OuttaDeeBox Podcast

From Public Housing to Public Service, The Michael Johnson Story part 1

March 07, 2024 Dee Star Season 4 Episode 8
From Public Housing to Public Service, The Michael Johnson Story part 1
OuttaDeeBox Podcast
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OuttaDeeBox Podcast
From Public Housing to Public Service, The Michael Johnson Story part 1
Mar 07, 2024 Season 4 Episode 8
Dee Star

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When Michael Johnson sat down with us, the atmosphere was charged with the kind of inspiration that could only come from the 2022 In-Business Executive of the Year. In today's conversation, Michael bares his soul, sharing the tapestry of his life's work and the efforts at Boys and Girls Clubs that garnered him such prestigious recognition. Our dialogue traverses the emotional landscape of his Pay it Forward campaign, echoing Michael's own backstory and embodying his commitment to fostering community support. A special surprise awaits him too—a token of our gratitude, envisaged by a local artist, which perfectly captures the essence of his heartfelt initiative.

It's not every day that you meet someone who turns down a career in Washington D.C. to make a difference in their hometown. Michael's narrative is rich with such decisive moments and the learnings gleaned from life in Chicago's public housing. Wisdom, as my mother used to say, can indeed be found in the most unexpected places. We honor the diversity of experiences that shape us, and on this day, we recall the Mayor of St. Louis's tribute to Michael's profound influence, a poignant reminder of the impact one can have on their community.

Lastly, we navigate the stormy seas Michael weathered as CEO during one of the most tumultuous periods in recent history. His near-resignation amid a global pandemic, the personal battles with health and family, and the societal tremors following the George Floyd protests reveal a story of resilience. Yet, through innovative partnerships, Michael's actions spoke volumes—raising funds, supporting local businesses, and even ensuring daily meals for hundreds of children. Join us as we unfold the layers of this extraordinary journey, culminating in the celebration of Vel Phillips with a statue at Capitol Square—another historic achievement born from unwavering advocacy and unity.

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When Michael Johnson sat down with us, the atmosphere was charged with the kind of inspiration that could only come from the 2022 In-Business Executive of the Year. In today's conversation, Michael bares his soul, sharing the tapestry of his life's work and the efforts at Boys and Girls Clubs that garnered him such prestigious recognition. Our dialogue traverses the emotional landscape of his Pay it Forward campaign, echoing Michael's own backstory and embodying his commitment to fostering community support. A special surprise awaits him too—a token of our gratitude, envisaged by a local artist, which perfectly captures the essence of his heartfelt initiative.

It's not every day that you meet someone who turns down a career in Washington D.C. to make a difference in their hometown. Michael's narrative is rich with such decisive moments and the learnings gleaned from life in Chicago's public housing. Wisdom, as my mother used to say, can indeed be found in the most unexpected places. We honor the diversity of experiences that shape us, and on this day, we recall the Mayor of St. Louis's tribute to Michael's profound influence, a poignant reminder of the impact one can have on their community.

Lastly, we navigate the stormy seas Michael weathered as CEO during one of the most tumultuous periods in recent history. His near-resignation amid a global pandemic, the personal battles with health and family, and the societal tremors following the George Floyd protests reveal a story of resilience. Yet, through innovative partnerships, Michael's actions spoke volumes—raising funds, supporting local businesses, and even ensuring daily meals for hundreds of children. Join us as we unfold the layers of this extraordinary journey, culminating in the celebration of Vel Phillips with a statue at Capitol Square—another historic achievement born from unwavering advocacy and unity.

Support the Show.

Speaker 1:

What's up everybody. This is your host D-Star here with Michael Johnson from Boys and Girls Clubs. Michael Johnson, the 2022 in-business executive of the year, michael Johnson.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, real honor, man, to get an award like that, especially from, you know, in-business magazine. But it's a testament to you know, we have an amazing staff here, an amazing group of volunteers who help us do our work here, you know, at Boys and Girls Clubs, and then we have an amazing board who folks who are committed to helping children and families in our community, and so it's a real honor to receive that kind of recognition.

Speaker 1:

Dina's got the whole city buzzing the Pay it Forward campaign. Tell us a little bit about that.

Speaker 2:

You know, man, when I was a kid, growing up in the projects, I didn't like Christmas man because my mother was a beautiful woman. But my mother had. She was on very limited income, she had schizophrenia, she was on social security, she was a single mother and she did everything she could to try to provide for our family. And even though we lived in the projects, I used to see my friends like get these nice little bikes and all these toys and they had Christmas tees and they had nice designer shoes and we didn't have that as kids. And it always bothered me that while I felt like my mother did so much, I knew we didn't have much right.

Speaker 1:

So I said, if I have a very rare because as a kid, when you grow up poor, you actually don't know that you're poor for until way later on.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I didn't really know until I started working at 13. I worked for a guy who owned a grocery store across the street and he had invited me to a city called Glenview, Illinois at the time I think it was one of the richest suburbs outside of Chicago. What was the name of the store? It was called Cajones. It was owned by Peter Goetjes, who now lives in Kenosha, and I remember he took me to his house in Glenview and I couldn't believe. It's interesting because when I described it to him, he said, Mike, my house really wasn't that nice and I said, Peter, I got to go back and see that house because what I remember was a swim pool in the backyard, huge, gigantic rooms. All his kids had individual rooms, they had a gourmet kitchen and, like I, lived in a three-bedroom apartment with cockroaches Exactly.

Speaker 1:

And.

Speaker 2:

I remember going to that house like, oh my God, this is filthy rich. Like that's what it felt like to me. When he tells the story, he said no, it was a modest half a million dollar house Now modest, half a million dollars in the 1990s. It wasn't modest. It may have been modest for some upper middle class people, but it was like it opened my eyes. It opened my eyes up and so he just exposed me to something I had never seen. It made me dream bigger.

Speaker 1:

Your Pay it For initiative has inspired the city and it actually has inspired us here, so we would actually like to pay it forward to you today.

Speaker 2:

Oh, wow.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so we have a local artist. Her name is Danny. She actually helped us create this gift that we want to present to you. I appreciate that.

Speaker 2:

How did y'all get these? Y'all want to borrow one. We do our research, man.

Speaker 1:

Oh my God, that is dope JoJoTwenty.

Speaker 2:

Hold on. Oh my God, that is hold on. I got to share that. Oh my God, that is dope. Wow, oh my God, that is super. I'm putting some of these in a display case and I'm going to put these in there. That is oh my gosh, she, I got a text to her real quick that is. That is super. That is super, joe, and you know, and I love this couple because they are absolutely amazing, so I just got to send this to them real quick.

Speaker 1:

Wow, well, you pay it for in our community so much. We felt like that. We really wanted to honor you and give you something for all the things that you do for the community.

Speaker 2:

Man, this is, this is dope. This is well. I appreciate it Like to me, this is very thoughtful the the time that you know she spent putting this together. John and Joe Ellen, they mean a lot to me because you know one of the reasons we're able to do so many things in this community A lot of times they're one of a few people that can reach out to who actually are committed to providing a helping hand to somebody else. So it's pretty, pretty, pretty cool. So thank you Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Okay, we got sidetracked. That's dope, let's get back into it, okay, okay, let me. Let me do this Shout out Holy God's clothing, best clothing in the world, and we actually have a gift for you, some official.

Speaker 2:

Holy.

Speaker 1:

God's merchandise, and this is the owner of. Holy God's clothing brand. His name is Kingston Robinson. He brought actually a little bit of merch for you today.

Speaker 2:

This is the first time I've come to a podcast radio show to interview and somebody's giving us some shoes and some clothes. This is the first for me. Thank you, man. I appreciate that Much love. Wow.

Speaker 2:

What I love about Payette Ford man is I see myself as a bridge builder, a connector, and one of the reasons I talked about like how I have friends who has PhDs, geds, people who are rich and poor. It allowed me to connect some of my wealthy friends and donors to people who just need help. So Payette Ford is about utilizing your resources to pay it for to other people. When I leave here today, I'm going to go and bless a custodian with a thousand dollar gift. I'm going to another school today to give a public school teacher a $500 gift, and this is not money that I'm taking from Boys and Girls School. It's simply utilize my platform, my personal platform, do social media, to ask people to pay it for it.

Speaker 2:

A couple of weeks ago, we gave a thousand dollar tip to a waitress on Thanksgiving Day Last year. We did it and I can believe it made international news. It was covered in Japan. It was covered in Tokyo. It was covered in Canada. Wow, it was on MSNBC and we just simply gave a tips to waiters across the city and try to utilize resources to help pay people rent, to help do all these things just to give a helping hand to somebody who might be in a challenging circumstance.

Speaker 1:

It hasn't just inspired me personally and my team, but it's inspired the entire city and the world.

Speaker 2:

You know, thank you, man. I appreciate it, man, and we'll be doing this all the way up until people are watching us. We'll be doing this all the way up into Christmas Day. Wow, so for the last 15 years I've worked. I work until me and my team until about two o'clock on Christmas and I literally cannot enjoy Christmas unless I know that we paid it for for other families and we've done things from helping to get somebody a house to renovating somebody's house, to get away with cars furnishing houses.

Speaker 2:

It's just kind of what we do, and sometimes I get criticized for it, you know. But I've learned in this city you have to have big alligator skin, oh yeah, and you just got to go out there and do it and some people will talk. I'm sorry, stop and excuse me Please.

Speaker 1:

I'm sorry.

Speaker 2:

What the I'm sorry about that.

Speaker 1:

Sorry sponsors, we want to give a special shout out to JYC Jackson's Yard Care the best, the best.

Speaker 2:

I love what that brother is doing to me. Jyc is amazing. I remember when he started his business in the sea, like what he's taking that to with his big warehouse and all the heavy equipment that he had really sent. I think he's the largest African American own landscaper in Southern.

Speaker 1:

Wisconsin. Not only that, the man just won people's choice awards. Yeah, he did landscaping.

Speaker 2:

He deserved it and that brother also. We went down to Houston, texas. He drove all the way. We went down there and rescued some families doing the floods down there, and we went down there with some boats and had a team down there to bring people to Wisconsin and he drove all the way there, him and his wife, wow To help us deliver things. Well, maybe that was Joplin, was it? It was either Joplin or Houston, but I remember being on a road with him for 16, 17 hours and they're a real deal and I'd be remiss if I don't say this.

Speaker 1:

And always remember you have the right to a beautiful yard. Jackson's Yard Care Sounds just like him.

Speaker 2:

He runs some of the wildest commercials you ever seen.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I love him, I love him and shout out to Giovanni Giovanni. I can't wait till you do an interview with Giovanni Madness is the most famous dog, the most famous dog, and we have a little saying in the heat of battle he don't miss, yeah, no doubt about that. No doubt about that. How was it working with President Obama?

Speaker 2:

It was interesting. My first contribution I ever received as a large contribution was from back then. He was a. He was either a state representative or a state senator on the south side of Chicago, so I ran the Boys and Girls Clubs in a neighborhood called Inglewood. It was at Inglewood High School, so it was the first Boys and Girls Club that had ever been inside of Chicago Public School. And so that year there was a young lady named Ryan who was killed. Her last name was Ryan and they've since named a park after her and she was.

Speaker 2:

It was a very brutal murder, and that year Bill Clinton had came to Chicago because it was named the murder capital in the world and at that time a lot of kids were dying on the south side of Chicago, like people talk about. You know, crime now in Chicago is bad. You know, back in the you know 80s and 90s there was 2, 2500 people dying there every single year. I think they're hovering around six or 700, which is way too many. So I wanted to do this. There were some kids who gave me an idea about doing a march against violence, but they didn't want to do the traditional march. They wanted to have a concert outside on 63rd Street, hall Street, and I actually thought, like I was, like the city is not going to let us down, nothing like that.

Speaker 2:

A major street, and then the kids kept pushing me and was like you know, mr Johnson, if you want to make it happen, you can make it happen. Now I don't know what kind of cloud these kids thought I had, but I did not have that kind of cloud. And so somebody told me that I need to talk to my state rep and happen to be state representative Barack Obama. So I meet him and at the time my assistant director was a Muslim woman. Now, keep in mind I was only, I think, 23, 24 years old at the time and my assistant director, I think she was in her mid 50s. She was a lot more mature than I was and so she said you need to go in there and ask him for some money and like $100,000. And I was like that's not even the size of our budget. I'm not going to ask him for that kind of money, but I'm going to ask him to like get involved and maybe ask his plan as an event. So I meet with him and he agrees to it. We called it the first annual walk against violence for Chicago's youth and he shared it with me, came to the meetings and then I remember the couple of meetings I had asked him for a contribution. So I asked him for $500. And even though my assistant director was like you should have been asking for more, he actually checked me and said, hey, if you're going to ask an elected official for some resources, no extra $500. And they turned around and got a $5,000 gift for us. And so that's how I met him. And so it's interesting Like I remember him sitting in meetings with us and this was in like the early, like the mid 1990s, like 94, you know 95.

Speaker 2:

And then by the time he announced that he was running for president, I was working for the mayor of Philadelphia and so I had shared with the mayor that I had worked with him. It's interesting, in Chicago everybody know me by my nickname, so I hadn't seen the president in years. So I'm standing in line to meet him and then he looks over me and said Boo-Boo-Loo. And everybody was like what did he just say? I was like I was like that was my nickname in Chicago. So I grew up with the nickname Boo-Boo-Loo and when I saw him I couldn't believe it.

Speaker 1:

That's an out of the box exclusive right there, nobody knew that. That's exclusive. Just to let you know. You got to hear first, so you see him, you run into him. He instantly remembers you, yeah. You guys spent a lot of time together.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was dope man, it was. It was. It was interesting because at that point I wanted to go to the White House and I wanted to go, I wanted to go work with him. And so I got an opportunity to go through a process and I went to DC, you know, with my family, and this was like right before I was coming to Madison, and I just think God has a way of plotting your path. And so DC is extremely expensive to live. I couldn't believe how much they wanted for those apartments, and at the time my wife was working in Philadelphia. I was a deputy commissioner and the salary wasn't that much different than what I was already making, and so, unfortunately, I just was not in a position to, you know, make that move, and I'm actually glad I didn't make that move.

Speaker 1:

Well, the city is glad that you didn't.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, a lot of cities actually we're going to get to that.

Speaker 1:

You got a quote here that you posted not too long ago that I really like. It says I have friends with degrees, llcs, felonies and GEDs some rich, some poor and many are in between. I've learned from them all.

Speaker 2:

No doubt, no doubt. Yeah, I'm fortunate man. You know, growing up I grew up in one of the toughest public housing developments in Chicago and growing up a Chicago housing authority, you know, in the Abelahomes on Roosevelt racing on the 16th floor. I've met some amazing people in my life and sometimes people you know, they put these titles on you.

Speaker 2:

I use a CEO and I've just learned, you know, whether you got a PhD, a GED, whether you're a felon, whether you have a lot of hot net worth, I've learned from different experiences, from different people, and I think it's made me a better person because of the diversity of the relationships that I have. And even in this community, there are people who are convicted felons that I know and that I meet with and I spend time with. But there's also people in this community that's worth two, three hundred, four, five hundred million dollars that I spend time with. And then there's people who are highly educated that I spend time with and people not so highly formally educated that I spend time with. And those experiences with those people, I think keeps me grounded and I learn as a result of spending time with all those different kinds of folks.

Speaker 1:

That's super important, because my mother always told me you can learn something from a fool.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

You can learn something from a two-year-old. If you're looking for you can, you can find it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no doubt.

Speaker 1:

When you're talking about in the search of knowledge, no doubt.

Speaker 2:

I mean Malcolm Macs once said that. One of my favorite quotes is education is a lifelong process. You're never too old or never too smart to continue to learn, and as you mature into your role, generations and issues around whether it's kids or communities are always evolving, and you always particularly if you are leading anything need to be thinking about how your leadership will evolve. And people who don't do that they see their businesses I'm going out of business or they might see there they may not be as impactful as they once were when they ran an organization. So I just try to learn from the people that are around me and I try my best to also stay humble. So no matter how much success that one may perceive that you have, it can always be taken away, whether it's your health or I'm somebody that might have a little bit more influence than you, and so I just learned to be resourceful but also to be humble and to be thankful for what God has given you to be able to help and help in helping somebody else.

Speaker 1:

February 24th. Why is that day so significant? I was at the St Louis Day.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, you know, it's the Mayor. St Louis I can't remember what year it was I was it's when I had announced I was leaving the YMCA and Mayor Francis Slay, who's the Mayor of St Louis at the time, had issued a proclamation and named that day in my honor. I'll tell you, you know Madison is. A lot of people criticize Madison, but Madison is by far the best place that I've stayed in terms of from a career perspective. Now we have some other challenges around culture, other challenges around how we educate our babies, but for at least for me, madison has been a great place to stay.

Speaker 2:

St Louis, I feel like I left prematurely. Really, I was a vice president for the YMCA. I had some had no fundraising experience when I got there and was really afraid to take that job and was actually shocked that they made me a VP. But I was. I was thankful and I remember going into that job scared that I was going to fail my family and also fail my colleagues who was working with me at the time, and so I did everything I could to meet with people to try to lift up those YMCA's that were in challenging communities and I just couldn't believe how quickly that community had embraced my leadership and I got to a point where I think our CEO at the time was, I think in his mid sixties, and he was a good guy, but I was like man, if he could be a CEO, I could be a CEO Right.

Speaker 2:

And and I just at the time I just didn't have the patience to like wait. And so I remember applying for jobs and I was shocked, like, at the number nonprofit organizations that were willing to hire me in a CEO role. So the first interview I got I took the job and it was, and I would say I never seen anything as a mistake. But that was the first time that I learned that sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side and sometimes you can't chase titles to make you happy. And I learned that. And so I was thankful for the opportunity in St Louis and very thankful for the mayor at the time, because that last day there I cried and I just remember, like man this is, I had only been there two years and so for the mayor to do that, there was about 500 people that showed up.

Speaker 2:

Am I going away party into this day? I still have a lot of friends in St Louis, good friends that I go back and see on a regular basis, and some of them actually have come here to work for me and have moved on to other cities doing other things.

Speaker 1:

I want to get into the thick of it 2020,. We almost lost you as the CEO of Boys and Girls Club.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah. It's a very, very pivotal time, not only for you and your family, but for all of us. You almost stepped down. Yeah, can you take us through the process of that?

Speaker 2:

decision man. I did that privately. I don't know how you know all this stuff the best.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

I don't know how you know that when the pandemic hit I had written a resignation to the president of our board at the time because I couldn't imagine a Boys and Girls Clubs without kids in our building every day. And maybe at the time I was limited in my thinking, just didn't know how we could survive, right. And so my board was like absolutely not. So they did not accept your regular and my board president at the time was at Madison College. She was like you figure it out, like just chill.

Speaker 1:

Was it more of a health concern also, like were you concerned for your health? Like as far as like, your personal health, your wife, your kids? It was a couple of things.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was crazy. My wife was like so this was right before that. And my wife was like you need to come home and just chill, right. And I tried for like two days and I just couldn't do it and I didn't.

Speaker 2:

The George Floyd thing happened yeah all that stuff was going on right and so I pretty much was like, nah, I'm going out there. And so my board chair was like, just figure it out. So we decided we were going to try to raise a couple of hundred thousand dollars to support nonprofits doing like doing this period. And we had a partner with like Madison 365, american Family Insurance, United Way and a whole bunch of other folks and we had to raise over $3 million and we distributed that out to about I think, 41 organizations at the time. So then the George Floyd thing hit.

Speaker 2:

Then, you know, at the time Brandi Grayson is my. She's amazing. At the time I did not like Brandi Grayson. I was actually on her show talking about this because she once called me the torch bearer of white supremacy and we went back and forth. She was tough and during that time there were some people that was coming at me, there were some people upset and I probably, as I reflect on it, you know, when all those businesses were looted, when it was broke, I felt for those businesses because- so didn't you rally like 5,000 people to get downtown to help clean up?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so about I think it was like 5,700 people came down cleaned up we raised about $200,000. And then for those businesses to open back up. And then we ended up marching with some of the young people and I hired some peacekeepers and that's why I got in trouble, Right.

Speaker 1:

Some of the young people you said how can you? You need to walk among your own people.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you don't need them.

Speaker 1:

We're not. It's not for you. This energy is not for you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, they weren't filling the peacekeeper thing right, and so my concern like it was funny, because a lady just today sent me a message on Facebook saying that her daughter called a felony from an incident like that in another city and it has ruined her life, oh, wow, and so I was concerned then. You know that if kids were going to be breaking in stores that they would eventually be charged with a felony. So I wanted peacekeepers out there, not to police the kids but to help them make informed decisions, to help distribute water. But for whatever reason, some people were distorting what our intentions were, which resulted in some young people doing a petition to have me fire, and so it was like 3,000 people signed it. Wow, there was organizers at the rally. It was like signing this petition and then it come out of nowhere. There was a young lady named Keith Johnson in February did a counter petition and like 10,000 people signed it. They're like I know we support, you know his leadership.

Speaker 2:

It was a tough moment because I had to figure out how to keep our employees from not going homeless and to make sure they got paid, but also had on my mind how would we feed our kids in this community, and so we partnered with Mass 365 and Feed Kitchen and ended up feeding hundreds and hundreds of kids every single day and we launched food trucks, you know, across the city and we raised money around that. So I was really proud of like what we did during the pandemic. But my wife, you know she was something else, you know she I would come home and she would make me shower in the garage. She made a, she made a makeshift shower with a water hose and put up like a curtain and made me shower every day in the garage before I even had to take off all my clothes and shower in the garage.

Speaker 1:

She wasn't going to no grocery store, she wasn't doing none of that.

Speaker 2:

She sent you Well my wife at the time was wearing a mask, a face shield, I mean she was taking she was every time we went to the grocery store. She went, but she will make us wipe down all of the groceries in the garage, the bags, and it would take us 40 minutes, almost an hour, to do that every time.

Speaker 1:

My wife was pregnant, so she was like about eight months pregnant when it really hit and no, she didn't go anywhere. You know she worked from home and she didn't leave. So she was like I would go go to work, do all the grocery shopping, do everything, and then come home and she's at the door, spray everything down, wash her hands, leave your shoes outside, this and that I'm pregnant. I don't want the baby. I'm like you know, I get it, I get it, so I feel your pain.

Speaker 2:

But you got to have people like that. Like I applaud my wife. She kept us healthy and during the pandemic, kept our kids healthy and we did a lot of biking during that time.

Speaker 1:

We did a lot of walking on the bike trail.

Speaker 2:

No, that's yeah that kept us sane man. So kudos to your wife for making that a priority.

Speaker 1:

So what was your guilty pleasure show during the pandemic? I tell you mine. You know my own survivor. Yeah, you're a survivor I loved.

Speaker 2:

I got into a survivor during the pandemic, so I tell you I watch survivor shows like that, but I'm maybe it's the alter ego Michael Johnson. I really like gangster movies and gangster shows and so I watch shows like you know, power like, like I watch shows like BML during the pandemic, you know, I was watching every gangster flick that you can, you know, think of, and because so many of those stories I could relate to, like coming from how I grew up and you know friends and family members of mine who was killed in the streets or do a lot of prison time, but for whatever reason, I just like watching, you know, movies like that. My aunt was, was interested. My wife does not like watching movies like this, so I have to go to the basement because she like those old songs.

Speaker 1:

I was about to say she, so she's dictated what's going on.

Speaker 2:

She like those old, soft, like I won't say, because Lorenz Taylor is a good friend of mine those love Jones type movies, and I don't know man, I like Frankie Lyman.

Speaker 1:

I like that's my movie.

Speaker 2:

Now he snapped, he snapped, he snapped in that in that movie man Over time. Man, I've you know I'm on Lorenz Tate and the Tate family.

Speaker 1:

You like the old dog Lorenz Tate?

Speaker 2:

So I'll tell the story. I was with Lorenz this summer in Chicago, so I'm on his on their family foundation board and he spent a lot of time in it. I actually in this room with us, him and his three brothers, because we're working on a project in Chicago together. We were on the West side in the old neighborhood that we grew up with, and he was like man, I love this, I love it and I watch him. I said, oh my God.

Speaker 1:

So that's all I saw it.

Speaker 2:

I saw it in his image as he were like sitting, because he was very animated about like what he was trying to express to me. And I looked, I was like they go oh, dog, and what a nostalgic experience.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, and them brothers are. They're amazing, man. They're trying to do something phenomenal on the West side of Chicago and I just recently I didn't know them as kids. I stayed on one side of the West side and they stayed on the other side. So I just happened to meet them through a project. They came, we invited them for a grand opening. A mutual friend of ours knew them and then when they came here and saw like what we were doing here, lorenz was in the basement and he was like man, can we talk to you for a minute? And he was like man, brother, I just can't believe what y'all did with this facility. We want to do something similar and can we connect? So I ended up meeting with them in Chicago at a hotel and then we met again on the West side. Then they came here. We had a retreat. His foundation and his team all came here for a retreat and we've been friends. You know every since. Man, those are some really, really good dudes, so fast forward a little bit.

Speaker 1:

Some of the things that you were able to accomplish during the pandemic was just amazing. One notable thing is the statue, miss Phillips, that you got downtown on the Capitol Square the first black woman to ever be elected into the state leadership role.

Speaker 2:

A group of students that said there was no representation at the state Capitol and that you know, mr Johnson, if you really want to help us, you will make sure that there's representation at the state Capitol and at the time I was like I'm not an elected official.

Speaker 1:

Right, what do y'all think that I actually do?

Speaker 2:

And so I'll be honest with you, I didn't know how to respond to it. I just said, okay, and let me look into it Right. So I called the governor's office the following morning and I wanted to just confirm. I said, you know, is there any representation of people of color? And his chief of staff had confirmed that it wasn't. And so I started talking to people throughout the state and Vail Phillips' name kept coming up. So I called us. I said what would it cost to have a statue built? And he originally told me it would be about $400,000. But you had to get support from both the Democrats and the Republicans. So I had to get some help. We went and met with Speaker Volks, we went and met with other Republicans, we went and met with the governor, we went and met with Sheila Stubbs and a bunch of other you know Democrats to make sure that we had support from both sides of the aisle. And we did. It was unanimously voted.

Speaker 2:

And as a result of that, because that doesn't happen Not in this day and time, vail Phillips will be the first black woman in the United States to have a singular statue at a Capitol in the United States, and it's really those young people that made that happen.

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