Mississippi native Damien Thaddeus Jones, or just Damien Thaddeus as he often goes by, is on a mission. The socially conscious “servant of mankind,” as he describes himself, is determined to arm as many young African Americans as he can with the mindset and resources they need to succeed in life. In his former position as a program coordinator for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C., he oversaw an internship and fellowship program that places African American graduates and undergraduates in public offices for mentoring. About 99 students are selected each year, and Thaddeus says the all-expenses paid semester trip is designed “to try to diversify Capitol Hill.”
Thaddeus is currently the Equity & Justice Outreach Specialist for the Union of Concerned Scientists located in D.C. “In this role, I go into communities of color suffering from the ill effects of global warming and devise ways to make that community safer and healthier.”
The motivational speaker and community activist splits most of his time between Texas, where he earned a degree in political science from Texas Southern University, and Washington D.C., where he works. He recalls becoming engulfed in politics while attending TSU from 2011 to 2014. But the political seed was planted long before then.
“Me and my dad would always watch the (Jackson City) Council meetings every Wednesday night, and it would just be interesting to see the back and forth between the members and how what they were doing really affected the community,” he says.
Outside of his job, Thaddeus, 30, travels the country encouraging youths to reach their potential. He is anxious to give directly back to his hometown of Jackson and welcomes invitations and other opportunities to speak to groups of young people in Jackson, whether it’s at a school, a church, civic function or anywhere else. He says he simply enjoys offering his expertise through any means, including keynote addresses and panel discussions. Thaddeus plans to visit at least 15 schools across the country this year.
“I want to use my gifts and my training to invest into Jacksonians,” he says.
When asked where his preference was for settling down—Texas, D.C., or Mississippi—the U.S. Air Force veteran says, “D.C. is just so transactional. Everybody just comes here for work, and it’s not a place where you want to raise your family. I’m from Mississippi, which is very family oriented, very homey.”
Though he describes Texas as a larger version of Mississippi he says, “my parents still live in Jackson, so I would prefer, when I get to that point—raising a family—to have my children close to my parents. Jackson is an ideal place. It’s where I was raised and I turned out alright.
Get to Know Damien Thaddeus
“Jay-z is one of my greatest influences…I love his story of how he came from being a drug dealer, embracing his circumstances- the cards he was dealt, and turned that into something positive. Being a mogul and being black royalty.
“When you go back and look at Martin King and Malcolm, Martin spoke to those blacks who were educated, went to school- college and so forth, [lived] in a great environment, [went to] church, [had a] two parent household, and so on. Malcolm spoke to the thugs. Those on the outskirts, those who society deemed miscreants. And he spoke to them in [an effective] way. [Today] juxtapose [Barack and Jay-Z]. Barack speaks to a certain sector, Jay-z speaks to another sector. For me growing up I was able to fuse both of those…”
Who’s on his iPhone playlist
- Jay-Z (EVERY ALBUM!)
- Travis Green
- Bike riding
- Watching documentaries
Favorite food spots
- Grandmother’s house (best soul food)
- Captain D’s
- Homemade kale smoothie (Recipe: frozen kale, frozen strawberries, frozen mango, frozen raspberries, and orange juice)
“When I was in the Air Force, for extra money, I would enter talent contests. I did comedy for a little while. I stopped doing it because nobody thought I was funny. I actually won second place in one contest. But my routine just never got better. And I got tired of being booed off, well they didn’t boo they would shake their keys. I got sick of hearing keys all the time so I just stopped doing it.”
Best gift from this past Christmas
- This vest (pictured)
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell (or anything by Maxwell)
Last movie he saw at the theater
- Creed (he wasn’t impressed)
Favorite television shows at the moment
- Real Housewives of Atlanta
- Iyanla Fix My Life
- House of Cards
- A Genius Leaves the Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay-Z
On becoming a leader
“There’s a science to everything and you have to really hone that craft and learn the different nuances of it and how to get better at it. I’ve always had that passion to be a leader and have that drum major instinct to be out front, as Martin King would say. But I learned that you have to read books and hone that craft and learn the newest strategy behind it and learn how to tap into young people, how to tap into older people, how to resolve conflicts, how to get the best out of people. That book has been very influential in helping me learn how to maneuver and deal with different personalities.”
To book Thaddeus go to damienthaddeus.com.