David Johns is the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition. His focus is on improving the life of LGBTQ+ people, including people living with HIV.
“Black People, especially those with multiple marginalized identities, are always disproportionately impacted by crises”.
-David johns, executive director
Tell us about yourself.
I have the honor of serving as the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+, and same-gender-loving (LGBTQ+/SGL) people and people living with HIV. I am an advocate. My career has been focused on improving life outcomes and opportunities for Black people and addressing the needs of often neglected communities that I am a part of. I am an educator. I taught elementary school, am an adjunct college professor, and am completing my Ph.D. My research focuses on the experiences of Black LGBTQ+/SGL youth in educational programs and activities. We can improve programs, policies, and practices to ensure all students feel welcome, safe, and supported in the schools they are compelled to attend. I care deeply about the babies– about protecting them and ensuring they thrive. I am also a son, a brother, and an uncle to three amazing young people–Jordyn, Jett, and Jaxx.
Tell us about your work at the National Black Justice Coalition?
As Executive Director, I lead NBJC in its mission to end racism, homophobia, and anti-LGBTQ+/SGL bias and stigma. This year, we are focused on building the good trouble network– a network of Black LGBTQ+/SGL elected officials advancing policies that improve life outcomes and opportunities for Black LGBTQ+/SGL people, communities, and families. We are organizing against anti-LGBTQ+/SGL legislation being introduced across the nation. We are currently spending time and energy describing the damage that legislation like the Stop Woke Act and Don’t Say Gay Bill, introduced in Florida, will have on the most vulnerable members of our community–our students. At the federal level, we continue to push for the passage of legislation that would protect our community and facilitate equity.
This includes the Equality Act, which would update existing civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, the Counseling Not Criminalization Act, which would prevent the over-discipline of Black LGBTQ+/SGL students by shifting money away from police in schools and toward trauma-informed support services, and establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to provide a comprehensive study of possible reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans and the generations of anti-Black systemic inequalities. NBJC also works to ensure that Black LGBTQ+/SGL youth can thrive.
We invested in organizations that provide our youth with the support they need to thrive through our Benevolence Campaign. Currently, we are partnered with the Boris L. Henson Foundation to provide culturally competent and quality mental health support services to Black LGBTQ+/SGL youth. Through this program, youth will have access to 5 free counseling sessions. This is essential as young people in our community face unique mental health issues living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities– challenges being exacerbated by political bullies.
What are some of the challenges you face as a non-profit organization during this covid season?
We have embraced the opportunity to lean into web 3.0 innovations and have found success organizing and engaging with our community online. For example, we have been able to share essential information with our community about HIV/AIDS by creating Twitter Moments specific to HIV/AIDS awareness days and a Downloadable Toolkit with statistics about HIV and actions to take on awareness days. We have not been able to host in-person HIV testing events as we did pre-pandemic but still encourage people to get tested by getting a free at-home testing kit, which you can get at takemehome.org. The biggest challenge we are experiencing during COVID-19 as Black people, especially those with multiple marginalized identities, are always disproportionately impacted by crises have not been an exception.
Black LGBTQ+/SGL people were more likely to reduce their work hours, receive a pay cut, or become unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in addition to the enduring problems associated with anti-Blackness, poverty, and toxic stress resulting from whiteness and white supremacy.
How can organizations partner with the National Black Justice Coalition?
We are a resource to increase competence and compassion to hold space for and advance policies and projections that support Black LGBTQ+/SGL people, families, and communities; visit Resources to begin or deepen your commitment to fighting against LGBTQ+ stigma, hate, and discrimination. You should always follow us across digital platforms at @NBJCOnTheMove. To volunteer your time and talent, Contact us to let us know which area of our work you are most interested in and if you have any specific ideas for a partnership.
As the executive director, what inspires you to do this work daily?
I am inspired by and am the beneficiary of the labor and love invested by those who did this work before me, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Mandy Carter, and Pauli Murray, to name just a few of the torchbearers who laid the path for us and whose work continues to be relevant and inform our efforts today. I’m also inspired by young people who have tasted freedom and are fighting to protect it for themselves and others. I also know that we will win–we will all be free!
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