My parents, Aaron and Mattie Johnson to Chicago from Jim Crow South in the 1950’s along with thousands of other African Americans to escape oppression and racial terrorism. In Chicago they found decent employment and got a mortgage despite redlining which is the practice of arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods, generally because its residents are people of color or are poor. My parents believed in hard work and sacrifice and got the mortgage.
As a child growing up I didn’t know we were poor or even how bad my North Lawndale neighborhood was and would become because my parents enrolled me in dance classes at Ms. Water’s basement school of dance, sent me to a private Catholic school, had a Hammond organ in our house and took organ lessons, studied ballet at the Russian Allegro school of ballet, went on regular vacations, ate at restaurants on special occasions and always had the unconditional love and attention of both my parents. Despite the fact that my neighborhood was burned to the ground as a result of two years of race rioting in the late 1960s I was surrounded by a network of family, teachers, and friends who led me to believe that life is full of possibilities.
My dance lessons allowed me to travel around the world performing eventually becoming an NBA cheerleader, in between I rocked the fitness world from the 80’s to the present day, teaching and managing in the fitness industry. For 4 years, seven months and 9 days, I served in the United States Army. I decided I would use the military as a way to search for life’s meaning and explore life beyond dance and fitness.
And yes, that is what my military service provided. While in the military I finished my college degree, traveled Europe and when I returned stateside I was able to blend the creativity of my years as a performer with the discipline of my military training to organize festivals and events for the City of Chicago with the Mayor’s office of special events and now I am a senior manager for the largest private recreation facility in the US and yes still dancing. I live in Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the US and because of my belief in life’s possibilities after 20 plus years of single life I met and married Craig Rapp. I will always be grateful to my wonderful parents, Aaron and Mattie Johnson for your unconditional love, faith, life lessons and support.
Watch and listen as I tell a story about an incident that I will never forget on one of our family road trips to Georgia.