NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Friends and family of Tennessee State University alum Maleka Grimes Jackson gathered on the TSU campus 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.
“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
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.
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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.