As part of its annual celebration of Black History Month, Queens College will host a fireside chat by Bruce Jackson, attorney and author of the forthcoming “Never Far from Home: My Journey from Brooklyn to Hip Hop, Microsoft, and the Law” on Thursday, Feb. 9.
The event is open to students, faculty and staff. The free discussion will take place on campus at 12:15 p.m. in the President’s Lounge (Dining Hall). Jackson’s fireside chat will be facilitated by Jerima DeWese, chief diversity officer and dean of diversity. The first 36 people to arrive at the event will receive a free copy of “Never Far from Home.”
“Mr. Jackson achieved a stunning rise from extreme poverty to academic and professional success,” Queens College President Frank Wu said. “From that vantage point, he testifies eloquently to the racial barriers to mobility that remain in today’s society. For years, Queens College has represented an important path to the middle class for New York’s underserved communities, and we believe he has an important message to share.”
After earning a law degree from Georgetown University, Jackson worked in entertainment law for a decade, co-founding his own law firm and advising some of the top musical talent in the country — notably helping hip-hop pioneer LL Cool-J regain ownership of his early recordings. A Microsoft attorney since 2000 and associate general counsel since 2019, he is managing director for strategic partnerships under the president’s office, where he oversees a $15 billion effort to help companies reimagine their digital transformation. He is also active in Microsoft’s law and corporate affairs’ diversity efforts; helped to launch its Elevate American Veterans Initiative; and worked to develop a pipeline for diverse recruitment — a body of work that earned him Microsoft’s diversity award.
His new book — to be released Feb. 7 — shares a personal history that few colleagues knew. Before his rise up the corporate ladder, Jackson had suffered poverty and other traumas experienced by many Black children in America. A native of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, he grew up in the Amsterdam Houses, a public housing project in Manhattan. By the age of 10, he had been falsely accused of robbery and arrested. At 15, he witnessed the murder of a close friend. Tempted to enter the growing drug trade due to lack of opportunity, he was helped onto a different path in life that led him to a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Hofstra University and a law degree plus a master’s in tax law from Georgetown University.
In “Never Far from Home,” Jackson both tells the story of his own unexpected journey and reflects on the widespread lack of opportunity and structural racism faced by most people of color. Opening doors is just the beginning. He writes that “Diversity happens mostly at the recruitment and hiring stage, and it is crucial; but it is, in many ways, merely a prerequisite for the intensely hard work of inclusion.”
Having reached the top of a corporation, he finds that many white colleagues do not understand that his life is nonetheless different from theirs; for instance, they do not believe him when he shares that he has been arrested for a small problem with his car insurance.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries writes that “Jackson asks his readers to confront the systemic inequalities that continue to plague communities of color across our nation. Jackson’s own story of success … inspires us to continue the fight for a world where no one is underestimated and opportunity comes to every single ZIP code.” Kirkus agrees, describing the book as a “well-crafted American success story … aspirational.”