Students at Utopian Academy for the Arts have the opportunity to learn directly from Tonia Jackson, an actress who has a reoccurring role on Oprah’s hit drama “Greenleaf.” In addition to Greenleaf, Jackson has appeared in films, more than 150 plays and seven television shows.
Since arriving at the Clayton County charter school, Jackson has shared her passion for the arts with students. Scholars at Utopian have also gained insight into what it’s like to be a professional in the entertainment industry. Jackson first learned about the school from a fellow actor who spoke highly of the education Utopian Academy students receive in core subjects and arts education. “My way of giving back is to work with children,” Jackson said. “During the civil rights movement, it was young people that were on the front lines. Martin Luther King Jr. was in his 30s when he died. I think if we can continue to pour positive things into our young people, we can change our community and the world.”
Jackson wrote and directed a special Black History Month play for Utopian students. The play was written to inspire audiences to get active in the movement to improve living conditions, job opportunities, and access to the ballot box for people of color, immigrants, and the economically disadvantaged.
“I think it’s critical for all of us to get on board to help children in schools like Utopian so we can figure out as individuals what it is that we can do besides talk,” she said. “It has to be about action. Programs like this are crucial for Clayton County.”
Jackson has also been instrumental in bringing a number of professionals who work in the entertainment industry to Utopian Academy. Special guests have included: Walter Dallas, award-winning stage director; television show director, Christopher Permian, manager and father of Raven Symone; Cas Sigers, television/movie screenwriter; Brandi Harvey, executive director of the Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation; and Angel Massey, mother and manager of Hollywood stars Kyle and Chris Massey.