Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Windy City Times 2023-12-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

E. Patrick Johnson, a man of firsts
by Joshua Irvine
2020-07-08

This article shared 6091 times since Wed Jul 8, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


E. Patrick Johnson is a man often associated with the word "first."

He was the first in his family to go to college, and the first Black native of Hickory, North Carolina, to receive a Ph.D., for which the town proclaimed a day in his honor ( although he said he has his doubts about whether he actually was the first to obtain a doctorate ). He was the first Black man hired and tenured in Northwestern University's performance studies department, and then the first given a named professorship.

And soon, he will be the first Black dean of the university's School of Communication, where he has worked for 20 years.

Johnson experienced early success at Northwestern, beginning with his work in Black queer studies, an interdisciplinary field that essentially didn't exist in 2000, when Johnson joined what was then known as the School of Speech.

Black queer studies was unprecedented in many ways: Gender studies was less than 20 years old and had just been renamed from women's studies in the 2000-01 school year.

Additionally, according to Sandra Richards—a former professor of African American Studies and the first Black woman to gain tenure at Northwestern's College of Arts and Sciences, in 1990—academia was only beginning to accept Black faculty.

"When we first came into white spaces, we were barely tolerated," Richards said. "For a lot of us, we were coming into hostile ground."

And, Richards said, scholarship around Blackness largely excluded queer narratives.

Johnson would be a major force in changing that, co-compiling the first anthology on Black queer studies and writing one of its foundational texts, an essay which dubbed the burgeoning field "quare studies" after how Johnson's grandmother pronounced "queer."

He has gone on to become a successful scholar and performer, writing several oral histories of Black queer folk in the South and adapting one of them, Sweet Tea, into a staged reading, a play and recently a documentary. He's also chaired both the performance studies and African American studies departments, while also contributing to what is now the gender and sexuality studies program.

"Patrick has always had a progressive, active, challenging vision of academia and the world at large," Richards said, adding that Johnson's personality and intellect helped encourage collaboration both inside and out of performance studies.

Johnson, in turn, credited Richards and a white performance studies professor, Dwight Conquergood, as key mentors who supported him at the outset of his Northwestern career and part of a "rich and broad" community that kept him at the university. ( Conquergood died in 2004. )

Certainly, a lot is asked of Johnson. Students seem to flock to Johnson to ask him to be their adviser or mentor. He's asked to be part of every committee on diversity as well as the diversity member on every search committee for new faculty. If there's an event about diversity on campus, he's requested to speak.

"You get asked to do all this labor around diversity that should be the work of the institution," Johnson said.

And there's still a lot to be done: Even in 2020, Johnson noted, there are still departments at Northwestern without Black faculty, in large part because the university doesn't do its due diligence in seeking out professors of color. Additionally, Johnson said, the university—particularly its African American Studies department—has seen many talented professors "poached" by other universities.

In his new role as dean, Johnson said he plans to seek out more faculty who are persons of color and work with admissions to cultivate a similarly diverse student body.

Those are not disparate goals: Johnson said diversity has to be present at every level to create an inclusive environment that accommodates nonwhite students.

"Students of color are not going to be attracted to a university where they don't have any mentor who share their background," Johnson said. "People want to make sure they have mentors who share their experience."

Johnson added he also hopes to raise funds to offer socioeconomically disadvantaged students the sort of opportunities enjoyed by their wealthier peers and improve interdepartmental collaboration.

"We have to create an environment at Northwestern that is inclusive, and doesn't just pay lip service," he said.

But Johnson said the university has improved, particularly in gender and sexuality studies, where race is now a core part of the program's curriculum and trans and non-binary issues are the new frontier—a change he credits to a new generation of scholars.

Johnson sees a change in himself as well, particularly with regard to those scholars. Now 53, Johnson said his new role is one of seeding ground for—and ceding ground to— a new generation.

"I often say that the moment I stop learning from my students is the day I should stop teaching," Johnson said. "I never feel like I'm the smartest person in the room. I've maybe read more or studied for, but I'm not the smartest. And that's a good thing."

Editor's note: Joshua Irvine is currently a student at Northwestern University.


This article shared 6091 times since Wed Jul 8, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Federal investigation initiated in Nex Benedict case
2024-03-02
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has started an investigation into the Oklahoma school district where Nex Benedict, a transgender 16-year-old sophomore, went to school and was bullied before his death, The Advocate ...


Gay News

THEATER When growth is paramount: Jim Corti helps fuel Aurora theater expansion
2024-03-01
Out actor/director/choreographer Jim Corti made his Broadway debut in 1974, in the ensemble of Leonard Bernstein's musical Candide. Director Harold Prince's acclaimed Tony Award-winning revival is often cited as a ...


Gay News

NATIONAL School items, HIV/AIDS activist dies, Nex Benedict, inclusive parade
2024-03-01
In a new survey, the Pew Research Center asked public K-12 teachers, teens and the U.S. public about the ongoing scrutiny placed on classroom curricula, mainly regarding race and LGBTQ+ identities, ABC News noted. Among other ...


Gay News

Activists and others urge removal of Oklahoma schools superintendent after Nex Benedict death
2024-02-28
TULSA, OKLAHOMA—Today more than 350 national, state, and local organizations advocating for equality across the U.S., alongside notable public figures, issued an open letter to Oklahoma legislative leadership urging justice ...


Gay News

911 calls, videos show cascade of failures in Nex Benedict's death, GLAAD responds
2024-02-24
"It is haunting to hear Nex Benedict, in their own words, describe how school and state leaders failed, at every level of leadership, to keep them safe from bullying and harm. Less than 24 hours later, ...


Gay News

HIV criminal laws disproportionately impact Black men in Mississippi
2024-02-21
--From a press release - A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that at least 43 people in Mississippi were arrested for HIV-related crimes between 2004 and 2021. Half of all arrests in the state ...


Gay News

Oklahoma non-binary student dies after being assaulted
2024-02-21
Officials acknowledged there are unresolved questions about a 16-year-old non-binary Oklahoma student who died one day after a fight in a high school bathroom, NBC News noted. Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, ...


Gay News

Owasso High School student of Bridge v. Oklahoma State Board of Education case dies, groups respond
2024-02-20
--From press releases - Oklahoma City, Okla. — In response to the death of 16-year-old Owasso High School student Nex Benedict following an assault in the school restroom, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Oklahoma ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Utah board member, Baths founder dies, Fla. protests, DoJ equity plan
2024-02-16
Utah's Republican governor and lieutenant governor urged the State Board of Education to take action against a conservative board member whose social-media post questioning the gender of a high school basketball player incited threats against the ...


Gay News

New Survey: Unstable housing most cited reason for food insecurity among LGBTQ+ youth
2024-01-30
--From a Williams Institute press release - A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that 85% of LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed said unstable housing was the main reason LGBTQ+ youth had inadequate access to food. The programs ...


Gay News

SAVOR REVIEW Prosecco; LGBTQ+-owned Marina's Bistro
2024-01-26
The last time I visited the Italian restaurant Prosecco (710 N. Wells St.; https://proseccochicago.com/), it looked quite different. Way back in 2017, the restaurant definitely had more of an old-school Italian feel (a la Gene & ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Toni Atkins, Maine, bisexual advocate dies, Jussie Smollett, school board
2024-01-26
San Diego leader and California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins kicked off her bid to become California's next governor, becoming the latest Democrat to join the 2026 race, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Atkins is ...


Gay News

More than 210,000 Latinx LGBT immigrants live in California
2024-01-24
--From a press release - Nearly two-thirds of Latinx LGBT immigrants without Green Cards live in poverty. A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that there are 211,000 Latinx LGBT immigrants in California, including 68,800 ...


Gay News

SPORTS Chicago Hounds' Nick McCarthy reflects on being out in professional rugby
2024-01-24
In recent years, people from numerous high-profile fields have publicly declared themselves as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Among them have been individuals from tech (such as OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Apple CEO Tim Cook), ...


Gay News

National, state groups petition UN about human rights crisis facing LGBTQIA+ Texans
2024-01-22
--From a press release - Austin, TX - Today, Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign with the support of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law submitted a ...


 


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.