Posted on February 16, 2022
By Alec Wagner, Lani Allred and Dey Zambrana-Soler
Joyce Johnson is a social justice advocate whose life experiences have driven her towards impacting the lives of Greensboro residents. As an activist, Joyce firmly believes in the power of words and their long-lasting impact when partnered with knowledge. This is one of the reasons behind establishing the Beloved Community Center, “A big piece of what we do is truth, justice and community reconciliation. We’ve become experts on that; we are constantly asked by others around the country and around the world about how to bring together disparate groups to have dialogue to get the truth, get a community truth and to try to bring about justice,” Joyce said.
In her community and church, Joyce is active in a myriad of grassroots efforts to improve education, healthcare, women’s issues, and support African liberation struggles. Her organizational affiliations have included the Afro American Society at Duke University (founding member and Co-Chair), Black Student Movement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU), the African World Newspaper, the National Black Political Party, the Voter Education Project, the NAACP, the Coalition to Free the Wilmington Ten, the African Liberation Support Committee, the Greensboro Association of Poor People, the Citizens Committee Against Police Brutality, the Southern Faith, Labor and Community Alliance, and the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro.
Joyce Johnson was one of the earlier black students that attended Duke University. While she was a student, she was a strong supporter of the campus’ non-academic employees and the movement for a relevant education. A former university professor and research director, Joyce is currently co-Executive Director of the Beloved Community Center and Director of the Jubilee Institute, a community-based leadership development and training entity. Joyce assisted the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro (BCC) in developing the Jubilee Institute to provide institutional support, social and political analysis, training, and leadership development for the broad-based progressive movement in that city.
Beloved Community Center (BCC) was founded in 1991 with the mission to “elevate the voices of the most oppressed.” The BCC ‘s goals are rooted in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of overcoming racial and economic injustices by creating democracy and beloved community. Two ongoing initiatives for BCC are energizing Black and Latina women to vote, and advancing towards justice for the Black community affected by forms of racial oppression and police brutality. The BCC strives to work towards building a “beloved community” through community building, community organizing, and other forms of advocacy and activism.
Joyce says that even though racism has always existed, the pandemic has made it a lot more noticeable in a variety of different ways. She notes that black and brown people are suffering more from the effects of the pandemic based on the lack of resources such as secure housing and food. She says that throughout the years of dealing with COVIDl, reaching out to people has been the most important factor for resilience. Joyce encourages students to get “immersed in a community…through clubs, professional organizations, and religious organizations.” She adds that students, faculty, administrators, and even trustees should create ties with their community, so they don’t become confined to the walls of the university.
Moving forward, Joyce and her husband are attempting to help launch a North Carolina based truth, justice, and community reconciliation process. Joyce anticipates that this will be “an opportunity for us to work together to make a difference in North Carolina. We can’t stay where we are now. Where we are now is a teeter-tottering place. And I’m working hard to bend it. As Dr. King said, we need to bend that moral arc towards justice, toward righteousness.”
Alec Wagner is a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, majoring in Communication Studies and highly motivated to launch a professional career. Recognized as a highly creative and talented contributor, with extensive experience in marketing communications and research development. Exemplifying key skills such as: leading diversity teams in collaborative settings, client relationship management, and business communications.
Lani Allred is a junior Communication Studies major at UNC- Greensboro. She is a consultant in the university’s Speaking Center and is a member of the Communication Department’s honor society Lambda Pi Eta. She dedicates her time to helping others in her role as a consultant, as well as through volunteer work and service learning opportunities.
Dey Zambrana-Soler is a UNC Greensboro (UNCG) student currently finishing her bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in communication studies. During her time at UNCG, she has served in various leadership roles that inspired her to become a young student affairs professional in the higher education field. Her interest in sociology ignited her passion for the study of Intersectionality and she’s an avid advocate for social justice. In the fall, Dey will begin a master’s degree program in higher education with a concentration in student affairs, while working as a graduate assistant for the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement.