Georgia State Rep., lawyer, and author, LaDawn Blackett Jones has been a natural leader since early childhood. At the tender age of 4, Blackett Jones was selling handmade hair bows to her classmates and teachers. Jones has embarked on a journey that has led her down a path of social reform, justice, and outreach. When asked, “How are you able to do it all,” Blackett Jones uplifts her deep devotion to God and a great support team in her husband and two children who have supported her ambition thoroughly.
BlackEnterprise.com had the honor to speak with Blackett Jones about her accomplishments, how to effectively lead, and advice for young women of color.
Behind the degrees and the long list of accomplishments, who is LaDawn Blackett Jones?
I’m a passionate politico, author, and leader trying to make a smooth transition to the next phase of my life. My parents raised me to have a great work ethic and to be self-sufficient, which led me to focus on career-related achievements. At 36 years old, my children are getting older and I find myself having an inner battle between being the perfect parent while answering the call of my dreams of being a world-renowned author and speaker. When I hear of excessive force by a police officer or voter suppression, the political leader in me wants to jump into action and make a plan to change the world. However, to raise good citizens of the world, I need to be with my children going over multiplication facts rather than joining in on the next political protest. It was easy to do both when my children were only learning their ABC’s but now they need me more.
What does leadership mean to you, and how do you effectively lead?
A leader is aspirational and leadership is making people aspire to be their best self in every arena of their lives. I try to lead by example and follow the biblical ideal of “teaching people to fish.” I also think leadership means self-evaluation, where an effective leader can look at themselves and know when to pull back or go harder. Politics in the South is dominated by historical figures, which is not at all inspiring to millennials. A good leader, in my opinion, reaches back and pulls others up without the fear that those they help will one day replace them. I use every opportunity I have to educate people on how to be a leader, how to prepare or give information so they can feel empowered to fix whatever problems come to them.
As an entrepreneur since early childhood and a voice for your community, what inspires you to be a catalyst for change?
I am passionate, so passionate it hurts at times. I often wonder how people are able to see the problems of the world and not feel compelled to act. For example, as the recent incidents of excessive force reached the public, I couldn’t sleep and my mind was all over the place. I did not feel a sense of calm until I had met with other stakeholders and worked to put a plan into action. There is an indescribable force that makes me feel uneasy when there is injustice. There is also a level of ego that makes me believe that this passion is a result of me being chosen or appointed by a higher power to lead. I could be wrong about my appointment but if I’m not, I would hate not to go in the direction God pushing me.
Why do you believe it is important for women of color to be represented in the political arena?
Each year in the Georgia legislature, we invite the state’s constitutional officers to attend a session. Each time, as we stand to applaud them, it is painfully clear that none of them are women or a person of color. In the same way that my position at the legislative committee tables brought a unique perspective and experiences, sitting in a relaxed setting over dinner with my male colleagues allowed me to share perspectives that they have not even considered. I have witnessed those “light bulb” moments change the tone of a political discussion that, on occasion, leads to more inclusivity. The generation of professional black women that came before me blazed trails that allow me to be uniquely me. I have been able to use my time in service to force change rather than spending time proving I am capable or deserving to even be in the room. With this type of social and political environment, the time is now for women of color to get involved, to keep pushing the bar forward.
What key pieces of advice do you have for young women of color navigating their career path in today’s society?
I would recommend young women think about a “life path” rather than a career path. We don’t live to work; we work so that we can live. I encourage young women to consider what they have to offer to the world and find out how to become an entrepreneur and monetize it. Although being the boss is hard work it is also rewarding and limitless. However, try to limit your debt while reaching those goals. A degree from a state school without debt will be worth more down the road than an Ivy League degree and a student loan bill. I also think anyone can do well if they do nothing for no one other than themselves. I encourage young women to factor in giving their time, talent, and tokens (money) to bigger causes. Not only is it spiritually rewarding but it comes back to you twofold as you navigate your future.