Parents can do their children a lot of good when choosing a name – or they can choose a nickname. This must have been the case with Marijuana Pepsi Jackson, who is now called Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck. Let her inspire you, because she didn’t let her future be spoiled by her unhappy start and earned herself a doctorate and more.
Allow me to introduce Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck
In the US state of Illinois there is a small town called Pecatonica. Frederick Vandyck lives in this small town with a population of over 2,000 together with his wife Marijuana Pepsi. Wait a minute, is that really the lady’s name? Yes, it is! Or to be more precise: Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck, because she actually did her Ph.D. in 2019.
Marijuana Pepsi Jackson – a unique name
It all began in 1972 in the post-Woodstock era, as her aunt Mayetta Jackson still remembers today. Cannabis was widely available at that time and Maggie Jackson and her husband Aaron also liked to reach for the bag to refresh themselves with a cool Pepsi afterwards.
The young couple already had a daughter named Kimberly and when the second daughter was born, Maggie decided to give her a very special name, contrary to her father’s objections. And so Marijuana Pepsi Jackson was born in 1972 and quickly became a minor celebrity in her hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin, during her childhood because of her unusual name.
Some people might prefer to come to terms with a name of this kind by using a nickname, and so did Marijuana Pepsi Jackson in the beginning. Because at school she was offered to call her simply Mary, which she liked. But one day she won a spelling contest and proudly brought the winning certificate home to her mother.
But when she saw the name Mary Jackson on it, she was furious and told her daughter never to be called that again. So she tried to carry her name with her head held high, which worked quite well in primary school. Her name was just unusual.
Marijuana Pepsi’s childhood
But Marijuana Pepsi only really realized this when she was nine years old. She still remembers how she confronted her mother with the question of choosing a name. Her mother replied that she was sure that this name would take her around the world.
At the time she found this ridiculous, especially because her younger sister Robin was also given a rather common name. But on the other hand she trusted in her mother’s wisdom and that she really believed in the power of the name.
Nine was also the age at which she moved back to her mother. A few years earlier her father converted to Jehovah’s Witnesses, after which the marriage broke up. Aaron moved to Chicago with Marijuana Pepsi and later started a new family. But although he was able to provide a stable home for her there, she apparently missed her mother, so she returned to Beloit.
Marijuana Pepsi’s youth
In junior high school, she had a really hard time dealing with her name. So she was bullied every day and had to be strong all the time to be able to stand the jokes and insults. Of course her school grades suffered from this, but her family gave her a lot of strength and this helped her to keep her positive attitude.
Nevertheless, Maggie could not offer her a stable environment, so she left it behind at the age of 15. She only took some belongings with her in a pillowcase. Thanks to family members and friends, she found a place to stay and was able to devote more time to school.
MJ got a scholarship
Her efforts were worth it, because soon after, her grade point average skyrocketed. When she graduated from high school in 1990, she was even named best student and received a scholarship of 12,000 dollars from the Wisconsin Power & Light Co. for the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.
Because she is still so grateful today for the great opportunity that the scholarship gave her back then, she started saving money for a scholarship herself several years ago.
This autumn she started to pay an African-American student of UW-Whitewater 500 dollars a year to help finance his studies. She sees the Marijuana Pepsi Scholarship as an opportunity to say thank you for her own scholarship and give something back to society.
Marijuana Pepsi works hard for her education
Thanks to the well-deserved scholarship, Marijuana Pepsi Jackson was able to complete her bachelor’s degree in educational science and then work as a teacher. But for the smart woman, this was far from enough.
A few years later, in 1998, she went to Atlanta to work as a primary school teacher. She spent the next ten years in Georgia’s capital city and was anything but idle. She successfully completed a master’s degree in college administration at Georgia Southern University, met President Bill Clinton at a White House conference, became a real estate agent and learned to ride a motorcycle.
She also got married and had a son in 2003. However, Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer, which was her name after her marriage, did not have her mother Maggie’s nonchalance when naming her child. Therefore, her son was given the relatively common name Isaac.
Back to Beloit
After a decade in Atlanta, the already divorced woman returned to Beloit in 2009. She had always had the desire to make a difference in her home country. In addition to her work as a high school teacher, Marijuana Pepsi began writing her doctoral thesis in 2011.
The topic for her dissertation had been on her mind ever since a special incident in Atlanta. Although her name was always a topic, it was only later that she realized the effect names can have on other people. She remembers her first day at work after the summer holidays ended.
All the teachers looked at the names of the children in the classes that were assigned to them. One colleague complained to the principal after checking the list of names. Apparently she was worried that the students would pull down her grade point average.
Marijuana asked the others what was going on, because she could not find any information about the students’ grades in their records. Her colleagues told her that the colleague deduced from the names that the black children had been assigned to her. Then it dawned on her and she decided that she had to write about it.
Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck
She devoted eight years to her dissertation Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviour and student perception, in which she was able to process her own as well as other students’ experiences on a scientific level. To ensure that her work is based on representative results, she surveyed numerous students of her Alma Mater UW-Whitewater.
She wanted to know from students with black first names whether they had the feeling that lecturers or professors treated them differently because of this. Indeed, this seemed to be the case occasionally. She learned of events where teachers went through the list of names in front of the class to check attendance.
Read more: Ruby Bridges: Alone Among Whites
When unusual black names appeared, they stopped the first time and asked the wearers some questions about their names – an experience that Marijuana Pepsi also had. When she had the same experience during her own studies in Whitewater, she answered the professor’s insistent questions by asking why the other students were not interviewed, as it were. Then she simply said, “My name is Marijuana, thank you very much.”
In May 2019, she was rewarded by Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin for her diligence, perseverance and strength with a doctorate in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Education.
Her quest for more, against all the odds associated with her name, had paid off. Certainly it was often very difficult for her to be taken seriously. But a doctorate before her name immediately shows the whole world that you still have something up your sleeve.
When she enters a classroom today, she always introduces herself as Dr. Marijuana Pepsi. This makes it easier to reach the students and get her message across. And that is that no matter what happens, no matter what others do, you have to keep developing and work hard for your success, just like she did herself.
In the meantime, the 46-year-old marijuana Pepsi Vandyck lives together with her new husband Frederick Vandyck in Illinois. The two met a few years ago in an Internet dating site and, in keeping with today’s zeitgeist, agreed to meet in 2017.
Now they run a small farm in the small town of Pecatonica out of passion. Her main job is dedicated to the underprivileged, as she is the director of a program for students from families with low income or learning disabilities at Beloit College. She is also still a real estate agent, although unfortunately she is forced to use only her initials on sell-it-yourself signs.
Apparently, stoners used to get a kick out of taking these signs home. Otherwise, she only abbreviates her name with MP if she is really in a hurry and wants to avoid the 15-minute round of questions about her name when calling or talking.
Besides teaching, farming and selling real estate, she still found time to start a coaching company called Action as Empowerment. With this she helps people through workshops, individual coaching and retreats to change their lives or to fulfill their own life dream.
Her husband Frederick is active as a welder brought three children into the marriage, who ironically also have quite distinctive first names: TJ, Heaven and Donovan. One of them even has a child named Egypt himself, so Marijuana has already become a grandmother – although not the physical one.
For the future, marijuana Pepsi Vandyck plans to achieve even more, as she dreams of expanding her dissertation into a textbook and perhaps even aiming for a job as a professor.
And how does marijuana Pepsi feel about drugs?
Although her name is marijuana – or perhaps because of it – she herself has never used the drug that once gave her name. Not once. And how does she feel about legalization? She deeply regrets that people are in prison for selling cannabis and demands that their sentences be lifted.
Because now that the state itself profits from the sale of the drug, marijuana is legal in some states. Therefore, the sentences for previous offences should also no longer have to be served.
Nevertheless, she comes into contact with cannabis regularly in one way or another. For example, cannabis producers occasionally want to add her to their contacts on LinkedIn. Or young couples talk to her about the idea of calling their child Marijuana as well. Although the name has not caused her any lasting harm, she always advises against it.
No marijuana and no alcohol either
Aside from her clear stance against marijuana consumption, Pepsi does not drink alcohol. Sometimes the people around her try to persuade her to have a drink to relax a little. But she always refuses and replies that she feels great too. When she celebrates with drunk friends, you can never tell the difference between her and the others.
Moreover, she does not even drink Pepsi or other soft drinks. Only occasionally she does enjoy a fruity soft drink from an ice cream van – preferably orange.
No, it is not a PepsiCo soft drink, but the first name of a now very successful African American woman.
Yes, it’s the name your mother chose for her after she was born in 1972.
In fact, her mother Maggie and father Aaron would occasionally take a joint and cool off with a can of Pepsi. How lucky that they were not fans of coke!
Her main job is director of a program to promote education for the underprivileged. As a sideline she works as a real estate agent and runs a company that helps people realize their dreams.
In Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Education and she wrote about black names in white classrooms: Teacher behavior and student perception.
No, and she has never even tried it in her life. She also does not consume alcohol or Pepsi.
Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck lives with her husband Freddy in Pecatonica, Illinois. She was born in Beloit, Wisconsin.
She was born Marijuana Pepsi Jackson, later married and went by the name Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer. A few years later she got divorced and since her remarriage she is Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck.