Javon Johnson - APEX 02/16/2023

Javon Johnson

February 16, 2023
The Great Hall

Javon Johnson is an Associate Professor and Director of African American & African Diaspora studies and holds an appointment in Gender & Sexuality Studies in the Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He received his Ph.D. in Performance Studies with a certificate in Gender Studies and Cognate in African American Studies from Northwestern University in 2010. Dr. Johnson’s scholarly interests include performance, blackness, African American literature, black pop culture, slam and spoken word, black feminist theory, black queer theory, masculinity studies, black sexualities, and ethnography.

Dr. Johnson’s first book, Killing Poetry: Blackness and the Making of Slam and Spoken Word Communities (Rutgers University Press 2017), unpacks some of the complicated issues that comprise performance poetry spaces and argues that the truly radical potential in slam and spoken word communities lies not just in proving literary worth, speaking back to power, or even in altering power structures, but instead in imagining and working towards altogether different social relationships. His second project, The End of Chiraq: A Literary Mixtape (Northwestern University Press (2018) is a co-edited book that critically creatively explores Chiraq (a name that is an amalgamation of Chicago and Iraq as a way to call to the violence of certain parts of Chicago) as a space and as a term. Additionally, Dr. Johnson has published in Text & Performance Quarterly, Liminalities, The Black Scholar, QED: A Journal of Queer Worldmaking, Critical Stages, The Root, and others.

Having recently published his first book of poems, Aint Never Not Been Black (2020), Dr. Johnson is a creative scholar who has mounted exhibitions at the California African American Museum where he managed the History Department. A renowned spoken word poet, he released the one-man show Still. in 2021, is a three-time national poetry slam champion, a four-time national finalist, and has appeared on appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, BET’s Lyric Café, TVOnes Verses & Flow, The Steve Harvey Show, The Arsenio Hall Show, United Shades of America with Kamau Bell on CNN, and co-wrote a documentary titled Crossover, which aired on Showtime, in collaboration with the NBA and Nike.

Slam Poet 'Wows' at APEX Event

By Christina Schweiss

Javon Johnson, slam poet, was the APEX guest lecturer on Feb. 16 in the Hunter Conference Center.

Johnson is an Associate Professor from UNLV, an author and a Spoken Word Poet. His presentation was titled, “Selected Poems.”

APEX director, Ryan Paul, introduced Johnson. Paul exclaimed that Johnson is a “well known, influential figure. He is a renowned spoken word poet.”

Johnson started his performance by reciting a trilogy of poems about his 2-year-old daughter.

Comparing life to a difficult math problem, Johnson explained that “we come together and almost always figure it out.”

Many of Johnson’s poems are very personal and have deep meanings. As Johnson was getting teary eyed while reciting some of his poems, he explained that his stepfather used to always tell him, “cry if you have to, but you gotta keep your head up.”

Johnson writes about current events and issues. In one of the poems he recited, he explained that “poor black boys are treated as problems way before they are treated like people.”

Love is the driving force behind many of Johnson’s poems. He declared, “I am nothing more than a love poet. You can’t spell THUG without HUG.”

In 2020, Johnson released his first book of poems called Ain’t Never Not Been Black. All of Johnson’s poems are related to his everyday life. Some of Johnson’s famous poems are titled ‘Cuz He’s Black,’ ‘America,’ and ‘A Letter To My Unborn Daughter.’




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