how i got over by Henry Taylor

James Jackson, III on how I got over by Henry Taylor

An oil painting with a solid light blue field at the center a black man in a white track uniform with TUSKEG on the chest hurdles over a yellow line symbolizing a track hurdle
Henry Taylor, how I got over, 2011, acrylic on canvas. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg, 2013.11.1. Courtesy American Federation of Arts. © Henry Taylor.

Hi, my name is James Jackson, III, Founder of the Utah Black Chamber in Salt Lake City, Utah. 


Hurdle after hurdle. Obstacle after obstacle. Barrier after barrier. Yet, we as a people, we got over. That’s what this picture says to me. 


In 1951, Mahalia Jackson released the song, “How I Got Over.”


Still today, this is one of the staple old gospel songs sung in Black churches across the country. I grew up hearing this song. There are some old gospel hymns that I dread hearing in church, but when I hear this song, I find myself singing along and getting into the spirit. Of course, it’s always an older person leading the song, but it makes sense given not just how old the song is, but what it represents. 


The Black community has crossed so many hurdles since the song’s release. The majority of African-Americans were living in a segregated world not having access to the same housing, education, healthcare and resources as white people. And here we are, seventy years later, not living in a segregated world, but still fighting that same fight for equity. But we’re making progress. 


“You know my soul looks back and wonders, how I got over.”


I think about all the hurdles we have crossed so far to get to where we are now. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Brown vs. Board of Education, the Fair Housing Act, just to name a few that we got over during this race to equity. While we still have a long way to go, we have so much to be thankful for.


“And I wanna thank him for how he brought me 

And I wanna thank God for how he taught me

Ooh, thank my God how he kept me

I'm gonna thank him 'cause He never left me (oh yes)”


The path it took to where I am now took many hurdles. And I’m sure many of you can relate. We often wonder, how many more hurdles do we have to cross before we get to the finish line? Sometimes we ask ourselves, ‘is it worth it?’ After a while, the hurdles become more and more challenging as our endurance begins to fade away, and we have to look for that inner strength to keep us moving. It’s the inner strength that Mahalia Jackson is singing about. Whether it’s God, the universe, or whoever you have as your higher calling, it takes that strength to make our purpose more clear and inspires us to keep running. 


We know what the finish line looks like, but we still haven’t made it far enough for it to come into view. But we continue to run. We continue to jump over the hurdles that lie in front of us. And when we reach that end, “our soul will look back and wonder, how we got over.”

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Hola, mi nombre es James Jackson, III, y soy el fundador de la Utah Black Chamber de Salt Lake City, Utah.  

 

Un escollo tras otro. Obstáculo tras obstáculo. Una barrera tras otra. Sin embargo nosotros, como pueblo, lo superamos. Eso es lo que esta obra me transmite.  

 

En 1951, Mahalia Jackson presentó la canción “How I Got Over”. 

 

Hasta el día de hoy, es una de las canciones tradicionales de gospel que se cantan en las iglesias negras de todo el país. Crecí escuchando esta canción. Hay algunos viejos himnos gospel que preferiría no escuchar más en la iglesia, pero cuando escucho esta canción, me descubro cantándola, uniéndome al coro. Por supuesto, siempre es una persona mayor la que dirige la canción, pero tiene sentido, no solo por la antigüedad de la canción, sino por lo que representa.  

 

La comunidad negra ha superado innumerables obstáculos desde que se compuso esta canción. La mayoría de los afroamericanos vivían en un mundo segregado, donde no tenían acceso a la misma vivienda, educación ni salud, ni a los mismos recursos que los blancos. Y aquí estamos: setenta años después ya no vivimos en un mundo segregado, pero todavía seguimos luchando la misma lucha por la igualdad. Sin embargo, estamos progresando.  

 

“Sabes que mi alma mira hacia atrás y se pregunta, cómo pude superarlo”. 

 

Pienso en todos los obstáculos que hemos superado hasta hoy para llegar donde estamos ahora. La Ley de Derechos Civiles, la Ley de Derecho al Voto, Brown c. el Consejo de Educación, la Ley de Vivienda Justa, para nombrar apenas algunos de los obstáculos que superamos durante esta carrera hacia la igualdad. Aunque todavía tenemos un largo camino por recorrer, tenemos mucho que agradecer. 

 

“Y quiero agradecerle por cómo me ha acompañado  

Y quiero agradecer a Dios por lo que me ha enseñado 

Ooh, gracias a Dios por cómo me ha cuidado 

Le agradeceré porque nunca me ha abandonado (oh, sí)” 

 

En el camino que me trajo donde estoy ahora había muchos obstáculos. Y estoy seguro de que muchos de ustedes pueden identificarse con esto. A menudo nos preguntamos, ¿cuántos obstáculos más tendremos que superar antes de llegar a la meta? A veces nos preguntamos: "¿Vale la pena?". Después de cierto tiempo, los obstáculos se vuelven cada vez más difíciles de superar a medida que nuestra resistencia comienza a agotarse, y tenemos que buscar esa fuerza interior para seguir adelante. Es la fuerza interior sobre la que canta Mahalia Jackson. Ya sea que se trate de Dios, del universo, o lo que sea que inspire a tu espíritu, se necesita esa fuerza para hacer que nuestro propósito sea más claro y nos inspire a seguir caminando.  

 

Sabemos cómo es la meta, pero aún no hemos llegado lo suficientemente lejos como para poder avistarla. Pero continuamos en la carrera. Seguimos saltando los obstáculos que aparecen frente a nosotros. Y, cuando lleguemos a ese final, "nuestra alma mirará hacia atrás y se preguntará cómo lo superamos".  

La transcripción
Portrait of James Jackson he sits in a brown checked suit with a maroon sweater in front of a brown and gray diagonal striped wall
James Jackson, III

James Jackson, III, Founder of the Utah Black Chamber in Salt Lake City, Utah


In conjunction with his role as supplier diversity program manager at Zions Bancorporation , James Jackson, III serves on several boards of directors, and is the founder of the Utah Black Chamber. Mr. Jackson has worked in various areas of the financial industry for almost twenty years, and found his passion serving and building his community. Since its inception in 2009, the Chamber has grown to not only serve black-owned small businesses in Utah but has become the premier organization connecting and engaging Utah’s Black community and building bridges for inclusion. From the Chamber, James started or helped start several other programs to elevate Utah’s diverse community, including Living Color Utah and the Utah Diversity Career Fair. As a native Utahn, Mr. James Jackson, III is committed to the social and economic growth of the black and overall diverse community. His goal is to further promote Utah diversity with the hopes of it becoming a more attractive destination for people of color.

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