The husband and wife duo Robert Jackson and Tajuana T.J. Butler-Jackson use their words to empower the community. Through books, speaking engagements and now a musical the couple hopes to stop the negative energy lingering in the Black community.
The musical, based on the No. 1 Essence Magazine bestselling novel Hand-me-down Heartache, will showcase love and resilience. Author, director and play writer T.J. Butler touches on the strength of relationships among women. The Indianapolis natives’ production will debut on Mother’s Day, May 12.
“The musical mostly deals with physical and verbal abuse. It also incorporates faith, love and God’s grace,” said T.J. Butler.
Producer, author and speaker consultant Jackson says the play acknowledges the elephant in the room that is not addressed in the Black community. According to Jackson this elephant represents anger, dysfunction, abuse and more.
“There has been dysfunction in the Black community for years and it’s time for us to address it. We hope to do that with this production,” he said.
The couple took different routes to their current successes.
The public may know T.J. Butler as the No.1 Essence bestseller for her novels including Just My Luck, Sorority Sisters and The Night Before Thirty.
Born in Indy and raised in Hopkinsville, Ky., she was always interested in writing; however, she thought she would become a teacher. T.J. Butler studied at the University of Louisville where she majored in English and political science. She eventually joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which inspired her first book The Sorority Sisters.
“I was awakened one night by the personalities of the characters to be in that book. I couldn’t go to sleep until I sketched each one of them. After that the novel was born,” she recalled.
T.J. Butler put the novel away for sometime until a friend’s mother jokingly said after reading the book, “if you don’t publish this I will put my name on it.” She did her research and first self-published a poetry book entitled The Desires of a Woman: Poems Celebrating Womanhood. In 1998 she released Sorority Sisters.
The author grew up in an abusive household. She also suffered from anxiety, which she talks about in Hand-me-down Heartache.
“This is the talent God gave me. I’m just being obedient in working my gift. What is fulfilling is when readers connect with a character, overcome a situation or their life is changed,” she said. “What’s important is that they are entertained and empowered.”
“I grew up in Brightwood. I couldn’t walk down the street without being assaulted, bullied, robbed or worse. I was an angry young man,” said Jackson.
Jackson grew up in a single parent home. He never met his father and was the only boy with four sisters. He remembers being robbed on his paper route and later being physically abused by his stepfather.
He says in order to change, he had to look at himself in the mirror and take action.
“I didn’t like what I saw. I no longer wanted to be that person. I said, ‘I have to find some way to fix this. It has to stop,’” Jackson said.
Jackson attended Western Kentucky College. Later, the Minnesota Vikings drafted him, but an injury would end his football career. Now he is author of No More Excuses: Black Men Stand Up!, No More Excuses: Put a Stop to Bullying and others in the No More Excuses series. He also travels the world speaking at various events.
“I planned on playing professional football for 10 years and only lasted 10 minutes,” he laughed. “But God worked it out and just packaged it all in a different way. Sometimes we want to follow our own plan, but we need to follow his. This is his plan for me.”
Together for the long run
The couple has been married for seven years and has two children. They are each others biggest cheerleaders.
“I’m a fan! I am thoroughly impressed with my wife. We challenge each other. I keep it fresh by still asking her on dates. Most importantly we study, pray and keep God first,” Jackson said.
T.J. Butler agreed.
“With Robert what you see is what you get. That’s something I’ve learned to love and appreciate about him,” she said. “We continue to find a balance in our busy lives. We make sure we are there for each other and our family.”
For more information visit tjbutler.com or robertjacksonmotivates.com.
Hand-me-down Heartache, the Musical
– Sunday, May 12 at 3 p.m.
– Crispus Attucks,
1140 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
– $25 VIP, $17 general floor, and
$15 general balcony.