A Conversation with Dr. Theodore Richards on Urban Social Justice for the Reimagining Podcast
After the insurrection of the United States Capitol building, leaders across the country have called for unity. But how can we be unified when our cities are still segregated and Black Americans suffer the most from continuing racial and economic disparities? In this very special podcast, Dr. Theodore Richards speaks with Tonika Johnson, a brilliant, Chicago-based Black woman artist-activist whose work gives us hope for true unity.
Tonika Johnson is a photographer/social justice artist and life-long resident of Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Englewood. She is also co-founder of two community-based organizations, Englewood Arts Collective and Resident Association of Greater Englewood, that seek to reframe the narrative of South Side communities and mobilize people and resources for positive change. Within her artistic practice, Tonika often explores urban segregation and documents the nuance and richness of the black community, countering pervasive media depictions of Chicago’s violence and crime. As a trained photojournalist and former teaching artist, she has been engaged in building an artistic legacy that has gained citywide recognition in the last four years. In 2017, she was recognized by Chicago Magazine as a Chicagoan of the Year for her photography of Englewood’s everyday beauty. Her Englewood-based photography projects “From the INside,” and “Everyday Rituals,” were exhibited at Rootwork Gallery in Pilsen, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Harold Washington Library Center and at Loyola University’s Museum of Art (LUMA). Her Folded Map project, visually investigates disparities among Chicago residents who are “map twins” living on opposite ends of streets that span the city’s racial and economic divides, and brings them together to have a conversation, was also exhibited at LUMA in 2018. Now, an excerpt of the project is currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of The Long Dream exhibition. Since 2018, Tonika has transformed Folded Map into an advocacy and policy-influencing tool that invites audiences to open a dialogue and question how we are all socially impacted by racial and institutional conditions that segregate the city. In 2020, she formalized Folded Map project into a non-profit organization where she serves as Executive Director. In 2019, she was named one of Field Foundation’s Leaders for a New Chicago and most recently, she was appointed as a member of the Cultural Advisory Council of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events by the Chicago City Council.
Dr. Theodore Richards, an award-winning author, philosopher, and educator, is the Founder and Director (CEO) of the Chicago Wisdom Project and the Co-Director (Co-CEO) of Wisdom Projects, Inc. Click here to learn more about his work for the Wisdom Community.