Her force of words will leave you beyond speechless while they inspire you to be a better you.
What do you get when you mix haikus with Cicely Tyson? – Ernestine Johnson: a natural storyteller with critically compelling words that could pierce the world like a sword and simultaneously bring healing with just one stanza. Since the tender age of ten, this Los Angeles native began a life within the arts of writing and acting. Inspired by Cicely Tyson’s role in ‘Mama Flora’s Family,’ and the incentives of winning her first poetry contest [in class, then nationally], her gifts chose her and forever shaped the future talent you see today. If you haven’t already recognized her from FOX’s ‘Shots Fired’, OWN’s ‘It’s Not You, It’s Men’, BET’s “#DigitalLivesMatter’ or working with artists like Cyhi the Prynce, then you will remember her breathtaking 2014 performance of ‘Average Black Girl’ on the Arsenio Hall Show that has reached collectively over 30 million views and counting.
“With a national platform, I have to talk about something that’s worth talking about.”
This internationally known and critically acclaimed artist was invited to perform on the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show and missed her first chance after another guest surpassed the allotted time. It wasn’t until after first performing for Arsenio Hall himself, the very next day she was able to wow the rest of the country live on-air with a poem she wrote on the flight from New York to Las Vegas. “With a national platform, I have to talk about something that’s worth talking about. I have to come correct”, says Johnson. “It was so important for me to get on the Arsenio Hall Show. With the opportunity and blessing to be on the show, I had to say something that was so profound, so powerful, that everyone needs to hear.” And it was. Her performance went viral and generated more opportunities.
“He invited me to come to the studio. He said, ‘I like your stuff. Your Youtube is dope. Let’s see what you got’.”
More opportunities included the invitation to partially write and be featured on a song with Cyhi the Prynce’s ‘Nu Africa,’ off of his ‘No Dope on Sundays’ album. “He invited me to come to the studio. He said, ‘I like your stuff. Your Youtube is dope. Let’s see what you got’. And I went to the studio and was so nervous because I don’t do my poetry to music. It was dope and a very powerful song. I’m glad that I was able to add more value to that song.” With a collision of several literary devices, Ernestine was able to construct lines that would inspire even Stacey Dash to head back to the motherland. “Imagine we all just packed our bags and headed to Africa. Imagine a place where all the creators of all the new waves stood in one space. She’s [Africa] the birthplace of all life. I had to get people to understand why we should even move back, to begin with.”
“He invited me to come out to his class in Atlanta, and he asked me to do a poem.”
Most recently, Ernestine and her now fiancé Jay Morrison joined forces for the #BuyBackTheBlock Tour, which initially began with just teaching real estate to the people in underdeveloped communities. “The first year, he did it by himself and did 18 cities. He literally went on the corner with a whiteboard and taught real estate and financial literacy all across the nation. When he brought it back this year, he invited me to come out to his class in Atlanta, and he asked me to do a poem. So I closed the class with poetry, and the impact was just so huge. It was a great value to add to what he was already doing. So we decided to keep it going, and I went on the entire 25 city tour with him and closed every class with poetry.”
They finished just a month ago, after adding additional cities to their already large roster. For free, both Ernestine and Jay taught communities in need about: “history, self-love, pride, financial literacy, investing, and so much more that ended up becoming a magical tour” to give back.
“[As a black woman] one of the greatest things we can do is hold our black men up and love them on purpose.”
Speaking of something magical, and not just black girl magic is black love. With recently becoming engaged, love is another topic Ernestine can expound on through life and in her actual poetry. One of her pieces titled ‘Black Love’ conveys so many messages and even serves as a testament to its beauty. “I didn’t like Black Men when I was growing up… I was not attracted to black men because I didn’t see any images. It was negative connotations and darkness to black men. When I became older and more mature; more conscious and more educated, I realized that black men were gods and they were so special.”
“And I saw a lot of black women having consciously the same feelings that I used to have. And I think that as a black woman, one of the greatest things that we can do is hold our black men up and love them on purpose. So when I wrote ‘Black Love’ it was me trying to tell the black men that: ‘hey, I’m here for you and there are other black women who are here for you.’ And we are specifically made for you. That was one of the biggest messages of that poem for me. It killed my soul to see that some black men [also] didn’t see the value in black women, so I have to show you. Here’s the value that I hold, here’s the value that my ancestors hold, and here’s why you need to see this. That’s why I wrote that poem.”
“When you’re always motivated, you’re always in a creative space.”
For Ernestine to have the nuances of her brilliant storytelling, and the instruments to create what she does, she reads. One of her favorite bodies of work includes Steve Siebold’s ‘the Secrets of the World’s Class.’ “It was a book written for athletes. And it teaches you about mental toughness”, she explains. “Everything for me is about: work ethic, discipline, challenging yourself, [and] endurance. All of that comes from mental strength. When you have mental strength whether you’re an athlete or not, you can do anything. And I believe one of the greatest gifts God gave us, was the gift of motivation. And that book alone just taught me to always stay motivated about life. When you’re always motivated, you’re always in a creative space. When you’re in a creative space, you’re always working.”
“If it’s God’s will for me to pursue it, it’ll happen.”
Ernestine is an all-around woman with many hustles. In addition to already being a: spoken word artist, poet, actress, living motivator (not to be confused with motivational speaking) and head of her own concierge firm, she has other goals she still wants to reach. “From a career standpoint, I want to book a series regular on a very powerful show. I also want to have my own talk show. That’s been a dream of mine for a very long time.”
Ernestine goes on to mention, “I want to continue to create new content. But I want to go even harder in creating all types of content. And a little dream of mine has always been to be a psychologist. I minored in psychology for a bit in college. I’m very interested in the way the mind works and why people are the way they are. If it’s in God’s will for me to pursue it, it’ll happen. “In addition to those many roles, beyond her career and businesses was “to become a wife and a mom. That’s one of the greatest gifts I think a woman could ask for is to start a family and a legacy of her own.”
“Let’s all be living leaders in our own right.”
Along with her work and talents, Ernestine proves to be beyond motivational while serving as living inspiration. “I’ve done a little motivational speaking, and just last year I traveled to a few colleges to speak. I don’t like to call it motivational speaking because while you’re there at the panel, you’re all pumped up for life, but when you leave, it’s gone. It was like a high, and then you’re back down. For me, it’s about lifting and living an example. So I wouldn’t call myself a motivational speaker. But, if I motivate you with my daily life, words and actions that I show; then, I’m all for that. Let’s all be living leaders in our own right, and be the living walking proof of what motivation looks like.”
“Create. Don’t wait.”
With moving “2,000 miles away from home with no friends or family “ to do what she knew she was called to do without hesitation or doubt comes with faith larger than a mustard seed. “I don’t let things hold me down too long. I don’t take the word no for an answer, or believe in ‘no’s,’ and I’ve only received a ‘no, not yet.’ I make stuff happen. It’s all about ‘create,’ don’t wait.” Ernestine continues to outwork herself as her own competition.
At this pace, she has managed to have two movies debut on television recently; one of them being TvOne’s ‘Downsized’ starring Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe. As well as, a current Home Depot commercial that has been running for a while. “I’m working on my first short film called, ‘Never spoke a word.’ And that’s a working title, for now, so I don’t know what it may end up. And my book ‘Finally Speaking’ is coming out before the end of the year. I’m always doing something.”
“Don’t pray for what you want. Pray for him to prepare you for it.”
When asked what ‘think piece’ or message she would want to leave anybody who encounters this interview and any of her work, Ernestine said, “I believe in manifestation 100 percent. I speak about what I want into existence. Every January, I speak out loud about what I want. Sometimes at the dinner table with friends, I’ll say: ‘before we leave let’s all manifest one thing we want to have before the end of the year.’ Manifest what you want, whether it’s writing it down, visualizing it, [or[speaking it into existence. But not only speaking into and writing it because vision boards are cool but truly believing it. I believe in my big outrageous dreams, and I execute. I moved to Atlanta within two months, and I quit my job to be a full-time artist.“
She went on to also say, “don’t pray for what you want. God knows what we want. He knows what we need. Pray for him to prepare you for it. Had I not been prepared for the things that are in my life now, they wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t ask God for this life. I asked him to prepare me. Because the worst thing you can do is have an opportunity come and you’re not prepared for it. Prepare yourself one hundred percent and work on you.”
If you want to catch Ernestine in action anytime soon, be sure to stay updated with her latest projects by following her on social media via ‘@ernestine.johnson’ on Instagram, and ‘@e_onthescene’ on Twitter. You can also indulge in more of her work from her Youtube ‘Ernestine Johnson’ or through her website ‘ernestinejohnson.com.’