The Evolution of Her: A conversation with Michelle Johnson

by Justin Motley, Social Media Editor

It’s Women’s History Month! A month designated to pay homage to inspirational women who made a significant impact on womanhood and the world. The MSU Spokesman wants to recognize some of the women who are making an impact on and off of our campus.

I had the opportunity of sitting down with New Jersey native Michelle Johnson, a senior, sociology major, blogger and published author. The harsh winter winds couldn’t stand a chance again her vibrant, yet unapologetic personality.

We started off the conversation talking about the post college experience for black folks who go on to work in predominately white spaces. She then, went on to talk about her brand and women’s liberation.

Justin: Tell me about “The Evolution of Her”

Michelle: Before coming to Morgan in 2013, I attended a school in Newark, New Jersey – Newark Collegiate Academy. I was the top of the class and a teacher’s pet. I was like the “It” girl, not as far as popularity, but I was just really involved. I was a basketball player, a cheerleader and I was on the planning committee…everything. Fell in love, like girls do, in high school and that took me for a whirlwind. You know, regular girl feelings. I ended up getting pregnant my junior year, which ended in an abortion. After that, I gained a tremendous amount of weight. I was depressed. I was just very in and out. I really didn’t feel like there was a reason for life. There were times when I would email myself suicide notes with the hopes that no one would find them. I grew up in a Christian household and my stepfather was a preacher. I knew I couldn’t keep the baby because of morality and I would be shunned. I thank God ‘til this day that I didn’t take my life and I’m still here to tell the story.

Within the years leading up to coming to Morgan, there was a lot of rough things going on; one of them being my brother attempting suicide. I came to school still in tis relationship. I wouldn’t say it was an abusive relationship, but I was sort of abusing myself about the situation. I was locked in my room still suffering from depression. I created a Twitter and used it as an outlet to rant about a lot of things. My best friends at Morgan recommended I turn my tweets into something else. I didn’t think anyone was going to read it, but I opened up Weebly on my browser and just started a blog. At first, it didn’t have a name but then I thought about my grandmother. The day that she died, a butterfly landed on her casket as we were praying and as soon as we were done the butterfly flew away. Butterflies have always been significant to my growth as a woman and they evolve so that’s how I came up with “The Evolution of Her.” I just write about my experiences and I told myself I would never delete anything off of the site because it shows how my mind has developed over time.

J: You just published your first book. What is it about? How was the publishing process?

M: Yes, in October I published “Lessons From Flowers,” which talks about how I felt in the moment of my pregnancy and told the whole story. I know when the topic of young pregnancy is brought up girls tend to cringe. I just want people to know that it happens, but you have to take care of yourself and you have to take care of your mental health in that situation.

The name of the book came from my personal growth. I feel like I have been coming into full bloom, especially within these last two years alone. I always had what people call “daddy issues” and he has always been partially involved in my life. A lot of that weighed down on me my sophomore year and I found myself falling back into that depression. So, in my book I talk about how you need to grow where you were planted and you need to water yourself.

I wrote the book twice and deleted it because I felt like no one was going to read this shit. It was a lot of writing and organizing, but I used a platform called Create Space that was really resourceful in the publishing process.

J: If you could tell your 16-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

M: First and foremost, I wouldn’t change anything that happened to me. But, I would tell my 16-year-old Michelle to focus on what is happening in front of her. I would have enjoyed life so much more if I just lived in the moment.

J: What are your plans for the future?

M: I am definitely working on another book. My plans are to continue building my brand. I want to tell communities that have been broken by things like drug abuse. I really want to open a food truck. I know that food is the way to people’s hearts and once you capture the hearts of people, the sky is the limit as far as making a change in the space. I want my business to be an open space for people from all walks of life. I want to be one of those people who no matter what they put their hands on, they make an impact. That’s what Michelle lives for.

J: Any advice for young black girls?

M: Don’t let society put you in the margins. Write your own story whether it be literal or figural. This life is a performance, and however we choose to express it is up to us. Be liberated. We are socialized to act like this, to walk like this and to talk like that. Change wouldn’t happen if we listened to this. Be who you want to be. Never be ashamed of where you came from or whatever you’ve done because it is all preparing you for what’s ahead.

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