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Jeff Johnson Interview: Educating The Community

Washington D.C, based award-winning journalist, social activist and political commentator Jeff Johnson is just more than an ordinary man. Most people know him as a BET television commentator who is not afraid to speak his mind on issues that are affecting black communities but is that all there is to know about him?

Johnson was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from High school he attended the University of Toledo on a track scholarship. It was during his time there that Johnson decided that he wanted to focus on something outside of athletics.

“I got involved in campus activism, serving as a black union president there for two –years and President of Student Government there for a year,” said Johnson.

Upon graduating from college as a Political Science major, Johnson worked for corporate America for a finance company on the mortgage side. “I did that for a number of years and hated it,” he said.

Fortunately for Johnson it was while volunteering for the NAACP that he was able to network and later offered a full time job as a National Youth director for the NAACP.

A few years later in 2003, Johnson left the NAACP in order to start his own company and do some consulting work and “that’s when some doors opened up and I thought that I ought to do my own political consulting ….and the rest is the rest,” Johnson added.

For the last decade even though Johnson’s focus has been spent on merging the worlds of politics and popular culture, community service is something that he takes pleasure talking about.

On Obama plea to have more Americans involved in community volunteerism, Johnson said, “Well I don’t think it was ever a bad thing for people to be involved in communities and I think that there are a lot of people who have been involved in activities before Obama recommended that they should be. I think that time will tell if people really answer his call for volunteerism… I think that Obama’s call is a good one because it’s not necessary saying that the government is going to create an institution that is going to be the vehicle for volunteerism. He said that you need to do it on your own and I think that’s powerful and important.”

When it comes to Black History month Johnson mentioned that it is suppose to be a period of time when Americans focus on the history of black people in the Diaspora but particularly in America. People should try to educate not only African-Americans but other people on that rich history and simultaneously take an opportunity to celebrate it.

From all of his conversations with marquee world figures in the political, business, entertainment world or just with a regular person, Johnson cherished all of them because as he puts it he was able to gain some valuable insights from each one of them.

Furthermore said Johnson, “I try to remain open to learning on the daily basis, I try to remain open to things being taught on the daily basis, and I think as the result of that I can’t name one person that I have interviewed that had more impact on me than anybody else.”

“I don’t think that I walk around feeling as if I know everything,” said Johnson. “I have my notions and my perceptions challenged regularly not just by the people that I interview but by students that may be in my lecture and [have] asked me a question.”

Johnson who considers himself a learner believes that in order to motivate young people to follow in his footsteps, they have to be educated, not just by parents, or school educator but by the entire community .

Nevertheless as he said, “the existence of life is to enjoy the moment where I am able to exist in the silence of solitude.”
—— By: Valerie Varasse

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