1950: When America Was Great



Last night, while my cousin and I were watching “Roots” with my aunt, she explained to us how sharecropping was nothing more than slavery lite. She, my dad and their 12 other sisters and brothers were raised on a plantation in Omaha, Georgia, where my grandfather worked as a sharecropper. They farmed cotton and peanuts, and she told us how every season, after the crop was sold and it came time for my grandparents to “settle up” with the landlord for all the provisions they used throughout the year, they’d always be in debt. Always owe money for the work they did, because he owned the plantation store, set the prices and kept the books.

Then she showed us this bill of sale from 1950, where their landlord took every single thing they owned, in order to settle their debt. They had no crops, no cows, no mules and no hogs, which left them completely dependent upon him the following year. And when the next crop didn’t bring in enough to cover all those new expenses (because, somehow, it never did), he tacked on that debt to the next season, and the next…

This was 1950. Slavery had been outlawed nearly 100 years earlier, but my grandparents were no less tethered to that plantation than their great-grandparents..

So when folks ask, “Why can’t black people just…?”

This is why. It’s why we’re distrustful, why the achievement gap, why the wealth divide, why I wish a ************ would come at me with that, “Slavery ended 150 years ago; why don’t you just get over it?” Winning in life when you had a 330-year head start, is no achievement. But winning in spite of this is a huge source of pride for me. Ten of my grandparents’ fourteen children graduated college. They went on to own homes, raise healthy families, have great careers, run their own businesses. Imagine what they, and countless others, could have achieved if they playing field had been equal from the start—if it had ever been equal.

Already getting better


I’m the type of person who doesn’t ask for help until it’s too late because I’m smart, I’m resourceful; I should be able to figure out whatever “it” is on my own. Charge it to pride, fear of embarrassment, not wanting to have my life and career choices thrown back in my face…

“See, that’s your problem. You try to do everything yourself. Don’t you know you’ve never done anything by yourself? You only have what you have because people are praying for you. You don’t have what you need because you don’t pray.”

My dad says some version of this every time we talk. Every single time.

It’s been years (a decade plus?) since I went to church or read my Bible with any regularity. And I’ve struggled over the years with guilt over the idea of turning to God when I’m in a bind, because I’ve not been faithful. I don’t wanna be the spiritual equivalent of the friend you only hear from when she needs to hold a little sumthin’.

But I really need to hold sumthin’.

So, I’ve been working over the last months on shedding that guilt and repairing my relationship with Him, and asking for help, and trusting that it will come, and trying my best not to ask “when?” and “how?” Because Matthew 6: 25-27:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

But it’s a struggle. There are so many things that need fixing.

I’ve been going to a new church, and on the first Sunday I visited, the pastor’s sermon was entitled, “I Know God Can Do It. But Why Won’t He Do It For Me?” It was to be a three-part lesson and spoke to exactly where I am in life. It kept me coming back and it reminded me of the song below, that my friend Jason sent me a few years ago when I was really sick.

I believe it’s going to get better, that it’s already getting better. And I know, with Him, it’s never too late. In case there’s anyone else who needed to hear it, this is for us:

I’m back


Today, I went to L’Oreal USA Headquarters so my girlfriend, Cataanda, could give me the first real haircut I’ve had since most of them fell out about a year and a half ago. I wore braids for most of that time, in order to allow it grow without the stress of daily styling. And today, I reaped the fruits of my (lack of) labor; I L-O-V-E the cut!

Cataanda is an equally amazing hairstylist, make-up artist and human being, with whom I’ve worked for about seven or eight years. She beat my face for Last Comic Standing, all my headshots and she did my hair and makeup for the last season of Exhale. I linked to her website because it’s the right thing to do, but I really don’t want to share her with y’all. Matter of fact, if I ever need an appointment and I find out one of y’all booked her, we’re fighting we fightin’. She’s the only person I trust with my hair, now. When she wasn’t available one week last summer, I made an appointment with the stylist I went to all through high school… Not only did he get scissor-happy, but he cut a chunk out of the right side of my hair–the hair I was trying so desperately to grow back. And then he and his co-worker tried to convince me that it looked good–as if my giant eyeballs couldn’t see the mirror a foot in front of me. I swear it was like that episode of “Martin” where Gina forgets to put the neutralizer in Myra’s hair, and they try to convince her she looks beautiful bald.

"You gave Myra a perm with no neutralizer???"

“You gave Myra a perm with no neutralizer???”

But, I digress.

Me and Cataanda

Me and Cataanda

Cataanda is ALL the superlatives. And she totally gave me a 5th Avenue haircut at the homegirl rate. I feel like I’m back! It may not be feminist or India Arie-ist or whatever, but I always feel good about me when my hair is pretty.

And I feel good about me today.

Just say YES

When I was younger I was a social butterfly; I STAYED in the street. I threw rent parties and dinner parties. I took impromptu trips. I dated. A lot. But in the years since, I’ve become increasingly antisocial. Maybe it’s because life on the road breeds an unhealthy level of comfort with isolation. Maybe it’s because I work nights and weekends while everyone else is hanging out. Maybe I’ve just been in a nasty rut. Maybe I was depressed…

Whatever the reason, it led to a mini (read: MEGA)-breakdown back in early February when my friend Damon asked me, “What do you do for fun when you’re not working?” and I couldn’t come up with anything except, “I don’t know… I read books.”

I. READ. BOOKS. Y’all. All the tears.

Later that evening, I was talking to another friend who asked me if I’d heard about Shonda Rhimes’ new book. He’d seen her on OWN and thought it might be relevant to what I was going through. I hadn’t, but my focus shifted immediately to the unopened Amazon box on the floor next to the sofa. Days earlier, I’d received a package from my friend Wendy. And wait–hadn’t she mentioned something about Shonda Rhimes a few weeks ago? I ripped open the box and there it was.


If ever there was a more fortuitous moment it was in a fairy tale, I promise. And this passage that begins with, “Losing yourself…?” I could have put the book down right then ’cause that was church, but I knew there’d be more gems. I stayed up that nite and read it straight through.


I bought in completely. And I am committed in this, my very own “Year of Yes,” to finding myself. To doing things that are uncomfortable and challenging. To taking inventory of the people in my life, reinvesting in the relationships that enrich me and moving on from those that don’t.

I am so grateful to Shonda Rhimes (and Delores!!!) for “Year of Yes” and my friend and angel, Wendy, for seeing that I needed it. I used to roll my eyes when I heard people say you can just decide to be happy, but I now know it to be true. Since I finished the book I’ve made a new friend, hosted a party at my home, started boxing (something I’ve always wanted to do). I’ve moved on from someone I loved a great deal for a really long time. And you know what? I see hints of the old me beginning to resurface.

If you made it this far in the post and any of this resonates with you, I hope you’ll read this book and decide to say yes. Your happiness is up to you.

Finally, Jerusalem!

The Comedy for Koby crew with the amazing Yael

The Comedy for Koby crew with the amazing Yael

I’ve been looking forward to our day in Jerusalem all week and yesterday was “the day!” We arrived in the morning and met up with our fabulous tour guide, Yael. She is like the Beatles of tour guides in Jerusalem–a guru even. She knows everyone and has access to just about everything. We started in the Old City and she gave us a history of the conflicts and rebuilding of the city. She showed us the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, King David’s Tomb, the room where The Last Supper is believed to have happened. She took us to The Western Wall and I wrote a prayer and placed it in one of the cracks…

In real life, I did that.

The Western (Wailing) Wall

The Western (Wailing) Wall

Western Wall sellfie

Western Wall sellfie

We shopped in the Arab market, and walked along the Via Dolorosa on our way to see the place where Jesus was crucified and laid to rest. I went inside Jesus’ tomb. And just because I feel like I need to type that again: I went inside Jesus’ tomb.

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It was unbelievable and overwhelming and, honestly, not at what I expected. I’m embarrassed to admit that, although I’d heard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I didn’t realize the actual holy sepulchre and crucifixion site (Calvary/Golgotha), would be inside the church structure. I had always imagined I’d be outside on a hill peering into a cave of sorts. But as our tour guide Zev explained to us earlier in the week, many churches, such as this one and the Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, were built on sites where miracles are said to have occurred or on sacred areas to commemorate holy events and bring worshippers closer to God.

Oh yeah, so we saw all that and did two shows in Jerusalem last night! The crowds were great—and thank goodness—because we were all exhausted from touring all day. Without their energy, I never would have made it. Exhale. I never imagined I’d do and see the things I’ve done and seen this week; a trip like this was so far out of my realm of possibility and budget… And I get to be here all because of the silly thoughts in my head. How amazing is that? I’m working on a video that I can hopefully share soon. But RIGHT right now, I’m ’bout to lie down and kick it with this pillow.

Holler at y’all tomorrow!

Oh Ch-Ch-Chilly Jordan

A video posted by Erin Jackson (@ejthecomic) on

Today was our day off to tour and see some more of the country. Our driver and tour guide, Zev, started by giving us a brief, but really thorough overview of the formation of the state of Israel and the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I knew the basics, but he really colored it in for us. Once we got on the road, we headed north towards the Sea of Galilee, where the Biblical story of Jesus walking on water takes place. Zev helped me climb down the rocky bank to sit at the water’s edge so I could take it all in for a moment. What an amazing moment to be in a place you’ve heard about since you were a little kid in Sunday School! The forecast called for heavy rain, and I was hoping all day yesterday it wouldn’t be too miserable to visit all the historical sites. It wound up being just the most perfect day. #WontHeDoIt

Next, we visited the The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, which was built on the site where Jesus is believed to have fed 5,000 followers with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. I have easily eaten 5 loaves of bread by myself since I got here. Pita, laffa… There’s delicious, irresistible bread at every turn. Clearly, Atkins has not yet made it to the Holy Land. Sadly, a pair of Jewish extremists set fire to the church this summer and painted graffiti on the walls so a portion of the church is boarded up. Such a disgrace, but they are rebuilding and it will be restored very soon.

We also visited the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized. I’ve seen that baptismal scene rendered thousands of times, and once I found out I could, I bought a baptismal gown from the gift shop and went down into the river. It was kinda freezing (“oh ch-ch-chilly Jordan,” indeed, Take 6) and there were tons of catfish swimming around my ankles. They could’ve been the great-great-great… grandchildren of the catfish who swam around Jesus’ ankles. Shut up. Yes, the could have.

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I was raised in the Baptist church, and though I’m not very religious as an adult, I believe in God and the teachings of the Bible. And I felt so connected to the sites we visited today. I am so grateful to be on this trip and I can’t wait to visit Jerusalem.

Talk soon.


It’s been well-documented on this site that I. LOVE. STEVIE. WONDER. So when BFF Jenny texted me last week to tell me she got $45 tickets to see him on Groupon in Knoxville, TN (she lives in Chattanooga), I have to admit, I was a little jelly.


But then, sometimes: Jesus.

I got a call from my college agent yesterday and she told me that University of Tennessee Knoxville wanted to book me for a show next month. Because I knew it was not far from BFF Jenny, I texted her this morning to let her know. If I was gonna be within an hour or two of her house, I was definitely gonna stop by. I had no idea when the Stevie concert was.


Turns out the concert is the day after my show and her husband wasn’t gonna be able to come and she hadn’t asked anyone else if they wanted to go yet… And HOORAY! I get to see Stevie with my bestie and get paid.

Thank you, 8lb. 6oz. newborn infant Jesus.