Art Gallery

Nitashia Johnson “The Self-Publication”

Nitashia Johnson – The Self-Publication, nitashiajohnson.com, theselfpublication 
 
Nitashia Johnson

Artist Bio: Nitashia Johnson, the creator of The Self Publication, is a multimedia artist from Dallas, Texas who truly has a passion for art. She attended Booker T. Washington high School for the Performing and Visual Arts from 2004-2008, and later went on to become an alum of Texas Woman’s University ’12 and The Rhode Island School of Design ’15. Ms. Johnson is a graphic designer by day, creative instructor on the weekends, and an art innovator in her free time. She uses her photography and design to make a difference in the world and has now started experimenting with video highlighting the earth and positive human interactions.

For the past year, Ms. Johnson has worked hard on The Smart Project, a creative after-school program structured for creative teens and inspiring mentors living in North Texas. One of her greatest artistic accomplishments is the collection, The Self Publication—a photographic book series created to dismantle the stereotypes placed on those in the Black community. What started off as casual photographs, transformed into a book series showcasing the beauty of Black people and their stories. As the work unfolds, Johnson has planned to film a short documentary series following five of the past participants. Ms. Johnson has recently been featured in The Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, and The New York Times. In 2019 she became one of the first women selected for the Sony Alpha Female Creator-in-Residence program.


 
Kelsha – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson  
 

Kelsha – The Self Publication: Volume 1, 2017 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

Falling in love with myself as a Black Woman has taken so much. I grew up uncomfortable with being a black girl. I often found myself wishing that I wasn’t. A number of events in my life have really molded me into being unapologetically black.
In high school, I experienced boys of other races liking me but being too ashamed to admit it to their friends.
I experienced being the only black girl on my high school cheerleading squad and making my mother give me perms religiously, so that my hair could match the other cheerleader’s hair. I have even experienced being fired from a job because I refused to “put my hair up” the day I choose to rock my fro. These experiences made me feel that being black wasn’t beautiful – that I wasn’t beautiful.

 
Lenny – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson  
 

Lenny – The Self Publication: Volume 2, 2018 Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

In sixth grade, I remember a gown up women telling her cousin from my school that I would be cute if my teeth weren’t, so messed up. I felt like I could have just died right there. I never questioned why a grown thirty – something year old woman would judge an eleven-year-old boy by his looks. I was too concerned with the fact that someone thought I was ugly.

From then on, I used to hate my teeth because they were spaced out. I was mad at my self as well for damaging them. My teeth used to be so perfectly straight until I gained the bad habit of biting my nails in elementary school. The words of that woman brothered me until I got my teeth fixed at the age of 21.

 
Kelsha – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson 
 

Kelsha – The Self Publication: Volume 1, 2017 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

For the following day, I’ll admit, I didn’t set my hair the night before, but the curls were well intact. Again, I was greeted with compliments on my hair. That evening, I went home and reset my curls. On Wednesday morning, I wasn’t greeted by my coworkers.

Instead, I was called into a staff meeting. I had no idea what was going on, but Oi soon realized the women setting in front of me to discuss the company’s "POLICY ON GROOMING"

 
Vernard – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson  
 

Vernard – The Self Publication: Volume 2, 2018 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

The narrative of the African American experience is one of greatness. We have known great sorrow, but we have also been able to fine great goy. We snatched from our homeland and families and sold into bondage against our will. In this land, we’ve always had an uphill battle with self-worth that closely affected our self-love.

As a result, we have suffered from deep trauma and sadness. Our mental, physical, financial and spiritual selves were damaged almost to the point of no repair – but because of our resilience in our faith and reliance on one another, we have survived.

 
Moxie – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson  
 

Moxie – The Self Publication: Volume 1, 2017 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

If I could give ad vice to someone, I’d tell them to not only ne themselves, but to grow. Don’t just forgive yourself-change! Everyday is not meant to be the same. Accepted that you are human. You will cry sometimes because things hurt.

You will smile. Do not allow yourself to forget that you are a soul with a body, not a body with a soul. Connect to who you are and walk in your light, your purpose-and never discount the love you hold for yourself.

 
Meagan – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson  
 

Meagan – The Self Publication: Volume 1, 2017 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

Although a majority of my class was white, there was one other black girl. We shared many qualities except that she had lighter skin and mor experience with white people. We bonded instantly and she introduced me to other black people in our grade, she was cool with.

Meagan’s back in her racial comfort zone, I thought. Everything was fun and games until one of them would try to be funny with me. I had the darkest skin amongst my peers and year after year, that trait never went unnoticed by another black person.

 
Bidi – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson  
 

Bidi – The Self Publication: Volume 2, 2018 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

Having love for yourself isn’t easy, especially when society is telling you that who and what you are is not good enough. I remember how around the age of 9, I realized I was not just black.

I was dark-skinned, with a large nose and kinky hair and that was not the most favorable thing to be at the time. Or anytime, for that matter. The most disheartening part of my realization is that it cam from people in my own family. I wish I could say they were distant relatives, but they were not.

 
Foluso – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson 
 

Foluso – The Self Publication: Volume 2, 2018 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

I have felt the sting of Mississippi dirt and all other parts of my social identity. I felt it when my Nigerian roommate, to my surprise, stated that black people and African Americans have no culture. She disrespected my maternal African American ancestry and my fraternal Nigerian ancestry and disrespected herself.

White supremacy is powerful. I felt the weight of the social categorizations in undergrad when, in a heated debate about race, my richly black, shapely African American friend shouted that I don not look African, Standing 5’9 with mile long limbs, a short trunk, kinky hair and cinnamon brown skin, I wondered, “Then what do I look like?”

 
Jax – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson  
 

Jax – The Self Publication: Volume 2, 2018 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

My friends and family joke about the lightness of my skin now that I am older. While I know they are not doing it in a malicious way, it begins to sting after a while.

They say, “You look like a white woman” “You want to be black so bad” “You need to get a tan, you too bright” “I see you are wearing your winter white color”, or just simply call me whitey. In all due respect, I sometimes want to let them know they can “kiss my ass” because I love my skin color. If I get darker in the summer, cool; if I get lighter in the winter, cool. This is MY skin; I love being black.

 
Rina – The Self Publication by Nitashia Johnson 
 

Rina – The Self Publication: Volume 1, 2017 UV Inkjet, 18 x 24 in

As unfortunate as it is, I think it is important for black women to be aware of how we are perceived and how we are expected to respond to adversity. It is also extremely important to recognizes our strength and our ability to overcome these obstacles. The idea black women are supposed to be strong even after being ripped apart is “fake news” just as much as those “cheap essentials oils from the local beauty supply”.

Black women and black people in general are allowed to be vulnerable, just like we are allowed and expected too be resilient. When you are constantly subjected to racism, violence and abuse, it can obviously fuck you up a little bit.