Meet Your Neighbor: Jabari Jefferson

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Like most of his peers in Anacostia, Jabari Jefferson enjoys spending time with close friends and family and having a good time. Unlike many 20-somethings in the same Southeast neighborhood, Jefferson is a college graduate, with his own business and focused on his career.

He wants to tell interesting stories visually as a videographer and inspire others from Anacostia and Ward 8 by expanding his business, Mass Comm Guru Production, LLC (www.masscommguruproduction.com).

Jabari filming with colleague in 2016

Jefferson graduated from Delaware State University in May, 2018 and began a photojournalist internship with WUSA Channel 9 in September. He works about four hours a day shadowing reporters, filming their stories and contributing on a need-by-need basis on the weekdays and even some weekends.

“I have been working in the media since I was a freshman in college. When I started out on the college TV station, it was really intimidating, but I was determined,” he explained. “I eventually became a technical director and was communicating with the camera operators through our headsets. It was like a control room.”

The 22-year-old credits family, mentors and his steely drive for the success he has already attained and the achievements he plans for the future. As a senior at the Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School, Jefferson traveled to Beijing with nine other students as part of the Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA) Summer Program, and was featured in www.eastoftherivernews.com.

Nothing has ever simply been handed to Jefferson. Every achievement has been earned through hard work, sweat and tears, including becoming a full-time media student.

“While at Delaware State University, I was in the band too. I received scholarship money to be in the band and was getting $2,000 per semester. The band took up a lot of my time and conflicted with my TV schedule,” said Jefferson.

He had to make a choice. With the aid of a faculty member, he decided to leave the band and scholarship money and focus completely on academics.

He was able to rectify the loss of income by raising his grade-point average and earning additional academic scholarships and grants. This was accomplished through hard work, study and his support system – his family: mother (Raquel Jefferson), stepfather (Eric Humes) and 11-year-old sister (Jalia Humes).

“I can definitely attest to his work ethic and wanting to grow. I’m so proud of him,” said Professor Jalaal Hayes, who met Jefferson at Delaware State University, his alma mater, while giving a speech this past January. Although Hayes teaches in the chemistry department, Jefferson considers him one of his main mentors and is in constant communication with him.

Jefferson with one of his mentors, Justin Dickson.

Admittedly, Jefferson did not always possess that confidence, character and charisma that he showcased in college and at the Channel 9 internship. “Sometimes it is hard for a young black man to stay positive. I think being a resident of Anacostia has inspired me. I used to let a lot of people influence me. I got into trouble as a kid in middle school. I had friends who smoked marijuana and at one time I did too. But I stopped, and it allowed me to elevate. It is easy to get caught up with the robbing, drug abuse and getting out of focus.”

According to statistics from census data filed in 2016, there is still a great disparity between the residents in Ward 8, where Anacostia is located, and the rest of the District of Columbia. The stats show that out of the 70,712 people residing in Ward 8 between 2017 and 2018, 93 percent were black or African American. The median age was 29.9 and the average income $31,139, compared to $72,935 in the other seven wards.

“My father did not come from a totally good environment, but he was able to keep me in the right direction and not fall into peer pressure. My parents saw the trajectory that I was going down. They would always encourage me and tell me that I was going to be successful. I wouldn’t be the man that I am today if it wasn’t for my parents and mentors,” said Jefferson.

Prince George’s County native Justin Dickson, a chief lighting technician (gaffer), based in Los Angeles for the past 11 years, and another of Jefferson’s mentors, is thoroughly impressed by the intern and “the accelerated rate on how he focuses on his craft.” Dickson, another Delaware State University alumnus, met Jefferson a couple of years ago when a mass communications and television professor suggested Jefferson work with him after Dickson mentioned wanting to mentor a student in the media field.

Besides interning at WUSA, Jefferson spends many hours volunteering at the Anacostia Playhouse, where he has finished a documentary and taken photos for owner Adele Robey, who is yet another close mentor.

You will not find Jefferson shopping for the latest brand-name clothes or spending money frivolously. “Most of the money I make on gigs goes to my household or to buy new equipment for my company. I know it is not the status quo. I don’t let my friends or colleagues define success for me. I define it for myself. I generally don’t follow the crowd, and I feel blessed for it.”