CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On a busy Saturday afternoon when most dads are schlepping their children from one activity to the next, Greg Jackson is taking a group of a dozen children to the theater.
"We want to open up their cultural palette," Jackson said, as he makes sure all the kids have a ticket. "This is an opportunity that most of us will not be able to have."
Jackson is aiming to heal Charlotte, one child at a time.
"I feel like I was called to do this, pushed into this lane," he said.
That push came nearly four years ago.
An officer-involved shooting pushed Charlotte to its breaking point. Jackson was part of the crowd in uptown Charlotte demanding change in our city. And in that dark moment, Jackson decided to be the change he wanted to see.
"I have a belief that is out of this world now," Jackson said.
Jackson founded HEAL Charlotte, an organization that helps uplift youth in neighborhoods like the one he grew up in Charlotte.
"It's an important thing to sow your seed into the community," he said.
The organization provides a safe place after school, offering tutoring and mentoring. On the weekends, Jackson's organization takes children on field trips around the city to places they wouldn't ordinarily go.
"HEAL Charlotte has made a huge impact on my life," said Zamauria Bell, a teenager who says she has discovered her true passion for dancing thanks to the organization. "It's amazing to me that we get opportunities like this."
Her friend agreed.
"It really helped me become a better person. And it helps me break out of my shell because I'm a very shy person," she says. "It helps me experience new things because I don't get out much and with HEAL Charlotte it exposes me to new things."
And while we found Jackson at the Knight Theater, he has plans that go beyond cultural enrichment.
Jackson is now hoping to buy a motel in north Charlotte saddled with crime and turn it into transitional housing.
"My candle isn't burnt out," Jackson said. "I'm ready to go. I have a lot more energy and a lot more things to give."
At a time when Charlotte was hurt, Jackson brought healing to the communities that needed it most.
"It's important for these kids to see someone who looks like them, talks like them, from the same position that they were in, now giving back and showing that there are other ways to impact the world than what the world tells you you need to do," he said.
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