Tag Archives: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Nashville’s First African-American Public Defender To Hold Swearing-In Ceremony at TSU

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University Alum Martesha L. Johnson will be sworn in as the first African-American to serve as the Metropolitan Public Defender for Nashville-Davidson County next week.

Johnson, who was officially elected on Aug. 2 and will take office on September 1, said she decided it was time for her to seek the position when Dawn Deaner, Nashville’s current Public Defender, announced that she would not seek another term.

Martesha Johnson

The swearing-in ceremony will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 6 p.m. in the Walter S. Davis Humanities Building at TSU. It represents the crowning achievement of years of service Johnson has given since she set her sites on being a public defender when she served as an intern with the Nashville Public Defenders Office in 2007.

“It was during that summer internship that I sort of decided, that’s exactly what I want to do! I knew that I had an interest in criminal law. I knew that I had an interest in being a trial lawyer. I learned that I was passionate about those things while I was at Tennessee State,” she said. “So when I had the internship in 2007, it sort of changed the course of what I wanted to do as a lawyer, and I immediately knew then I wanted to be a public defender.”

Johnson performed as a member of the Tennessee State Aristocrat of Bands Sophisticated Ladies Dance Line during her undergraduate years at TSU.

After graduating Summa Cum Laude from TSU in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in English, Johnson immediately transitioned to law school at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where she graduated in 2008.

With her heart set on working in the Nashville Public Defenders Office, the newly licensed attorney met with the harsh reality that no new jobs were available at the office because of a hiring freeze caused by the economic recession.

“I made a decision that I was going to volunteer my services as a licensed attorney at the Nashviille office, and I did that,” said Johnson, who began volunteering in August 2008 and worked nights at Macy’s to support her career. Johnson’s determination paid off when Deaner offered her a position in January 2009, and she hasn’t looked back.

Since then Johnson has spent almost a decade serving Nashville by defending people who are accused of crimes but do not have the resources needed to hire an attorney.

“This job has been everything that I thought it would be. It is a great feeling to know that I really get to get up every single day to help people and advocate for people who need it the most,” she said. “My clients are poor. They have sometimes experienced trauma in their lives. They suffer from addictions, and a lot of things that contribute to their need to have a lawyer to represent them. I get to help them navigate through a system that is not always kind to poor people.”

Johnson with Retired TSU Assistant Professor of Pre-Law Julian W. Blackshear

Retired TSU Assistant Professor of Pre-Law Julian W. Blackshear said Johnson showed great promise during her undergraduate years at TSU.

“She stood out as being ambitious.   She really wanted to learn. She had a purpose for being in class. She soaked in everything I said, and she was hungry for legal knowledge,” said Blackshear, who founded the Pre-Law Department at TSU in 1975. “My standard quote to her all the time was ‘Succeed in spite of your obstacles, rather than fail because of them.’”

Johnson’s mother, Jacqueline Johnson, said MarTesha’s success serves as a source of inspiration for their entire family.

“This is one of the proudest moments not only for me personally but for my family as a whole. Martesha has always been very focused and very driven and has just excelled at everything she has put her hand to,” said Jaqueline, who earned her bachelor’s degree from TSU in psychology and went on to secure a master’s degree in public administration from the university in 2005, graduating the same day Martesha secured her undergraduate degree.

MarTesha Johnson with her mother, Jacqueline Johnson when the two graduated together from TSU in 2005. MarTesha earned her bachelor’s degree in Pre-Law with a minor in English, and Jacqueline earned her master’s degree in Public Administration.

“As she was growing up, I often used to tell her when I would drop her off at school, ‘Go forth and do well.’ And for me, this election as Public Defender has just been the culmination of her going forth and doing well,” said Jacqueline.

Blackshear said, with the election of Martesha, Davidson County is getting a “person of great character.”

“Martesha’s purpose embraces the notion that all people should be treated fairly, but with the end toward improving individuals to build people up rather than tearing them down. That’s the kind of person she is,” he said. “She is just one example of the many great students at Tennessee State University.”

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

 

Candlelight Vigils for TSU Alum Maleka Jackson Held Across The Nation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Friends and family of Tennessee State University alum Maleka Grimes Jackson gathered on TSU’s campus July 8 to remember the young mother who was recently killed in a boating accident in the Bahamas.

Jackson, a Chattanooga native who lived in Atlanta, graduated from TSU in 2000 with a degree in liberal arts and sciences. She and her husband, Tiran, were on vacation celebrating their 15-year wedding anniversary at the time of the accident.

A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Jackson was known by her line sisters in the Alpha Psi Chapter as “the glue that held them together.”

“She made sure that whenever we came together, whether at homecoming or at an event in Atlanta, that we stayed together,” said Sharese Jackson, a graduate of TSU who pledged AKA with Maleka as part of the “Y2KUTE” line in the fall of 1999. “We are in the process of planning our 20th anniversary, and she was one of the first people to say, ‘What are we going to do? It will be 20 years next year. We need to do this. We need to do that.’ She kept us connected.”

Though the two Jacksons were not blood sisters, Sharese, a professional singer and actress, shared reflections at the candlelight vigil as well as sang an original song called Hero in honor of her “line sister” Maleka.

“She was a really sweet person. She was a person who wanted to make sure you were always at your best,” Sharese said. “She worked in human resources, and she was the one that people could go to if they had a question about what to do as far as looking for jobs and how to stay relevant. She was always ready to give that information, and always willing to help.”

The Bahamas explosion, which took place on June 30, injured nine other passengers including Tiran, who suffered severe injuries that resulted in an amputation.

Lawanda Jones, who has known Maleka and Tiran since their days at TSU, said the last communication she had with Makela was through a text message conversation they shared on Jones’ birthday, four days before Jackson died.

Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority honored Makela Jackson with a candlelight vigil in Houston while attending the sorority’s international conference. (Photo submitted)

“She had sent me a text to tell me happy birthday. For me it was the most beautiful piece of closure when I realized she had passed just days later because in my text message to her I was thanking her for being such a close friend over the last 18 years,” said Jones, also a member of AKA and the “Y2KUTE” line. “I was just telling her I was blessed to have her as a friend, and how much I loved her, and she responded back similarly. She was just saying how proud of me she was, and she ended by saying, ‘We are forever friends,’” Jones said.

Jones, who recently attended the AKA’s international conference in Houston, helped to organize a vigil there which coincided with the event at TSU. She said other vigils honoring Maleka were held simultaneously in Memphis, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas and Atlanta.

“There’s going to be a long road ahead for Tiran and their son. Tiran

Sorority sisters gather at candlelight vigil in Atlanta to honor Makela Jackson (Photo courtesy of AJC)

is going to face physical and emotional challenges. They are both going to need someone to help them talk this through.,” Jones said.

She encourages people to contribute to the fundraising campaign established to help support Maleka’s family.

“Maleka saw the best in everyone. She was all about her son and her husband. I have no doubt she had big plans for her son to go to school and to further his education. So it’s like giving to someone who always gave back. “

To support the Love for Maleka Jackson and Family campaign, visit https://www.gofundme.com/supportjackson15.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Felicia Taylor Pursues Doctorate in Education, Continues Family Legacy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – After completing her undergraduate degree in agricultural sciences at Tennessee State University, Felicia Taylor took an internship with the agricultural extension service in West Tennessee. Her career path seemed to be set, until she started working with youth in the 4-H program.

Felicia Taylor

“Going to 4-H camp and working with the students is what inspired me to want to go into education and to teach. So I came back to TSU, and I majored in education, with a concentration in administration and supervision,” she said.

Taylor, who was born in Tennessee but reared in New Orleans, said her journey as an educator started by working as a substitute teacher.

“I was a substitute teacher for two years while working on my master’s degree. While I was an interim sub, a teacher at one of the schools where I was subbing didn’t return,” said Taylor, who is currently a doctoral student pursuing her Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction at TSU. “The principal asked me if I wanted the job. I said yes, and so I have been at my school, DuPoint Hadley, the entire time, since 1999.”

After noticing the low literacy rate of students in Tennessee, Taylor, who has an Ed.S. in administration, set her sites on helping students become better readers.

“My goal ultimately is to do curriculum development and even work on a collegiate level as well,” she said. “Being an educator and a literacy teacher, I am able to see some of those deficiencies that students have, and I am looking to help develop a curriculum to address some of the issues that the students are facing.”

Taylor said a great deal of her research focuses on helping students with reading across all content areas. She said Dr. Clara Young, professor and department chair for Teaching and Learning in the College of Education, has been instrumental in providing students like her with the support necessary to make progress on her dissertation while teaching full-time.

Young, who has worked in higher education for nearly 24 years, said she sees Taylor as a committed and enthusiastic educator who can make a meaningful contribution to higher education.

“The fact that she has been a teacher for 20 years, in addition to completing this degree, will better equip her to move into higher education to become a teacher educator and to actually teach people how to become teachers. So this will definitely be an opportunity for her,” Young said. “She can bring her experience to future teachers, and I think that will be really important.”

According to Taylor’s sister, Leah Dupree, education has always been central in their family.

Felicia’s father, Eric Dupree, oversees the family’s Century Farm in Alamo, Tennessee.(submitted photo)

“Education has always been very important. It wasn’t, ‘Are you going to college?’ or,  ‘Are you going to school?’ It was, ‘Where are you going?’ It was never an option for us,” said Dupree, a TSU graduate and director of Legislative Services for the Tennessee Department of General Services. “It was just a way of life, and most of the people in our family have multiple degrees because we truly value education, but we also value the service.”

Taylor and Dupree, both members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., credit their father, Eric Dupree, who oversees the family’s Century Farm in Alamo, Tennessee, for having a great influence on their academic pursuits.

“My father was definitely an influence on my career. He is also an educator, and he just encouraged me to always make a difference in the lives of people and students if I could,” Taylor said.

Dupree, who also serves as vice president of the accounting board for the TSU College of Business, described her sister as a “phenomenal teacher who connects with her students.”

“Her personality is just so vibrant, and I know TSU is probably the reason for so much of that. Some of the connections she made, the mentors that she still has today, came from TSU, and I just hope that people know how much she loves TSU, she loves her community, and she loves education,” Dupree said.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.