Washington, DC— The leadership of the National Black Justice Coalition announced today that David J. Johns has assumed the role of Executive Director as of September 1, 2017. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. NBJC’s mission is to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ bias and stigma.
“Growing up as a little Black boy in Inglewood, California, I did not meet or see people who showed up in the world like me—strong Black men who are equally proud about their Blackness as they are about being same gender loving (SGL),” stated David J. Johns. “I want people to see me, to know that I exist—that we, as a community, refuse to hide or check parts of who we are at the door, shrink or otherwise fail to show up in our fullness—knowing who we are and whose we are. I assume this responsibility, in part, because it’s important for me to show up for younger people the way I wish adults had shown up for me—fully, honestly and without apology.”
In 2013, Johns was appointed as the first executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans by President Barack H. Obama and served until the last day of the Obama Administration in January, 2017. The Initiative worked across federal agencies, and with partners and communities nationwide, to produce a more effective continuum of education and workforce development programs for African American students of all ages.
Prior to his White House appointment, Johns was a senior education and workforce development policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) under the leadership of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Before working for the Senate HELP Committee, under the leadership of Tom Harkin, Johns served under the leadership of the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). In addition, Johns has been a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Fellow in the office of Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY). Johns has worked on issues affecting low-income and minority students, neglected youth, early childhood and k-12 education, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) among others. His research as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow served as a catalyst to identify, disrupt and supplant negative perceptions of black males—both within academia and society.
Johns has been featured as an influential politico and advocate by several publications and outlets, including TheRoot.com, CNN, NBC, BET, EBONY and The Washington Post.
“During my tenure, I plan to focus deeply on the empowerment of the Black family, which includes the families we are born into as well as those we create—while honoring the opportunity to remain a central repository for advocating for and responding to the needs of Black LGBTQ/SGL individuals and communities. Critical to this work is engaging all Black people in transformative dialogues that honor the diversity of Black families and the roles that Black LGBTQ/SGL people continue to play—in both family and community—and advancing policies that ensure civil rights for Black LGBTQ/SGL people,” Johns continued.
Johns succeeds Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, who led NBJC for eight years. Lettman-Hicks will continue her role as the Chief Executive Officer of NBJC and focus on board development, infrastructure and long-term sustainability.
“I had the pleasure of working directly with David Johns when I was appointed to serve on the Commission of the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans, where David served as the Executive Director,” Lettman-Hicks said. “David’s mere presence fills a room. His intellectual prowess, compassionate heart, and deeply-rooted knowledge of public policy and the plight of underserved and marginalized communities—especially the African American experience—gives me more than hope for our work and future leadership in Black America. He defines excellence and leaves no challenge unanswered. Johns is exactly the right person to articulate our needs and understand our connectedness to our families.”
Johns added, “As the Executive Director of NBJC, I will lead aggressive campaigns that disrupt and supplant deleterious stereotypes about Black LGBTQ and same gender loving people. These campaigns and related activations will, among other things, highlight more of the diversity that exists within and makes our community strong.”