Meet Fresno State’s ASI president D’Aungillique Jackson

Jackson at the "Fix Financial Aid" rally for the Cal State Student Association, Feb. 2019, where she led chants. (Courtesy of D'Aungillique Jackson)

It was in Corpus Christi, Texas, that middle schooler D’Aungillique Jackson developed a passion for social justice that would one day lead to her organizing one of the largest peaceful protests Fresno had ever seen.

As a self-proclaimed “military kid,” Jackson was born in Camarillo before her family – originally from Chicago – moved to Japan for two years and then bounced around among Florida, California and Texas for the rest of her adolescence. 

D’Aungillique Jackson with twin brother Gil’Scot Jackson II on the first day of preschool in 2003, at five years old, in Pensacola, Florida. (Courtesy of D’Aungillique Jackson)

In Texas, Jackson’s middle school English teacher encouraged her to enter the writing competition “Do the Write Thing.” The topic was domestic violence, but Jackson herself had never been a victim. Instead, she wrote about the second-hand effect domestic violence has within communities. 

“I was one of I think 50 finalists who got to go to Washington, D.C. and I was the only person there who had never experienced any form of domestic violence first hand. … I was looking at people who were my age, and it seemed like they were years beyond me in terms of maturity because of what they had to experience,” Jackson said.

Jackson with her family; top row from left to right featuring DeGuizz Jackson (mom), Gil’Laan Jackson (brother), D’Aungillique Jackson, Gil’Scott Jackson II (brother), Dez’Gillai Jackson (sister) and Gil’Scott Jackson Sr. (dad), with front row featuring from left to right Reggie Harris (cousin) and Jaden Harris (cousin). (Courtesy of D’Aungillique Jackson)

She said she witnessed the structural barriers and violence that could affect individuals in the lower income area of Corpus Christi she lived in, but it was San Diego that taught her more about interpersonal struggles. 

After learning many of her peers in Scripps Ranch High School were experiencing pressure from their families to pursue high-paying positions rather than their passions, Jackson led a campaign called “Redefine Success.” 

Jackson’s family had to move again before seeing the campaign to its fruition, later being awarded two National Association of County Achievement Awards, a regional Emmy award and the inaugural Diversity Youth Leadership Award from the city of San Diego human relations commission.

After graduating from Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village in 2016, Jackson applied to over 10 different schools, but it wasn’t in her plans to come to Fresno State. She’d hoped to attend a university on the East Coast. 

However, Jackson said that as a Black woman she felt her ambitions were not taken seriously by school staff. Potential financial aid and scholarships were not discussed, so Jackson decided to go to a state school in California, where her father’s veteran status ensured her tuition would be covered.

Jackson ended up applying to Fresno State because her twin brother, Gil’Scott Jackson, intended to play football for the Bulldogs before committing elsewhere. 

Jackson hadn’t stepped foot in the Central Valley before attending Fresno State, but said that within her first semester she was “falling in love with this institution.”

It was during this time Jackson met friends such as Joshua Slack, who she would later go on with to organize Fresno’s Black Lives Matter protest in May 2020.

During a night of watching media including Black Panthers documentaries in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, Slack and Jackson were inspired to take action themselves, according to Jackson.

“I was just like, ‘You know Josh, why can’t we organize a protest? This is what the Black Panthers would’ve done. This is what all of these phenomenal organizers that we look up to would’ve done. Why can’t we do it?’” Jackson said.

Slack agreed, and with the help of fellow activists and friends, they organized within a matter of days what would later be heralded as one of Fresno’s largest peaceful protests in recent history, according to Fresno State News. The protest took place on May 31, 2020, attracting an estimated 3,000 to Downtown Fresno.

D’Aungillique Jackson (second to left) protesting with Joshua Slack (far right) and Kyle “DJ Kay Rich” Richards (far left), among others, on May 31, 2020. (Courtesy of D’Aungillique Jackson)

“What [D’Aungillique] was able to do was she was able to get people to listen and really be no-nonsense at the same time,” Slack said, praising the policy and interpersonal skills Jackson developed during her time as president of Fresno State’s NAACP chapter as fundamental in the successful organization of the protest.

“This protest was so organized it received national attention on multiple news networks. She became the face of protesting social injustice in Central California. She became the voice of the people,” said Kyle “DJ Kay Rich” Richards, Fresno State men’s basketball’s official DJ, who performed crowd control during the protest.

Fresno State sociology professor Matthew Jendian, who worked with Jackson during the Black Lives Matter protest, recognized her passion and talent for organizing.

“I remember [Jendian] just looking at me and listening to the way I was interacting with the world and the way that I was like looking at these questions, and he was just like, ‘Have you ever heard of sociology before?’” Jackson said.

Until that point, negative experiences within the psychology department had mirrored Jackson’s earlier frustrations with her high school counselors. In class settings with little representation and the expectation to speak up as the only Black person in most of her courses, Jackson said she felt herself losing interest in psychology. 

A little more research and further interactions with sociology staff members persuaded Jackson to make her major change official.

“I was truly blessed when D’Aungillique joined one of my sociology classes,” said Fresno State assistant professor Janine Nkosi, who also praised Jackson’s work as president of the Fresno State NAACP chapter in helping students register to vote among other goals.

The move to Associated Students Inc. (ASI) president similarly took time. When Jackson lost her first election in 2019 by a slim margin, she said she took it hard, but her commitment to organizations at Fresno State, as well as continued work as a programs assistant in ASI, only further spread her name around campus and solidified her qualifications. 

It was the 2020 ASI election, in which a candidate was alleged to have bribed individuals for votes, that convinced Jackson there was work to be done within ASI that she was ready to undertake. 

“I really wanted to run again to be in a position to look more in-depth at ASI’s policies and create more of an equitable process,” Jackson said.

Anou Vang, ASI vice president of finance, reflected on Jackson’s presidency as an instance of the “stars aligning.” 

“Seeing what President Jackson has to handle on the day to day in terms of ASI business, as well as the challenges in her personal life, motivates me to try that much harder. The Fresno State community is so lucky to have her serving as the student body president during these very difficult and challenging times,” Vang said.

“With her as our president, I think that our campus has benefited a great deal… I think people see D’Aun as someone who is relatable, they can see themselves in her and that’s super important,” said Jackson’s close friend Alisha Wilson.

Now, potentially graduating in May 2022 with her bachelors in sociology, Jackson said she finds herself torn among her many options, but she’s made up her mind on one thing.

“I have a lot of unfinished business with the city of Fresno,” Jackson said.

The 2019-2020 Fresno State NAACP executive committee photoshoot in 2019, featuring from left to right, Serenity White-Ilole (press and publicity chair), D’Aungillique Jackson (president), Ie’Lar Marshall (secretary) and Aislyn Brown (treasurer). (Joshua Slack/Courtesy of D’Aungillique Jackson)
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