Hi, I’m Imani J. Jackson
UF Communications PhD Student, Lecturer, Ethno-culture Consultant
Hey, y’all! I am a classic Millennial multi-hyphenate. I am a University of Florida Cultural Heritage Communications PhD student, independent writer/journalist, university lecturer and public speaker. With deep joy, I also share that my latest pivot is ethno-culture consulting. This means I observe, research, explore, synthesize and inform others about the layered ways that ethnic origins, cultural practices, language(s), and customs help shape how we communicate as human beings. As an anecdotal aside, my social circles are pretty diverse. Further, an elder shared that I apparently have “a kind face”, which may explain why so many people, from so many walks of life seek me out for cultural input.
As a PhD student, I explore communication practices, histories and mechanisms. I research these issues to help place into contemporary context many ways that diverse cultural groups communicate with people who are both “in” their group(s) and “outside” of their group(s).
My graduate papers explored a variety of topics including not limited to: a culturally competent communication framework for people of color who experience mental distress; how grassroots environmental organizing influenced the preservation of a sacred space in St. Augustine, Florida and informed a lawsuit against a charitable housing non-profit in Jacksonville, Florida. Additional papers explored how Black and Brown women in Latin America understand and use personal beauty standards to reclaim and celebrate their spaces in these societies. (Spoiler: Natural hair movements are an example.)
In a more conversational sense, though, I’ve also helped people work toward culturally competent and culturally humble communication methods. I know a lot about a lot of peoples. As a multigenerational Black/Afro-Atlantic woman from Florida, who was educated in art school, two HBCUs and an R-1 flagship institution, I know diverse ways of knowing and cultural customs. I developed practices (code switches, networking strategies and more) that reflect sensitivity to different social groups (without sacrificing personal integrity and honesty).
I use my academic training, lived experiences and acute personal observations to help guide different “kinds” of people toward more humane and representative ways of connecting. In an era of extreme social separation, I’m trying to help build cultural bridges.
My network literally includes economic, social and political elites, immigrants, foundational Black Americans, folksy community connections, curious European Americans and people from many generations. I am uniquely equipped to help groups and individuals unpack scary topics. Often, it’s not the topics that inspire the fright. Many well-intentioned people express profound social fears that I work with them to resolve.
Some of these fears include:
- Interpersonal or social isolation for having “politically incorrect” beliefs. (We are a social species. People don’t want to be unnecessarily iced. Sometimes they need a loving ideological nudge in another direction.)
- Isolation from professional and/or academic circles.
- Presumptions of hatred when interacting with people from different social realities (including different races, colors, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, neuro-diversity etc. (As a Black American creative with ADHD, I get it.)
- Corporate fears of committing a gaffe. (Were I in some of these rooms, many ads and statements never would have seen the light of day.)
- Personal fears about calling a person who is socially different the “wrong” term. (Colleagues and consultees who happen to be racially white often wrestle with this. Many sought my professional input. Even as a research assistant in my LLM program, I caught and corrected culturally inaccurate/insensitive references to communities of color in a revised casebook.)
Fun facts: I (sometimes) perform poetry and co-founded a performing arts troupe called Lyrical Quest in undergrad. I’m an eighth-generation North Floridian, textbook eldest sibling and appreciator of dancehall, Afrobeats and hip-hop from the US South. My Goddaughter gave me my coolest title to date, “Godmani.”