Planting seeds

Women’s History Month: Celebrating local educator and civil rights leader Dr. Josie Johnson

March blooms with the essence of Women’s History Month, a time to honor the fearless trailblazers who have planted seeds of social change. As we reap a bountiful harvest of justice and freedom, let us not forget the profound significance of this moment – a chance to reflect on the enduring legacy of women throughout history. From suffragettes to abolitionists, scientists to entrepreneurs, their contributions have shaped our country and inspired generations to come. 
Advocating for change
Women’s History Month began as Women’s History Week with a celebration in Santa Rosa, Calif. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) founded the celebration in 1978. It was held during the week of March 8 to amplify the importance of International Women’s Day and recognize the need to honor ordinary women who had an extraordinary impact on their local community. This initiative garnered widespread support and expanded across the nation. The following year was filled with celebrations that honored trailblazing women.
In 1980, women organized an advocacy effort for national recognition. They sought to share the remarkable contributions of women and inspire young women and girls to make a difference in the world. During February 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as the National Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress designated March as Women’s History Month. Subsequently, U.S. Presidents have signed an annual proclamation in honor of the contributions of women.
This year’s theme is: Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. “Women from every background have long realized that an uneven playing field will never bring equality or justice. Many feel the critical need to speak up and work harder for fairness in our institutions and social interactions,” according to the National Women’s History Alliance.
Local educator and civil rights advocate Dr. Josie Johnson is at the forefront of building a more just and inclusive world. This begins with the transformational power of education.
Honoring local educator
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute (PPGJ) has partnered with Saint Peter Claver Catholic School to completely revamp and rename their school library in honor of  Dr. Josie Johnson. 
As part of the redesign, PPGJ and  Dusty Dembley of Dusty Dembley Interior Design, have transformed the formerly cluttered and outdated library space into a modern, inspiring learning environment designed to promote the enjoyment of reading and discovery. The library’s new design features bright and welcoming contemporary styling with artwork celebrating African American heritage. 
In addition, the library’s entire book collection has been updated to include many new titles by prominent African American authors such as Angela Joy (“Black is a Rainbow Color”), Michael Tyler (“The Smallest Spot of a Dot:”), and Elise Washington (“Tika Speaks”) that depict diverse characters and experiences.
Our goal at PPGJ is to transform libraries into spaces where children can discover joy in reading. Yet, as our team travels to schools nationwide for book signings, we see many school libraries serving children of color and low-income students filled with clutter, disorganization, outdated books, lack of design and vision, and overall neglect. The lack of aesthetics diminishes the joy of reading and learning.
To honor Dr. Josie Johnson’s pioneering legacy as an educator and leader in the Minnesota civil rights movement, the library has been officially renamed the “Dr. Josie Johnson Library” to dedicate the new space in Dr. Johnson’s honor and recognize her tremendous contributions.
Dr. Johnson served as one of the founding faculty members of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Afro-American and African Studies in 1969. She became the first Black person to serve on the University’s Board of Regents from 1971-1973. Later in her career, Dr. Johnson became Associate Vice President for Multicultural Affairs at the University, where she worked tirelessly to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is an inspirational leader who continues to pave the way for future generations. 
The team at PPGJ saw nothing more fitting than redesigning and renaming a library for one of the most influential educators in recent history. PPGJ hopes their model of transforming underserved school libraries into vibrant learning hubs will be replicated in other school districts nationwide. The new library at Saint Peter Claver Catholic School is an inspiring dedication to Dr. Josie Johnson’s pioneer legacy of equality in education.
A call to action
This Women’s History Month, let’s raise our voices in celebration and gratitude, honoring the remarkable women like Dr. Josie Johnson who paved the way for progress and continue to plant seeds of hope for a brighter future.
Through her organization, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, Dr. Artika Tyner seeks to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach.


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