Young, Gifted, Black…and Arrested
#BlackLivesMatter on #SonicWatermelons
Sonic Sunday Podcast, August 14, 2016
Depending on who you talk to, Christopher Johnson may not quite fit under the moniker of young. Or maybe you think the 45 year old does. Still, there is no arguing that the poet, playwright and actor is gifted and Black, to borrow from the wise words of Nina Simone. In fact, just this past May, Johnson was interviewed by the office of RI state Governor Gina Raimondo for the position of state poet laureate.
However, Johnson now may also be known to some as the “poet” who “was arrested in Providence for ‘walking while black’.” That is because earlier this week on August 10, the Providence Journal published an article sparked by an August 3rd essay written by Johnson, for Motif Magazine, in which he discusses being “stopped by a police officer while walking home from a bus stop in May.” And on August 4, Bob Plain of RIFuture.org, also published a piece about Johnson and his arrest, including the perspective of Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steve Pare who said “‘The officer is going to have to articulate to the court why he asked this man his name and where he was going.’” Matt O’Brien’s piece in the Journal reminded readers that Governor Raimondo “is considering about 20 candidates for state poet,” with a note from the governor’s spokeswoman Marie Aberger saying that an “‘arrest would not preclude someone from being named to the position’” though acknowledging that “‘the seriousness of the alleged offense…[and] the circumstances surrounding it and the outcome’” may be considered.
This is indeed a serious matter, and this is an ongoing case, all of which should help you understand some of the work Johnson shares, and why he sometimes writes, posts and advocates in the name of or with the inclusion of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Luckily for all of us, he has developed this craft of joining words to create something new, and whether it’s love, racism, or violence, Johnson holds a mirror up to the world we live in, not to placate and soothe us but to ensure that the truth, sometimes harsh, sometimes beautiful, is told. Johnson is not only the face of racial profiling or another victim of police brutality, he is an artist. And that’s the man who joined Sonic Watermelons on June 28, 2016, when Johnson visited the show as a guest to tell us about his relationships and network in Providence, the many projects he has worked on, and the amazing opportunity he was embarking on the very next day in Sedona, Arizona.
No, we didn’t talk about his experience with being profiled and harassed on a short walk home one night this past May. Because we don’t need violence and death to remind us to talk about why #BlackLivesMatter on #SonicWatermelons. To listen to the podcast, “Christopher Johnson Visits Sonic Watermelons Y Las Vidas Negras Importan” click here: http://bit.ly/2aTY7EP. Subscribe to “Sonic Watermelons” on iTunes; follow the show on FB, SoundCloud and Instagram @sonicwatermelons and on Twitter @watermelonradio; and hear the live show via webstream every Tuesday, 7-8 PM on bsrlive.com.
- Poem by Christopher Johnson, July 22, 2016: http://bit.ly/2aLIqy4
- Sonic Watermelons, June 28, 2016: http://bit.ly/2aTY7EP
- Providence Journal, August 10: https://shar.es/1ZTkZ9
- RI Future, August 4: http://www.rifuture.org/Christopher-Johnson-poet-PVD-cop.html
- Motif Magazine, August 3: http://www.motifri.com/walking-while-black
More About Sonic Watermelons:
“The world is a big place. With big ideas. And lots and lots of music.” That is the theme of Sonic Watermelons, a radio show on Brown Student and Community Radio (www.bsrlive.com) started in 2010 by Reza Clifton (Reza Rites), an award-winning multimedia producer. Sonic Watermelons can be heard / streamed live every Tuesday from 7:00-8:00 PM (EST) on bsrlive.com, where Clifton is now joined by co-producers and crew members Jose Ramirez, Deejay Kellan, Jessica LaBrie, and other rotating volunteers. Every Sunday, the team publishes and shares podcast versions of previous episodes and other multimedia tidbits; #BlackLivesMatter on #SonicWatermelons is a series that will be shared in that space. To listen live or find archive links (going back to 2010), visit http://www.bsrlive.com. Follow Sonic Watermelons on Facebook, Soundcloud and Instagram @SonicWatermelons, on Twitter @watermelonradio; subscribe to podcasts on iTunes under “Sonic Watermelons.”