Ariana Johnson: Distinguished Young Woman Honoree

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Ariana Johnson: Distinguished Young Woman Honoree

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Ariana Johnson, YWCA Distinguished Young Woman, has a passion for writing and a passion for advocacy and the two go together. Years ago she penned Dear Ida Speaks, a blog “where we uplift black women and our issues one community at a time,” and now after working with the Children’s Defense Fund and currently at Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court, she is working on starting another. Larger than her pen, is her career as a community activist. Through her continued activism and inspiration of politically noteworthy women, she is pursuing a career in government relations so that she can put her voice, her activism, and her values to full-time use for children and families.

She plans on starting to study for a Master in Public Administration (MPA) at the University of Akron in the fall. “I know it’s a hard career, especially for a young woman of color, but I see something and I go after it with all the veracity I can.”

Ariana has a history of taking the lead. “I’m a collaborative leader. Nobody can be a true leader if your team can’t come to you with ideas or opinions to better yourself. I prepare others behind me to take future leadership. Everyone should have their say and their opportunity to lead.”

Especially last year, she spent most of her time studying, researching, and preparing for a career in law. Working on public policy with the Children’s Defense Fund strengthened her resolve law school. After applying to law schools and then more recently working with lawyers at her new job scheduling at the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court, she realized that law was not the only way to advocate for children and families and that an MPA is the ticket to a career in nonprofit advocacy to many levels governments. She is grateful that she did not force herself into studying law and thankful for her resilience to adapt as her career trajectory transforms.

Johnson was the first female president of the Northeast Ohio Young Black Democrats. “My time as president was very challenging because the organization was in a state transition in every way. However, during that time those challenges introduced to me to my strength and tenacity. I was determined to keep the ball rolling so that NEOYBD could continue to be the well-respected organization that it always was.”

“I am very proud of Gabrielle Jackson [YWCA Distinguished Young Woman] the current president of NEOYBD and the rest of the executive committee and the impact the organization has in the community.”

“Being an activist was pretty much geared in my DNA. Both of my parents are activists in their own right; my mom was the secretary of our neighborhood street club and my dad marched in the Million Man March in 1995. They both taught me that if I don’t like something change it and that teaching and influence from my parents is what inspires me to organize.”

“I know and understand that I cannot alleviate any problem alone. If I can get two of three people who believe in the same cause that I believe in, with faith and action mountains can be moved.”

Besides God and her mother, four women exemplify inspiration for Ariana’s career.

“Representative Shirley Chisholm inspires me because of her intelligence, bravery, determination and her willingness to serve others… She never allowed the negativity to stop her purpose and that was to serve constituents.”

“Coretta Scott King inspires me because of her quiet strength, she was just known as Dr. King’s wife by many people but she spoke out and organized around issue like women’s rights. She stood tall and unbowed even in the face of darkness when her husband was assassinated and not only consecrated her husband’s legacy as a human rights activist and icon but established her own legacy with grace and class.”

“Representative Maxine Waters inspires me because of her outspoken intelligence,” valor and courage.

“Contemporaneously, Senator Kamala Harris sets Ariana’s standard for her “activism, her public service and how she has implemented her activism and public service into public policy from her anti-lynching bill to her work with the Dreamers. She has created policy that actually impacted her constituency and the country for the better.”

Johnson cannot help but mention that both Coretta Scott King and Kamala Harris are her sorority sisters in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  In preparation for law school last year, she also completed the process of joining the graduate chapter of the first Greek-letter sorority for black women. It focuses on social uplift.

Johnson’s blog Dear Ida Speaks was inspired by Ida B. Wells, who was present at the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Niagara Falls. Born a slave, Wells worked as a journalist, activist, educator and researcher who exposed the terrors of lynching, traveling internationally to speak on white mob violence and criticizing the women’s suffrage movement for not acting on the horror. Not surprising then, Ariana Johnson’s inspiration recently landed as articles for the Call and Post. Johnson will be blogging about women of color in politics with a sorority sister under the soon to be published title Pretty Political.

Last year, Johnson established a nonprofit: L.E.A.D (Learn Educate Advocate and Develop). She is in the process of building resources and a team around it to teach middle-schoolers about civility in Collinwood, her home.

Ariana serves in many community organizations, many involved in political campaigning, but not all. Voter registration is frequent ambition of hers and she has done drives in her neighborhood. She focuses on disenfranchised women and people of color at her church, library, foodbank, and recently at a domestic violence forum. Johnson is also the youth administrator at her church, Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church. Outside of church, she mentored two tweens in the Leading Ladies mentoring program, which one of her sorority sisters founded it and is looking to start mentoring with the program again. Her professional passion of wanting to work to change policies to help children and families is supported through her work as a member of the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Foundation Associate Board. Ida B. Wells would be proud that Johnson has been participating in the NAACP Next Generation Leadership Program, which prepares people for future leadership of the chapter.