Stockton native Jason Lee returns to encourage residents to take action

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Jason Lee, left, responds to Q-and-A with his entourage and Delta’s Tina Leal. Photo by Vivienne Aguilar
Jason Lee, left, responds to Q-and-A with his entourage and Delta’s Tina Leal. Photo by Vivienne Aguilar

Jason Lee, known for his role on the VH1 show Love and Hip Hop, made Jan. 14 a star-studded affair in the Tillie Lewis Theatre.

Lee, a Stockton native who runs gossip site Hollywood Unlocked, returned home for the debut of his memoir “God Must Have Forgotten About Me.” Lee hosted a free event during the evening, welcoming mostly high school students. Conversation was mixed with FaceTime appearances from Cardi B and Tiffany Haddish.

“An Evening With Jason Lee” included Lee’s personal account of Rihanna finding him in a party to tell him that his story touched her, the big-screen celebrity appearances, and gifts to the audience. Lee offered copies of his book, courtesy of Cardi B, to the crowd. Haddish also bought a downtown Stockton movie screening of “Like a Boss” for those in attendance. 

Lee held a question and answer discussion for invited guests prior to the main event.

Trisha Aguilar, mother and member of the OWL (One Woman’s Love) Movement attended both events. 

“I teared up, he was so inspiring,” said Aguilar. 

Aguilar had some insight as to what Delta’s event would look like, unlike many people in the room, who joined but knew little about what the night had in store for them.

Cameramen were scattered all across the greenroom. CBS 13’s Rachel Wulff covered the event, as well as videographers from BluCollar Entertainment, who work closely with Hollywood Unlocked.

Those in attendance for the pre-event were Lee’s family, former co-workers, Delta faculty and media, along with representatives from Edison and Stagg high schools. 

The people selected to join were able to ask personal questions about Lee’s life and pick his brain about the industry.

“I think that toxic masculinity or hyper femininity, or all of those labels are just things created to divide us. I don’t really play into that,” said Lee when asked about toxic masculinity. “My business partner [Floyd Mayweather] is one of the most testosterone-driven men in the sport of boxing. I don’t really play into stereotypes or labels ‘cause that just creates division. Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Questions ran the gamut.

“What would be the message that you have for students from Stockton, from Delta College, from our high schools, who didn’t see a path to actually getting to where you are?” asked Adriana Brogger, a Delta RTV professor.

“I own the [nationally syndicated radio] show that I have. I own the name. I own the digital. I own the podcast. They own what airs on the radio, but they can’t air what’s on the radio without my name,” Lee said. “So, I created leverage where I’m in control of my brand. Because that helps market the business, but behind the scenes it is a tech business. So you’re making sure your taxes are right, making sure your Articles of Incorporation are right. Making sure your board and all the investors have the report, that way they know you’re spending the financials properly. Making sure your payrolls on time.” 

Lee wanted to give it to Stockton as straight as possible.

Many of the other questions centered around overcoming trauma — one of the main issues Lee wanted to highlight during his time back home. He referred to his memoir as “the real Jason,” who was only known by his inner circle. 

Lee said he wants Stockton to recognize themselves in his story, and gain some wisdom along the way. 

Among the first group to join the roundtable included members of the Delta College African American Employee Association’s executive board: President James Forte, Vice President Valerie Stewart-Green and Treasurer Marcia Johnson.

Stewart-Green asked Lee if he would be interested in becoming an active member of the alumni community on campus. The room then joked about how he needed an honorary degree as well, considering he never finished at Delta.

Most of the outreach to Delta’s community members went through Delta’s Facilities & Reservations specialist Tina Leal. Jasmine Dallafosse, senior regional organizer of the nonprofit The Gathering for Justice’ reached out to Forte and encouraged his participation in the event, according to Forte. 

Organizations including The Gathering for Justice and Justice League CA.

Lee was vocal about community service being a “thankless job,” how collaboration had to be selfless for events and projects to run smoothly.

Justice League CA facilitated most of the evening, and was able to connect attendees with their parting gifts via mass text message.

Lee said, over and over again, that Stockton “needs to stop waiting for Superman.” 

He urged Stocktonians to be the change we want to see in our city. That we can’t expect mayors and federal entities to step in and make everything right. Individuals, especially high school and college students, are responsible for bringing back the community he knew as a kid and young adult. 

More than once, Lee recalled public spaces, like a roller skating rink or water park, that Stockton used to have. He remembered how the community used to be and hopes it can be like that again. 

“Throwing money at a problem doesn’t work,” he said, individuals have to step up and collaborate to fix our issues.