Darnell Jackson Sr., a community activist for the last two decades, is relocating to Charlotte, N.C., on Monday to be closer to his children and grandchildren.
For years Jackson, a former gang member, has been on the front lines in working with young people to provide them with an alternative to street life. Along the way, he has run afoul of the law and upset gang members because of his brusque and brazen style.
“Although you may not have agreed with me, I have always loved my community and have always done what I thought and felt was right for the community,” Jackson said. “My heart was sincere, even if some of my actions were not right.”
A party to wish him well on his move is set for 6 p.m. today at his home, 29 Barthel St., between Walden Avenue and Genesee Street.
With typical Jackson flamboyance, he said he has sent email invitations to friends and “frienemies” alike. The public is also invited.
“I’m going to be making a speech, and I want them to hear how I feel and understand the man that I am,” Jackson said.
In addition to his experiences in gang life from his teenage years, Jackson, 56, has been arrested multiple times as an adult, often for his community activism. But in most of those cases, the charges were either dropped or adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.
Although often at odds with the police, who have been critical of his behavior over the years, Jackson has assisted them on several occasions in orchestrating the arrests of dangerous felons.
The most famous surrender involved Riccardo M. “Murder Matt” McCray, the convicted shooter in the City Grill massacre from four years ago, when four people were slain and four others wounded.
“I helped in the surrender of suspects in two other homicides and with a suspect in an assault and with a bank robber,” said Jackson, who is proud of his service to law enforcement.
Throughout the years, Jackson has worked in a number of capacities assisting East Side residents. His efforts have included a youth center at the former Wonder Bread factory and a summer youth employment program funded with a $100,000 grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation.
In the late 1990s, he operated the CRUCIAL Community Center on Moselle Street, and in the early 1990s, he established the Brothers and Sisters Alternative to Violence Program in a former nightclub on Genesee Street.
Of his combative nature, Jackson said:
“I’m just a no-nonsense person. It’s how I came up. The system should include everybody, not just a chosen few. We, as poor people, count, too, and when we’re excluded, it sets me on fire.”
Besides being closer to his children, he says, he hopes to continue to assist young people by starting up two businesses, one involving car detailing and the other landscaping.
“I’m praying that these businesses will be successful,” he said, “so that I can put young people to work.”