Father's Day has always been bittersweet for 30-year-old La'Chandra Holliday-Jackson. The busy teacher, wife, mother of four and first lady of Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, treasures the fond memories she has of her dad, LaVan Holliday. But those memories are always plagued by the last time she saw her father. When Holliday-Jackson was just 9 years old, she witnessed her dad being fatally shot by his own brother in a domestic dispute. It's an image she will never forget. Now, some 20 years later, Holliday-Jackson is using what happened to her to help others. She and her husband, Reverend Percy Jackson, Jr., have recently formed the Daddy's Little Girl Foundation, a local organization that heals the hearts of children of homicide victims through counseling and support. Holliday-Jackson spoke to ESSENCE.com about her painful childhood, what it took to forgive her uncle, and how her community continues to inspire her to follow in her father's footsteps.
ESSENCE.COM: What memory do you have of the day your father was killed?
LA'CHANDRA HOLLIDAY-JACKSON: My uncle and father never got along. They got into an argument and my father broke my uncle's nose. My uncle promised that if he ever hit him again, he would kill him. A few days later, they were fighting again and my dad pushed him. My uncle came back into the apartment and got the gun my grandparents kept for protection. I ran outside of the apartment and saw my dad coming towards my uncle when he fired. I remember seeing my father fall to the floor and blood being everywhere. I just kept thinking, Is this really happening?
ESSENCE.COM: What happened to your uncle?
HOLLIDAY-JACKSON: The police took him into custody. He did 90 days in jail and was on probation but he ended up going back to prison for seven years. He got out in 1996. He's been able to see his children graduate and get married. He's doing well for himself, but, basically, he has completely shut me out.
ESSENCE.COM: What was your childhood like after losing your dad?
HOLLIDAY-JACKSON: Both sides of my family have had battles with drugs and alcohol, so I grew up seeing a lot of that and the repercussions of it. I grew up around a lot of male relatives who molested me. I felt like I was everybody's bartender and maid. I've never done drugs but I can tell you how to cut it and roll it. In high school, I started feeling like my mom didn't want me because I had messed up her life. She was only 17 years old when she had me, so I was dealing with all of this and didn't have my dad to talk to.
ESSENCE.COM: How did you get past all of that?
HOLLIDAY-JACKSON: For years I hated my uncle. My anger had built up over the years and then it turned into depression. My dad's birthday is on June 14, which is always around Father's Day, so this weekend is always hard for me. Finally, I just decided to try to reach out to my uncle. I needed him to say I'm sorry and acknowledge what he had done, but he has yet to do that. Being a leader in my church, I just said I can't keep doing this and say I'm living a Christian life. I was allowing my hatred for him to take over. After attending a prayer vigil a few years ago, I just let it go. I finally feel like I have some closure.
ESSENCE.COM: What are some of the things you're doing with the Daddy's Little Girl foundation?
HOLLIDAY-JACKSON: We currently have about 20 members who are all children of murdered parents. Some people ask me if you have to be a minor to join. Of course not, because I'm not a minor, but I'm still the child of a murder victim. I try to also lead people to the right resources and help people really understand what we go through. Here, in Jacksonville, we have one of the highest crime rates in the state and it seems to always involve either domestic disputes or Black men killing each other. I go to court with the families and pool resources with other victim advocacy groups. I try get involved with the kids who might be having trouble in school because they're missing their parent. I'm trying to build a scholarship fund in my dad's name for high school juniors and seniors who want to go to college. Right now everything is coming out of my husband and my pockets, but even if all I can do is give a small scholarship, that will cover someone's books. I want to be able to say I got your back. The Daddy's Little Girl Foundation is going to push you to do the best you can do. I have no problem sharing my testimony with them. I know that all of these things have happened to me for a higher purpose.
ESSENCE.COM: What do you think your dad would say about the work that you're doing?
HOLLIDAY-JACKSON: He would be very proud. In the midst of all of our family dysfunction, he was always trying to help people. He was big on education which is why I felt the need to start the scholarship fund. The next thing I'm going to do is a school supply drive to help kids in elementary school who may not be able to afford proper school supplies. My dad was always a blessing to other people and I just want to carry on his legacy.
For more information about the Daddy's Little Girl Foundation, visit dlgfoundation.stnthasite.com or myspace.com/dlgfoundation.