Jonathan Jackson is the co-founder of Blavity and a highly-esteemed class of 2019 Nieman Fellow and Berkman Klein Fellow at Harvard University. While at Harvard, Jonathan will study the emergence of black media in the digital age, examining new ways to measure black cultural influence both inside the U.S. and abroad, and its effects on the media and advertising landscape.


In this episode of our WYL Take Ownership Podcast, Jonathan talks to us about his philosophy as it pertains to integrating work and life, differentiating fake success from real success, and making the decision to leave Blavity.


Integrating Work and Life…

“I don’t really see work and life as a balance, I see it as balls that are rubber and some that are glass,” says Jonathan. “There are certain glass ones that cannot drop. Certainly, health cannot drop and family cannot drop. I think that there is an integration that has to happen that is specific to how we think about the life we want to live and what we want to integrate into it.”

Jonathan also thinks that work and life balance comes down to daily habits, practices, and rituals. “I need to carve out time to be quiet, pray, journal and read because these things take me out of the fever pitch that entrepreneurship has,” says Jonathan. “These grounding activities allow me to step back. Me not taking care of myself has a direct and proportional impact on everything that I say I care about.”

Jonathan also makes sure to mention that being healthy holistically also has an exponential impact on the things that he wants to have a positive effect on.


Differentiating “Fake” Success From “Real” Success…

“The reality of success is around how the rooms that we are sometimes in, are not designed for us to be successful,” says Jonathan. “The only table I really care about being on is a cap table (capitalization table). I’m only interested in skill acquisition, learning how power functions, and taking as much of it as possible to reallocate it where I think it should go. This is what has allowed me to move fluidly through spaces that otherwise would have been boxed out.”


Due to this, Jonathan always asks himself, “What is the highest value activity that I can be doing that I know is not accessible to everyone.” Another essential question that Jonathan raises is, “What vehicles do we use to communicate information to people that otherwise would not have access to it?” Jonathan goes on to question, “By what means are we communicating clearly to the communities that we say we care about? Shaming them for not knowing something that we just learned is just as bad as holding this information away from them. We do not accomplish anything through making people feel worse about their condition. There is no freedom quotient anywhere in this. Ultimately, knowing our self is the most critical component of our success.”


Leaving Blavity…

“As I have grown up, I have felt like there are other things for me that would better position me for the things that I know I want,” says Jonathan. “This has nothing to do with what we are leaving. Instead, it has everything to do with the future we want to imagine for our self. Nieman is something that I’ve known about for a while. An academic year at Harvard with unfeathered access to their resources feels like the right use of my time.”


Owning Our Power…

“Where we are rich, where we are unmatched, where we are undisputed is in the production, creation, and furthering of global culture everywhere,” says Jonathan. “However, it is a disastrous and a systemic reality that there is no annual study of black global footprints that are cross-listed with the GDP of a country.”

Jonathan goes on to mention, “I don’t want to live in a world in which our things are put on display for us to go pay and see ourselves. I want to make sure that we are able to protect our unique creations and make sure that there is a system and blueprint to pass this down.”


Be sure to check out the full-episode HERE and CONNECT with us on social!



(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking brand strategist, curator, and educator. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he is extremely passionate about bridging the gap and building value between brands, communities, and culture. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.


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