RIC: Yammy Bear, you have a very interesting name, where did your name come from?

Yammy Bear: Growing up in my culture it was normal for some of us to be able to look at someone and give them a name based on one's behavior or looks. The day I got my name, CJ was at work and staring at my picture for a very long time trying to figure out what to name me. He came up with multiple names but none fit what I was planning to do to bring smiles to the people during this Covid-19 pandemic. As he began to meditate the word “Yammy Bear” popped out at him. At that very moment I knew that would be my name.

RIC: Are you originally from the Rochester area? If not, what led you here?

Jackson: No, I am not originally from Rochester. It was 1999, when I moved here to Olmsted County from Minneapolis, after my children were placed into child custody due to my drug addictions and illegal street activities. My daily struggles with heroin and crack cocaine became the death of me. I'm talking about: spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. I was lost and I felt defeated. I needed help. My hope was to be able to live and see another day. I wanted to live and not die from my sickness. I needed deliverance from my addictions so that I might find myself in Jesus Christ. So, the answer to your question: what led me here? I would say it was my faith in God to become a changed person and new opportunities to grow and help others in our community through my transformation.

Yammy Bear: I've always lived here in Rochester. A few years ago CJ decided to move out of Minnesota, removing himself from all distractions, even family members and friends who weren't trying to better themselves nor having the desire to be beneficial to their community. After two years he came back to Minnesota, to be closer to his children and grandchildren and to revive our relationships with those leaders here in Rochester who once believed in him and still believe in him. When CJ moved back, he knew he wanted to do something different to help people. He had a choice between a large banana suit or me. I’m glad he chose me.

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Yammy Bear out on Second Street Southwest in Rochester. (Submitted photo)
Yammy Bear out on Second Street Southwest in Rochester. (Submitted photo)

RIC: What do you like best about Rochester?

Jackson: It was kind of foreign to me at first. The city streets were clean and quiet. Some of the people here like Andy and Peggy Kilen have shown me love through their acts of kindness. That's what I like about Rochester. It's the people who want to see change in their community for the betterment of our young people and our elders, making our community a safer place to live, work and raise our children.

Yammy Bear: I like the fact that Rochester is growing more and new Black African American leaders and business owners are starting to get the recognition that they deserve.

RIC: What changes do you think still need to be made?

Jackson: There are good people and bad people in our community, but, as a community, it's going to take the strength of strong leaders, teachers, parents, children, lawyers, police officers and probation officers, business people, and church leaders to be able to put the word "UNITY" back into the word community making us whole again. That's the change I see that needs to be made because it's the seed of life and many opportunities. Without it our community will die because of separation. Action speaks to the value of a person's character.

RIC: What do you do for a living and why did you choose that career?

Jackson: Lack of identity is real and It is my moral duty and desire to be able to help, pray, engage and encourage those who are struggling to overcome their addictions through the Ministry of Good Works. I've once struggled with addiction and I can relate to what they are going through. I didn't choose this walk but I was recognized and chosen by the Most High God and now what I do to bring Him glory has become a lifestyle.

Yammy Bear: CJ is also the CEO of Yammy Bear and Family.

RIC: What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into your industry?

Jackson: Make sure that your intentions are right not only with men, but with God.

RIC: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Jackson: One of our greatest accomplishments was being there for a 3-year-old boy whose name is Atreyu. One day I received a message from one of Atreyu’s grandparents in my Facebook messenger asking if Yammy Bear and Family could visit Atreyu at St. Marys Hospital. She explained to us that he was on dialysis and needed a kidney donor. Our hearts went out to Atreyu and his family

Yammy Bear: And I showed up dancing, putting a big smile on Atreyu's face. That day we used our social media platforms to become one of the lifelines that helped Atreyu receive his new kidney.

RIC: What is one thing most people don't know about you?

Jackson: God saved me from myself and I just wrote a book about it, which just became available on Amazon November 15th. "Saved From Myself" is my life story and about the reality of God's grace.

RIC: Can organizations or businesses request Yammy Bear come to an event? How would they do that?

Yammy Bear: They can contact me on our Facebook pages: Yammy Bear or Yammy Bear and Family or email me at yammycarebear@gmail.com.