A native of Tuskegee, Alabama Norma McGowan Jackson (Umi Iyabode) is a retired public school educator, founder and director of Baobab Journey Rites of Passage for Girls, a founding member of the Core Group of Infinite Possibilities, and founding board member of the South Macon Community Foundation. For several years she has held the position of president of the Macon County chapter of Alabama New South Coalition. She received her B.S. degree from Tuskegee Institute, (now University) in 1978, and the M. Ed. from Auburn University @ Montgomery in 1987. Norma was employed by the Macon County Public Schools for 25 years as the kindergarten teacher at South Macon Elementary School. Since her retirement in 2003 she has served as director of Tiger Tots Daycare Center in Opelika, Alabama, and recently retired from the education department at Lee County Youth Development Center, also located in Opelika.
Since 1996 Norma has served as chapter coordinator for the Amandla Chapter of 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement. 21st Century is a grassroots organization headquartered in Selma, Alabama and dedicated to developing community focused leaders through the L.A.C.E.S. philosophy (Leadership, Academics, Culture, Economics, and Spirituality).
In 1997, following the transition of her mother, and exactly ten years before she made her pilgrimage to the slave dungeons in Ghana, West Africa, Norma received her African title and name, Umi Iyabode. (Umi means “mother – teacher” and Iyabode means “the spirit of mother has returned”). It was around this same time that she began participating in, and later facilitating, sister circles. She is a strong believer in the power of women coming together to share, heal, support, and empower one another, and to be light in an increasingly dark world. She served as one of seven national organizers for the 2009 “Heal a Woman~Heal a Nation” conference, held in Virginia Beach Virginia.
Married to her high school sweetheart, Grover Jackson, Sr. for 46 years, Norma (Iyabode) is the proud mother of two adult children, and the proud grandmother of ten amazing grandchildren.