Up from the streets
Claud Jackson talks to Stephen Tomkins about finding value in a world of drugs and guns
Claud Jackson was a young man of tremendous, but vulnerable, enthusiasms. Some come up in this interview. One that does not, but he mentions in his book, Guns to God, is that he got the chance to trial as goalie for Wimbledon. In his excitement he told his older brother, who poured scorn on his hopes. As you read, you see the lights going out in the boy’s eyes as he gives up on the idea.
His story is not just about a life of crime, but about the turning points, and the disillusion and damage, that take someone there. But to talk to him is to meet someone for whom the lights have clearly come back on for good. What a great advertisement for the Christian faith.
Guns to God: My journey from drug dealing to deliverance is published by SPCK.
Your story starts with your Dad. Can you tell us about him?
My dad was Jamaican, a builder and carpenter by trade. He was a very strict parent – it was his way or no way at all. That often meant domestic arguments; it was just generally a dysfunctional household.
He spoke so aggressively. Even when we were buying materials for work, people would say, ‘What’s the problem?’ He was ferocious.
The way he treated your mum must have been hard for you.
Yes, it was difficult being the youngest one and seeing the abuse. My dad was a very old school – thought women should be in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, looking after the house. If he came home in a mood, he’d often take it out on those who were at home, it was just the normality of the situation.
Looking back do you have any understanding of what life was like for him, what made him that way?
The only conclusion I’ve come to is the poverty of our situation, and having six children, was a huge pressure on both of my parents. That’s not an excuse, but I think it caused a lot of stress for both my parents. But other than that, I’ve struggled to understand why he’d be so abusive. He had an abusive upbringing and hurt people hurt people, but having been through what I’ve been through, I find it hard to justify his abusive violence.
Your older brother was influential too.
He left the family home round about the age of 12 or 14 to live with my nan in Brixton and he would come home once or twice a month. Because he was the first child, my nan fell in love with him, looked after him. He was given all the freedom in the world, while we were more or less imprisoned in Tooting. When he’d come home, he’d always have these stories to tell. And he was mischievous, ever since he was small child.
I don’t know how he got involved in crime. I know he was always in trouble in school. And then he ended up in Feltham Young Offenders when I was about seven. Then he went on to Pentonville. He was my hero and he’d come back with these stories of what he’d been up to, while we’re told to sit and be quiet, so the crime was glorified to me. He was very generous, he really had a good heart. Later on in life, unfortunately, he fell victim to a lot of drug abuse and he’s not the man now who he once was…
This is an extract from an article published in the October 2021 edition of Reform