Ernestine Johnson is beautiful, talented, and a phenomenal poet. Raised in Los Angeles, Calif., Johnson is touching the world without her hands, but instead by using her words. Her appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show took the world by storm as she performed her poem, “Average Black Girl.”
Johnson has always written poetry as she began writing at a very young age. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Johnson was labeled as a “valley girl” because she had a proper speaking accent. She was told multiple times that she spoke like a “white girl,” and Johnson found this offensive as she grew older. As a result, these childhood experiences became the inspiration behind “Average Black Girl.”
“There was a point in my life where I was told I spoke like a white girl and I thought that was cool because I felt I spoke more proper than all the other black girls,” says Johnson. “It wasn’t until I became more educated, older and enlightened on who I am and where I come from that I realized that’s not okay because white people aren’t the only ones who can speak proper English.”
As an actress, Johnson encounters many types of people with different ethnicities, upbringings and beliefs. Johnson recalls the experience of a white female on set stereotyping her because of her strong speaking abilities and the way she presents herself to others. The other female told Johnson that she shouldn’t have any problems obtaining roles because she is a different type of “Black girl.” She went on to say that Johnson is more upper middle class.
“Had she said that seven years ago it wouldn’t have struck a nerve, but now that I am more educated it struck a big nerve,” says Johnson. “I need to enlighten my people, I need to enlighten my Black women and enlighten people who are not Black because they need to know we live in this brainwashed society that wants us to think and act a certain way.”
Because of where she was raised, Johnson thought the tall, blue-eyed “white girl” was the only kind of beauty as this was the only image that was depicted for her. She had the false belief of growing up seeing the “Kim Kardashians,” and the lighter skinned models and thinking that this was the truth, until Johnson realized she had to find her own truth.
“In elementary, I didn’t see girls that looked like me on the forefront, on the cover of magazines or on billboards,” says Johnson. “I had to understand this was a generational curse that we were bred this way, we were raised this way because of the things that were implemented in our minds.”
Even with these confidence issues, Johnson told her mother at the age of ten that she wanted to be an artist by acting and writing poetry. Johnson appeared on her first television show, 7th Heaven, in 1998. From there on, she has continued to flourish doing what she loves best.
“I grew up with a lack of confidence and that spins from all the images of beauty and what I thought was beauty. I was always envious and wanted to be somebody else. I wanted to be the girl in the class everybody liked with the blonde hair and the blue eyes until I educated myself,” says Johnson.
As Johnson is in her late 20s, she can reach the minds of young females and educate them about a word she loves: integrity. As an entertainer, Johnson knows how influencing television and society can be, and she wants to be the mogul of integrity for women of all races.
“I want women to know you don’t have to do crazy things people do to be seen on TV. Women that walk with integrity, people that walk with integrity know where they’re going and no one can steer them off of that path.”
Johnson appeared in the hit movie Think Like A Man and was also featured in David Banner’s new video “Evil Knievil.” In February, Johnson appeared in the movie Hear No Evil, which aired in TV One. While she continues to grow in the art she loves, she also wants to build and intensify her poetry.
“‘Average Black Girl’ is great but I have poems that are very raw and gritty because I want to spread truth,” says Johnson. “The truth isn’t always pretty, it doesn’t always come in a pretty package, with a pretty pink bow. Sometimes it is ugly, it is chaotic, it’s gritty and it is raw.”
She vows to keep working hard and giving truth to all of her work. One of her favorite quotes is, “People won’t always remember what you do, they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”
“I didn’t know my words could help people, teach people, and heal people,” says Johnson. “I didn’t know I possessed that power. Now that I know I possess that power, I think it is my due diligence and my job to keep enlightening and spreading truth to my people and others.”
Atlanta Free Speech salutes Ernestine Johnson.