Need inspiration? Courage? Determination? Then converse a while with community advocate Jaime Perkins, and you’ll soon be on fire. A single mother and almost the first black woman in St. Johns County to become State Representative, she packs a tight schedule in an effort to initiate as much change as any one person can. “There’s no better place to start than my own community,” says Jaime. Born and raised in West Augustine, aka “out west,” she knows and understands its needs, having enjoyed an idyllic childhood here.
Jaime comes from a large family, and she was the first to graduate college and to obtain a graduate degree, which she holds in Public Administration. MLK, Jr. spoke at her grandmother’s church, and Jaime’s mother remembers her fear of the marching crowds that day. Her father recalls having to step off the sidewalk when a white person passed. Knowing what her parents endured compels Jaime.
After Obama’s election, Jaime was excited, even hopeful. Soon, though, Trayvon Martin was murdered. “That’s the day I became an activist. As a mother of a young black boy, I was scared, angry.” Wanting to do something, she contacted Lincolnville Pastor Ron Rawls; together they orchestrated a rally called “Walking While Black,” because “that’s exactly what Trayvon was doing.” About 250 people participated. Rallying brought awareness but not change.
She soon joined the West Augustine CRA as Infrastructure Chairperson, working with City officials to implement city water and sewer for residents. The program was in place when Jaime came on board, but she pushed it forward, getting results. When her son Micah played football at age five with the West Augustine Youth Development, Jaime volunteered. Eventually she pioneered after-school programs and tutoring, arranging for students to report their grades before playing sports. Initially involving only athletics, the program now offers mentoring.
Recently she created the Black Elite Entrepreneur Society (BEES), a non-profit that allows kids to see themselves expansively. Her goals involve “providing a platform where children are given a different perspective on success. In most black communities, kids see themselves only as pro-ball players or rappers. The truth is, most of them will never see a professional sports arena.” She will introduce doctors, lawyers, computer technicians, and entrepreneurs as examples. She also aims to host a summer camp.
Improving the world for her son and other children drives her. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of ensuring a child gets home safely. “When I see other communities flourishing,” she says, “I wonder why West Augustine doesn’t have the same appeal.” Jaime Perkins is truly is a brilliant example of making change one step at a time.