Donna Marie Jackson followed in the footsteps of her father, a Long Island community activist who fought for African-American equality and founded a nonprofit devoted to serving the disadvantaged.
She became educational director of the Hempstead Village-based Leadership Training Institute, founded in 1968 by her father, Melvin E. Jackson, 84, of Oakdale.
The institute initially worked with groups of promising African-Americans to instill responsibility and community leadership. However, the next four decades saw its mission evolve to meet the growing needs of the disadvantaged minority population in areas such as education, mentoring and social justice advocacy, according to the group’s website.
In her role, Donna Jackson provided leadership skills and training, while addressing several needs for blacks including employment, housing and scholarships for youths.
Jackson, of Hempstead Village, died of heart failure at home on July 24, her family said. She was 54.
She grew up in Hempstead Village. After graduating from Hempstead High School, Jackson received a bachelor’s degree in education from Adelphi University before going to work for her the institute.
“Whenever she put her mind to a project, she would complete it well. You were usually pleased with what she did,” said Alton Lawson Sr., 51, a longtime friend of Jackson and also minister at First Calvary Baptist Church in Rockville Centre. “She was intelligent, smart, funny, industrious and tough.”
Under the aegis of the institute, Jackson teamed with the Nassau County Correctional Facility for the program “Thinking For Change,” family members said.
The program helped inmates identify their emotions in order to keep them from turning to crime, drugs and violence, family said.
Melvin Jackson was well known for opening employment doors for African-Americans across Long Island, friends said.
Jackson said he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the Deep South during the Civil Rights Movement and protested in the North.
Jackson saw something of himself in his daughter, he said.
“She was a great help to me and I’ll miss her,” Melvin Jackson said.
Lawson, who said his friendship with Donna Jackson dates to when they were children, echoed the sentiment.
“She made my first mud pie. We were children playing in the backyard after it had rained. I didn’t eat it, but she made it,” Lawson said.
Jackson had no children and was never married.
A memorial service was held Aug. 11 at the African-American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead Village. Jackson was cremated.