|Olavenia Jackson and her husband, Luster, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Mrs. Jackson died New Year’s Eve at age 81.|
Olavenia was born July 12, 1931, in Milport, Alabama, the fifth of six children to Reverend Henry Rush, Sr., and Leona Rush. She and her siblings attended elementary school at her father’s church, Rush Temple C.M.E. Church. She was taught by her mother because African American children could not attend local white schools in the segregated South. Olavenia completed her high school years at Lamar County Training School. Upon graduation, Olavenia enrolled at Alabama A&M University in Normal, Alabama. She thrived at the school, becoming the campus queen and a charter member and first Basileus of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority-Gamma Mu Chapter in 1949. In recent years, she was recognized as a Golden Soror for her loyal service for more than half a century. Olavenia was a regular at Alpha Kappa Alpha functions.
Upon completing her undergraduate studies, Olavenia moved to Chicago in 1952 and became a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. She earned a Master’s Degree in Library Science from National Lewis University. During her professional career, Olavenia served as a classroom teacher, literacy instructor, and concluded her working life as a Librarian at Alexander Pope Elementary School in North Lawndale. Her students remember her as compassionate, but holding them to high standards. She was known for her no-nonsense approach, but for always supporting her students in need of assistance.
Olavenia was united in marriage with Luster Jackson on March 26, 1955, and at the time of her death had been married for 56 years. They had two sons whom they raised with a strong sense of community values and faith. Olavenia and Luster were an inseparable couple at church, social, and political functions. She and Luster moved their family to Chicago’s West Side in 1962. Luster was by trade a construction contractor, but both he and Olavenia were active in community and political affairs. She assisted in organizing the Midwest Community Council’s Helping Hand Committee, which provided sanctuary for endangered children; the Garfield Park Advisory Board, becoming its Secretary; the 3400 West Jackson Boulevard Block Club; and the Chicago League of Negro Voters, launching the Black Independent Political Movement in Chicago in 1959, resulting in the slating of African American attorney Lemuel E. Bentley for City Clerk in 1960.
Mrs. Jackson was a staunch supporter of her husband’s campaign to become an independent alderman of the 29th ward in 1967. She also organized a women’s support group for the Concerned Citizens of East Garfield Park, which successfully fought to save homes in the path of the Cook County Board’s plan to construct a courts building in the community.
Mrs. Jackson took a lead role in advocating for issues that benefited her neighbors and all city residents. She was a founding member of the League of Negro Voters Organization and one of the first contributors to the historic Chicago DuSable Museum. In addition, she was a founder of the Garfield Park Advisory Board.
The daughter of a pastor, Olavenia had a strong religious upbringing at Rush Chapel and Holly Grove Baptist Church. When she moved to Chicago, she joined Bethel A.M.E. Church, where she was a member for more than 50 years. She was a member of the choir, Lay Organization, and Sunday School. In addition, she was the organizer of the Allen Christian Endeavor League, and served as its Secretary for many years. She was a Den Mother and board member for her church’s Boy Scouts organization. She also volunteered for years in the church pantry, serving the needs of families throughout the community, and was a founding member of the Bethel Credit Union.
Preceding her in death are Olavenia’s parents; two sisters, Ottis & Gladys; and three brothers, Arnold, Harold, and Henry, Jr.
Left to cherish her memory are her loving husband, Luster; two sons, Michael (Sylvia) and Larry (Ora); five grandchildren, Michael, Tanya, Michael, Jr., Jibreel, and Ameer; special niece, Dr. Barbara Eason Watkins; and a host of other nieces, nephews, cousins, close friends, and many acquaintances.
Funeral services are being held Saturday, January 7, at Bethel A.M.E. Church, 4444 South Michigan Avenue. The wake is at 10:00 AM, followed by the funeral at 11:00. Burial is at Lincoln Cemetery, 127th & Kedzie Avenue. A repast is being held at Bethel A.M.E. Church Educational Building following the burial. Arrangements are being made by Calahan Funeral Home.