For the final December 2021 Woman Warrior Writer I’m happy to present Toni Ann Johnson!
Johnson’s short fiction has appeared in The Emerson Review, Coachella Review, Hunger Mountain, Callaloo, and elsewhere. A novel, Remedy For a Broken Angel (2014) was nominated for a 2015 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author. A novella, Homegoing (2021) won Accent Publishing’s inaugural novella contest. A short-story collection Light Skin Gone to Waste won the Flannery O’Connor Award and is forthcoming from The University of Georgia Press in 2022.
How did you come to author your life?
In 2007 I wanted to plant trees in my South LA neighborhood in front of a Ralphs Grocery where there was no green space. A nonprofit was willing to cut the concrete, donate the trees, and plant them. All Ralphs would have to do was water them. They declined, disrespecting my community. I made it my mission to get those trees in the ground. I blogged, wrote letters, made a video, published an op-ed, and eventually, the trees were planted. Since then, when people won’t help me, I move them out of my way.
I want to add a little personal note here because I first met Toni Ann back in the early 1990s during the time when we were reading poetry in Los Angeles. We met through a mutual friend, Cecilia (Mamby) Hart, my neighbor and pal in Venice. It was a time of romance and creativity, uncertainty and change. There were a series of events that happened in my life: fired from a lead in a play, fired from my job working for a producer, fired from my job as a script analyst, left by my on again off again boyfriend. Dear Reader, this happened over the course of two weeks. I was depressed. I decided to take a plane home. Toni Ann told me this: if I wrote to her, she would write me back. She did. She also told me that accepting the ups and downs of what it means to be a creative person was also a part of the life of an artist. I hadn’t wanted to accept this. I learned to. I have always remembered this. Decades later we reconnected and here she is. She’s a person of kindness.
Thank you always Toni Ann for the ways that you inspire and lead through your words and actions!