Author Ky’a Jackson was a guest presenter at Salem Baptist Church in Abington Township on Sunday.
The church’s Library Ministry hosted a meet and greet with the author after their Sunday service to discuss her newly released book, the Color of Care.
“We are just so pleased to have Ky’a here today,” said June Blue, the librarian at the William J. Lucas library of the Salem Baptist Church. “It’s important to have this conversation because many of us are caregivers and we need background knowledge and additional information on being caregivers, gathering resources, and building a support system.”
Unlike most traditional book signings Jackson’s presentation became more like a forum creating a space to offer support and guidance for Black caregivers. As she explored and addressed racial disparities in health care and how it impacts personal care, her overarching message to the room full of caregivers was to stay strong.
“If you tell a caregiver to give you a call you if they need anything or someone to talk to, you have to keep that promise,” Jackson said. “It is important that you hold yourself accountable and make good on your word.”
The Color of Care is a book specifically for African-American caregivers. It’s a beginner’s guide that includes tips, best practices, and most of all a very detailed account of Jackson’s personal experience caring for her now deceased mother.
At the age of 14, Jackson accompanied her mother to an eye appointment because she was experiencing blurry vision. The eventual diagnosis was more than either of them could have imagined. Her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and both their lives instantly changed.
During Jackson’s chapter reads, she recounts her early years of caregiving. How in the beginning she was ill-prepared navigating not only a healthcare labyrinth, but also her own emotional journey before she later became her mother’s advocate and champion. She maintained those key roles until her mother’s death in 2006.
“Ky’a was my student at the age of 13,” said Jan Gillespie Walton. “As her teacher I saw so much in her. She was absolutely wonderful. A few years later I was her principal.
“So I’ve had her from two perspectives and she always had so much to say. I met her prior to her becoming a caregiver. At the age 14 she was stepped into caregiving for her mother and remained so for 20 years. I watched her as she went through all of the ins-and-outs of caregiving and trials. There are four of us who stood by her through it all. We’re really exceedingly proud of her. She went on to finish college, to finish graduate school, and is now in the doctoral program at Drexel University.
“So in spite of it all trials and tribulations, the spirit of her mother who advocated from her, is still a part of her reality and I love her for that,” Walton added.
The event was a judgment free zone and an opportunity for caregivers in attendance to express their feelings and ask for help.
“I’m here today because I’m a member of the library ministry at Salem Baptist church and I’m also a caregiver,” said Linda Washington Mullen. “I’ve been a caregiver for most of my life. I’m a registered nurse and I have a husband with multiple sclerosis.”
Mullen also has an adult son who is on the autism spectrum and she assists with the care of her mother, who is currently living in an assisted living facility following a stroke.
“I think it’s very important for people who are caregiving to find as many avenues of support as possible,” she said. “I’ve seen people in my practice, nursing, who become very discouraged. They [some caregivers] actually appear to be very negative when actually it’s obvious that they’re broken and events like this are very good and I intend to read this book and pass it on to someone else.”
Through her book and by sharing her life story Jackson encourages people to stand up for their loved ones and do the best job they can do to provide quality care.
“Ask questions about what you don’t understand and come prepared,” she said.