CHRIS JOHNSON: There is Nothing Wrong With Excellence
”The Cream Always Rises”
by Marcinho Savant, Staff Writer
Since becoming a resident, seven years ago, I have been on a quest to find young people in the region who play hard against the “them bad a** kids!” stereotype. My features about area young people have met that goal. I am pleased to say that the hits, while difficult to mine, keep coming.
A man of a certain age, I have met, even mentored, young men and women in my travels. Never, though, have I encountered a young person, especially a young black male, who, at the age of twenty-three, has left me stunned, and nearly speechless, due to his attributes. Chris Johnson is an enigmatic, impressive, resolute black person of the type which I’d hoped to feature in my Young People series. I have profiled many astounding, inspiring, earnest young people over the past three years. This week, my discovery raises the bar. There is nothing wrong with excellence.
Johnson, a dread-locked, doe-eyed, gamer (oft hermit) possessed of a solid working vocabulary one would expect of a much older person. He is forthright. Candid. “Woke”, and a, resolute, intellectual, rolled into one. There is a self-deprecation, and humility at the surface. His parents must be formidable, and amazing.
From a young age, resultant from firm, yet fair, goal-oriented, attentive parents, he has always been expected to rise above stereotype, endemic pitfalls, and his environment. His Shreveport roots are deep, having been born and raised in the city, to parents who are also Shreveport-strong and of evident great character. He wasn’t the most “popular” kid in school, and describes himself as being thought of as an outcast: strange, weird.
Not an average person, Johnson was an avid Fencer, who rode his fencing penchant, and skill to the Junior Olympics regional level. Fencing is a sport of tremendous mental and physical acuity, strategy, wit, and speed. Evidently, he was rather adept at the rigors of the game. A self-described lone-wolf, he values his “space”, like oxygen.
As James Baldwin once said, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." - Chris Johnson
Chris shared a number of experiential parallels with this writer. We both survived the taunts of our people, being derided as “trying to be white”, “act white”, and “talk white”, by our African-American acquaintances. Ostracized, in fact, because being erudite, expressive, intellectual, and aware was deemed problematic.
Chris credits his upbringing for his organic nature. Being raised in a home which was “strict, and loving”, His parents, Patricia, and Alphonse Johnson, have very firm opinions about the expectations for their children, now all adults. In their house, you were were going to work hard to be educated black people. He states he was forced to do homework, had very little “free reign”, had expectations to live up to. One could easily surmise that his older brother, Alphonse Jr., and his own twin, Thomas, are equally impressive.
“They weren’t malicious. They’ve always had my best interests in mind. We love who we are, and where we come from. My mom has lived long enough to see so much. She just has knowledge of the black experience, has had enough of the hatred toward African-Americans, and my parents shared the experience of fighting the odds to make their way--- and a way for us. She said, “If we can’t stop the hatred, at least stop the source”, Johnson said. Education was a non-negotiable term of living in this family. It seems to have served him well.
Then came college, which proved to be quite a minefield of formidable personal and academic challenges which resulted in his taking an, unexpected, break. He is still taking some classes these days, but has yet to matriculate into a degree program. He returned to the family home, and found work.
Like most young people, he felt, for a time, disengaged from, and resentful of, the strict requirements of his parents, and their very clearly-defined expectations, and viewpoints. He described coming to a point where he found those rules and mores difficult to navigate. He said, for a time, he felt trapped in the house, and determined to “fight for his freedom”. He described feeling somewhat stifled, and took a stand. An “outburst” which, he says, led to increased freedom. Johnson seems to crave a certain independence, and individuality for himself. His parents took a breath, and chose to allow him a little more room for self-determination.
This dovetails to the day I encountered young Mr. Johnson, who works in fine food sales, for a company which he’d prefer unnamed. He greeted me with a disarming level of professionalism, hospitality, encyclopedic knowledge of his hundreds of products, and an intellectual tool-kit of someone far older. Wiser. I can attest that Johnson seems plenty wise. Just ask him a question.
For this interview, I asked him how racism had, or hadn’t, impacted his development. His, undelayed, reply? “As James Baldwin once said, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." He claims a blissful ignorance to the pains of being “other”, as a child. It seems his family was focused on looking forward, while not forgetting the past--- Just not wallowing in it. Eyes on the prize.
Johnson has goals, and eventually, dreams to be a husband. Father. A five-year vision. Ten-year goal, a revolutionary, stewardship, mindset, and big-picture viewpoint which could, in fact, make him a household name, like Steve Jobs, and his ubiquitous smart phone.
His is a mission as lofty as space exploration. With academic background in Agricultural Business Administration, he intends to reforest the planet. Many a local Tree Doctor, and nursery, could benefit from his education, savvy, and worldview. They could say they knew him when. In the words of my late, great, aunt--- Dr. Sybil C. Mobley: “The cream always rises to the top”.
Eyes open, world. Unicorns are real. Some, even found right here in the neighborhood.