Busta’s Person of the Week: Al Jabbar gives our youth what he never had

Al Jabbar

Busta’s Person of the Week: Al Jabbar gives our youth what he never had
January 31
00:45 2019

By Busta Brown

This story is about a man that decided to retire, until he met Oprah.

Yes he met Oprah, Ruby Dee, Dr. Maya Angelou, and many others, but I’ll get back to that part of his story later.

He is one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever met and very honest. “You’ve heard the song ‘Papa was a rolling stone,’ well my pop wasn’t around to be a rolling stone,” the Vietnam Veteran said while laughing out loud. “He was rolling somewhere else.” Al Jabbar is a Winston-Salem native, but his father was in New York, so his grandmother raised him. The desire to know his father laid heavy on his heart, so he took action. “I went to New York to find out who my father was, and upon finding out who he was, God put something in me at an early age. God said this isn’t the place you need to be.”

Jabbar came back to Winston-Salem and that’s when he met one of the neighborhood mentors who kept young men off the streets and out of trouble. “That was one of the first men that I’ve met that took that kind of interest in our kids.” It was because of that mentor Al matured at a very young age. “He told me I needed to go to a training school to learn a trade. I learned to sew and I also learned accountability. Before I left, I was a captain of one of the dormitories. I was only 14 when I went in and came out with skills and the maturity of a grown man.”  


After training school, Al Jabbar went back to high school, but then dropped out. “I was very fortunate to find a job at R.J. Reynolds in Winston-Salem. R.J. Reynolds proved to me to be a parent corps, because there were so many older men there that pulled me under their wings and into serving the community. I stand on the shoulders of men such as Moses Lucas. He told me that I can be somebody, so don’t ever give up because these children need you. Even when I was thinking childish, he still said these children need you.”

Al said he didn’t see many upright men in his neighborhood, so men like Mo Lucas helped to keep him on the right path. In 1967 he was drafted by United States Army while still working at R.J. Reynolds, and then in 1968 he joined the United States Marine Corp. “I was in active duty for 13 and a half months in Vietnam. Being a Marine, I was on the frontline and I got wounded three times.”

I noticed the excitement on his face before he shared the next part of his fascinating story. “By me having a two-stint, they asked if anybody wanna get out early, and I said can I get out yesterday,” and he laughed out loud and so did I.

I asked about the positive and negatives of being a Marine. “The positives is that I learned some discipline under the fist of my grandmother, but I needed to understand discipline as a young man. When I joined the Marine Corps, I was able to understand structure. You had to be on time, in place, and you gotta be uniformed properly. But there are issues that come from being in combat, and one of them is called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and that had a serious impact on my life. That taught me that when you find out something about yourself, own up to it and work through it. And don’t be afraid or ashamed to get help.” Jabbar said his experience in the Marines had more positives than negatives, ” … because guess what, I’m still here.”

After returning home from the Marine Corps, he went back to R.J. Reynolds and worked there for over 30 years. He married the love of his life, Agnes, and had children, and after 30 years, they still have romantic and exciting date nights. The Vietnam Veteran is now a volunteer at Forsyth County Schools and with several local organizations. “My wife and children are very supportive of my community service; my children sacrifice when I have to be out in the community.” Jabbar said he doesn’t believe that the “Do as I say, not as I do” tactic is effective.

“When I decided to become a volunteer and youth mentor, I decided to clean up my own life. I said to myself, you can’t do what you’re doing and expect those kids to follow what you tell them. Children have a way to see through when you’re not for real.”

Jabbar  started volunteering at The Winston Lake YMCA in the 70s. “I used basketball to attract the youth, but my goal was to encourage them to get a great education and achieve their dreams. With basketball, it makes it easy to get them in a listening mode,” said Jabbar . He said one of his favorite moments was taking kids on their first airplane trip. The goal for everything he did was to get the kids out of their neighborhoods, ” … so they can do things other kids across the country was doing. To help them see a life outside of where they lived.”

After basketball, he thought about another mentor of his, Vivian Turner. “She was in the forefront of Mineral Springs mentoring program. So I started back volunteering in the school system.” He shared a story that warmed my heart: “I saw a student laying her head on the desk. Instead of telling her to sit up, I asked if she was okay. She said, ‘No, I didn’t get any sleep last night.’ I said, ‘Get some rest and join us when you’re ready.’ And she did and was very productive throughout the rest of the day. Before we assume our students are being rude or disrespectful, we must find out what’s wrong. It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry, heartbroken, angry, or confused. I consider myself an extended family member to the students I work with, so I do my best to make sure I’m aware of what they need. It makes a difference when our teachers have assistance in class, and that’s why I do what I do. I fight for equity for our kids. I fight for the ones whose voices are not being heard. I want them to know they’re not in this alone. It’s also important to build relationships with those that don’t desire what you desire for the children.”

The entire interview he never stopped smiling, his positivity stayed on 100. He also volunteers for Action for Equity and City Spirit. “With City Spirit, we’re working hard to deal with the gang issue.”

Al Jabbar is in his 70s and he’s not done yet. When he met Oprah, he told her he was considering retirement, but you’ll have to check out the rest of the interview on our YouTube channel to hear Oprah’s reply, and his stories about the other celebrities he’s met. Go to The Chronicle’s YouTube channel at Winstonsalem Chronicle to see more of my interview with Al Jabbar.

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