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“I Am” Alexander Jackman

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I Am .... a dragonWe caught up with the young but wise writer, as he refreshes us with his real-life story “I Am”.

Giving priceless advice for any troubled person Alexander talks family, ambitions, life, and how we can make a change from even the worst situations.

He also reveals that Michael Jackson’s messages in music have helped him like so many people. So, let’s skip any small talk and get right into it and start making that change…

Your book “I AM” is an incredibly personal story – do you think the youth should be able to feel more comfortable talking about their problems after reading your life experiences?
I do. The question is who do they talk to? Many of us are too busy to really listen. That is the impression I get when I work with young people. A young girl who boarded a bus the other day told the driver she knew her rights when he told her, her bus pass was invalid. The adult passengers got angry when he switched off the engine and ganged up on her
not knowing the full story. They told a perfectly innocent girl that she was just like all the other teenagers causing problems. It was a 30 to 1 situation. It happens too often. Her strong stance alone can be the beginning of her truly blossoming into a leader. I just hope the majority who lost their temper with her have not done long term damage. There is a danger that holding the tongue can ruin many of our young people today. Whoever said that young people should be seen and not heard has probably caused our society to become so depressed.

Growing up isn’t easy, unfortunately for some it is hard to pick themselves up and learn – what kind of help do you think should be available and is there enough?
In the black community there is one thing in our lifestyle that is absolutely missing from many households. I believe if we incorporated this into our daily routine it would change a generation of our young. It really is a simple concept going back to basics. I believe doing the simple things very well can bring about the type of change we need. For me the most important furniture in the home is not the TV but the breakfast/dinner table. So, picture waking up in the morning and looking forward to having breakfast together as a complete family at a breakfast table or returning home and having dinner together. It is not just about eating a meal together; it is about the conversation at the table. The home particularly for young people should be a power station able to plug in and recharge for the days challenges. At the moment the only thing being re-charged is the Blackberry and I Phone. Parents can instill some really important values in those moments. Take that for granted and do not be surprised to see what we see today.

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What helped you the most in finding yourself and meaning in life, apart from the cathartic process of writing “I Am”?
Facing up to my truths helped me the most. Not being ashamed of the flaws in my character but instead rebuilding and acknowledging where I have made my mistakes. There is a big thing about having to explain ourselves all the time,
defending our actions and we find that this can be a very draining process. I decided a few years ago I was going to let people say what they needed to say about me without rising to defend myself instead I was going to accept what I
was told wholeheartedly. I do not mean accept it as the truth but accept that some people are going to be angry and I will not be able to control all anger all the time. The little truth that came out made me feel certain that facing up to
the truth from time to time is not as bad as it appears. Now I write about them.

Will there be anything similar to “I Am” to expect in the future?
Yes “I AM” is an episodal book if episodal is a word. It will share some of my most difficult experiences such as abortion although I am careful not to say too much as the second book is not released yet. For me “I AM” is about getting people back into the habit of reading again by keeping it short and simple. I want to prove to the non believers or non convertists (what is it with me making up words today) that our whole life does not have to go away just because we choose to read a book rather than spend time with friends or listen to music. Perfect example a good friend who
does not like to read at all picked up my book up and enjoyed it. Now is trying to read all sorts of books. That is a start. Do not forget “I AM” has travelled around the World to five continents and 30 plus countries taking pictures. I have over 300 pictures which the best ones will be available to download from my website. I am also writing my first novel which I am very excited about. So anyone that reads I AM might want to graduate to my new works.

Apart from writing, how is life going now?
I have just returned from a trip in the United States with a group of young people getting them to broaden their experiences. It was amazing. I am a person who loves to travel so to be able to share this with young people is quite amazing. I have a project in The Gambia which is in the planning stages at the moment having been there earlier this year visiting schools and villages. There is so much work that can be done on a local level it is fantastic to be a part of it. This is my life’s work so I am revelling in it at the moment.

What is the most important thing to you in the world?
Family is the most important. I do not just speak of my immediate family but my extended family. We are all connected in ways that are obvious and some not so. But how many times do we say to each other it is a small world? It really is…

Is there any place in particular you would like to visit, and why?
I am originally from Jamaica and Trinidad and can travel there any time I want. It is time for a change there is only so much different things we can do in a single life time. I hope to visit Peru, Mexico and see more parts of Africa. My book has travelled there before I have and the pictures are so inspiring so I hope to visit there because it has so much history. Also my new novel has some of the traditions of the Mexicans and the Spanish so I hope to do my research there before completing it.

Do you have a favourite music artist who you admire for talking about life experiences and home truths?
Just like everyone else Michael Jackson was a huge influence in my life. His music lives on because his messages are timeless. I also hope Lauryn Hill returns to the scene to dispel the talk about her. You do not lose talent overnight and she can return and again be the biggest selling female artist. I do listen to Jay Z and Busta Rhymes I grew up on these artists. But for the younger generation I have to say Ice Cube, Public Enemy and the likes are innovators. Music was about empowering everyone to fight for what they believe in.

Being a writer, do you fancy trying your hand at any other forms of self-expression?
Believe it or not I began as an aspiring rapper inspired by Nas, Tupac and Lauryn Hill. In fact it was Tupac’s “Rose that Grew from Concrete” that convinced me that I could write too. So if I wanted to I could spit a few bars. I used to perform with a band and did the Hackney Empire in front of a few thousand. So I know what is required. I love writing short plays for young people and am looking at a production for next year so look out.

If there is one piece of advice you could give anybody, what would it be?
Do not be afraid to leave the crowd behind to focus on growing the greatest you!

I AM by Alexander Jackman is OUT NOW in Hardback online at Amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones. Keep an eye on the website www.alexanderjackman.com and Twitter for the first book signing at Waterstones in Angel, Islington in September.

“I Am” tells the story of a young man contemplating the issues he has faced throughout the years of his life, after experiencing abortion with his first love. What is revealed is that the young man is in fact the young Alexander allowing his readers to gain secret access of his mind as he writes what is more than just a diary. With his writing, he tries to establish meaning out of the many events that have unfolded before him. Each reflection brings the young Alexander a step closer to discovering the answer of his own question – who am I?

Words by Saima Azam