Today’s episode features an interview with Jen White-Johnson, an Afro-Latina disabled artist, photographer, educator, and designer. Jen is also an Assistant Professor of Visual Communication at Bowie State University. Jen will talk about how being the parent of a neurodivergent Black son politicized her and her work in the midst of racist violence and police brutality this year. You’ll hear her describe one of several graphics she created this year that features the raised solidarity fist in black with an infinity sign at the wrist with the words Black Disabled Lives Matter below. You can find more of Jen’s work on her website at https://jenwhitejohnson.com/.
Please note this interview contains mentions of antiblackness, violence, and police brutality.
Wow. Thank you @AyannaPressley for sharing my #ToyinSalau visual tribute in solidarity. Her life had value and purpose and it continues to be our responsibility to uplift and understand that black women deserve protection, care, respect, and amplification. https://t.co/A6wCriWaHp
— Jen White-Johnson 🗣✊🏽 (@jtknoxroxs) June 17, 2020
“How the Black Disabled Lives Matter Symbol Took on A Life of Its Own.” Jennifer White-Johnson, November 11, 2020, AIGA Eye on Design.”
“#BlackDisabledLivesMatter: Q&A with artist Jen White-Johnson.” Alice Wong, September 9, 2020, Break The Story Volume IV: Disability Visibility, Pop Culture Collaborative.
“A young black autistic man was sentenced to 50 years for a car crash. Tens of thousands of people are now calling for his freedom.” Theresa Vargas, June 24, 2020, Washington Post.
Jen White-Johnson is a Designer, Photographer, Art Activist, and Art Educator. Currently, she teaches as an Assistant Professor of Visual Communication at Bowie State University where her work focuses on the intersection of content and caregiving with an emphasis on redesigning ableist visual culture. When her son was diagnosed as Autistic at age 2 she began to examine the absence of black disabled children in digital and literary media, this motivated the release of an advocacy photo zine entitled “KnoxRoxs.” Dedicated to her Autistic son, the zine is a way to give visibility to children of color in the black Autistic community. As an artist-educator with Graves disease and ADHD, her heart-centered and electric approach to disability advocacy bolsters these movements with invaluable currencies: powerful, dynamic art and media that all at once educates, bridges divergent worlds, and builds a future that mirrors her Autistic son’s experience. Since its release, the zine has received national and international recognition, including features in AfroPunk, Today at Apple, and is permanently archived in Libraries at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This year her activist work has been featured in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Crip Camp: The Official Virtual Experience, and she was recently selected as an honoree on the 2020 Diversability’s D-30 Disability Impact List.
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Geraldine Ah-Sue, Audio Producer
Alice Wong, Writer, Audio Producer, Host
Cheryl Green, Text Transcript
Lateef McLeod, Introduction
Mike Mort, Artwork
Theme Music (used with permission of artist)
Song: “Dance Off”
Artist: Wheelchair Sports Camp
“Maruken” by Polyrhythmics (licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY-NC 3.0 License).