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Drae Jackson, Birmingham native, to premiere HBCU documentary in hometown next month

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By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Drae Jackson oversees an international talent representation, management, marketing, music label and entertainment group, but there is only one place he wants to debut his new documentary.

“We Ready” is scheduled for a premiere on January 14 at the Boutwell Auditorium in downtown Birmingham.

The film, inspired after Jackson attended a Miles College vs. Alabama State University Turkey Day Classic football game, highlights how the marching bands prepare for the game and the halftime show.

“The excitements of the classics are epic, and that’s what I capture,” he said. “Originally it was set to be a 10-episode series for A&E [Network] and gradually it became a documentary film so it could tour film festivals,” Jackson said. “It shows the hustle and bustle to give a tight halftime show, showing competitiveness, and the passion of the students. It was like a behind-the-scenes.”

Jackson, 36, from West End, knows about the subject matter. He marched while in middle and high school and is a graduate of West End High School.

He is founder of 6103 Entertainment and 6103 HD, an entertainment management company and a film company, respectively.

He credits his mom for his success.

“I lost my mom when I was 17 and I kept telling her I was dreaming about doing this production company and she would always say ‘hey you can do it,’” he said. “So she called me one night telling me, ‘you know that dream you’ve been telling me about how you were going to do movies and work with entertainers? That’s going to come true for you, I’m proud of you, I just saw it.’ I said ‘mama, you’re crazy, what are you talking about?’ and she didn’t laugh. She said ‘no I saw it, you’re going to fly over the world. I’m happy for you.’ The next morning, I got a call that she was gone to glory.”

A year later he got his first major deal, working with the Atlanta-based hip hop group Crime Mob, helping with their business and promotions.

“In some type of way God gave her the confirmation and everything has come true,” he said.

Finding his place

Jackson attended college after his 9th grade math teacher pushed him to go. He attended three colleges: Alabama State University, Morris Brown College and Clark Atlanta University. While at ASU, Jackson talked to Tommie Stewart, the head instructor of the theater department.

“They didn’t have a film department, and she told me, ‘With the way you’re thinking, this is not the school for you,’” he said. “She sent me to American Music Drama Academy in New York. She told me as a freshman in college I needed to go beyond” what I was doing.

Jackson got accepted into the AMDA, but could not attend because of finances.

“I ended up in Atlanta,” he said. “Morris Brown gave me a scholarship based off my proposal of starting a film company.”

While at Morris Brown, he spent more time on Clark Atlanta’s campus borrowing film equipment.

“People would be like, ‘you go to school across the street,’” he said with a laugh. “I was over there so much so I just decided to take classes there. The irony is I took more classes at Clark, but because of the kind of film I was doing, I was borrowing equipment from Morris Brown. I was doing whatever I needed to do to make it happen, just very ambitious.”

Jackson received a degree in film from Clark Atlanta in 2002.

Since graduating, he has written and produced five films; three feature films – “Love in Making Love”, “The Perfect One” and “Unsigned Hype” – and two documentaries – “We Ready”, and “Nappy Roots”, a documentary about the hip hop group. He is currently working on his sixth film, “Push It to the Limit”, which takes a look behind the scenes of the music industry. He is also working on a film, that he describes as an “updated ‘Boyz n the Hood’ mixed with ‘Love Jones’.”

He has been married to Sheena for 10 years.

“She is my rock, she’s been my support through all of it and supported me in any way; answering phones, filing, anything,” he said.

He also has three daughters, Emery, 5; Jamie, 7 and Aryanna, 15, and a son, Courtney, 15.

Jackson, who currently lives in Atlanta, said he plans to open a multimedia company in Birmingham that focuses on empowering entrepreneurs.

“I see a future for Birmingham,” he said. “It’s finally about to have its season like Atlanta did. With the World Games (coming in 2021), the new mayor . . . I see my hometown finally about to become the city I’ve always dreamed it to be and I want to be part of that, and I want to bring something back to the community.”