred Jackson is surrounded by family members and Mayor Gayle McLaughline after a city proclamation is made in his honor by the Richmond council Feb. 15, 2011. Photo by Ellen Gailing

Fred Jackson is surrounded by family members and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin after a city proclamation is made in his honor by the Richmond council Feb. 15, 2011. Photo by Ellen Gailing

FOR THOSE WHO have met Fred Jackson — as I’m sure many of you have — you know what I’m talking about.

He is a violence prevention activist, a peacemaker, an inspiring orator with the power to pack a room.

He did just that Tuesday night. Family, friends, fellow activists and colleagues crowded into the Richmond City Council Chambers to offer a standing ovation when city leaders honored Jackson with a proclamation.

Humble as always, Jackson said he hasn’t always done the right thing all the time. But he said he is driven by the “hounds of conscience,” as he calls it, and he hopes those hounds will keep on him.

“We can change things,” Jackson said. “Richmond can become that one Richmond we talk about. It can happen, but it takes human beings full of vitality, full of love and full of determination to make it happen.”

Barbara Becnel, executive director of the nonprofit Neighborhood House of North Richmond who has worked with Jackson for years, dubbed him “a living saint” and said she couldn’t remember anything he has done wrong.

“I want to be like Fred when I grow up because he is absolutely my hero,” Becnel said.

My colleague Chris Treadway will be writing more about Jackson in his Sunday column so stay tuned.

As Treadway reported last month, Jackson was recently diagnosed with cancer and started chemotherapy last week. He has vowed not to let it stop his work.

Katherine Tam

Katherine is a Bay Area native and has been a reporter working for various publications for 11 years. She has been covering the city of Richmond for three years. She can be reached at ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com.