Utilizing her talents to create positive change around the globe, Nitashia Johnson is a multimedia artist, alumni from the Rhode Island School of Design and a recipient of the 2019 Sony Alpha Female Creator-inResidence Award. Her passion is the education and inspiration of those who surround her. She was the founder of an after-school creative arts program known as the Smart Project and the creator of The Self Publication–a photographic book collection that showcases pictures and reflections of people in The Black community.

Nitashia recently had a conversation with Photographers Without Borders (PWB), the organization’s founder, Danielle Da Silva, as part of PWB’s ongoing “Storytelling for Change” webinar series. Below are edited excerpts of the conversation, which discuss the importance of self-love, mentoring, positivity, and how to take photos of political events and become an effective BIPOC partner.

Da Silva: You’re an artist and youth leader. You’re publishing your chosen magazine. What was the first step on your journey?

JohnsonI lived in an area called West Dallas, Texas. It could have been better, but we did what we could to survive. As a child, I couldn’t always see the bad things happening. Luckily for my grandma and step-grandpa, I was a positive person and I wore my head to the sky. My granddad urged me to maintain my innocence as he observed that I was in a great spirit.

I was a kid who moved around the world. I failed in the third grade due to the time I lived with my mother. I was not in school all year. It was a very disruptive experience. It caused a lot of stress in my life. However, I was fortunate enough to encounter a variety of excellent instructors and people who believed in me — and they helped me reach an even higher level. I’m confident that I would not be who I am now without them and my family members in my life. Therefore, I’m trying to emulate what others have done for me.

Da Silva: How do you locate the stories for The Self Publication? And what are the comments you receive from those whose stories are included?

Johnson: If I’m looking for people to join my team, they are found through word of mouth or an online article. I must select considerate people who value others, are confident in themselves, and are comfortable sharing their personal stories. I’m not looking to make anyone take any action. I’m all about positive energy. I’ve known more than 28 people who have good power and are happy to be there. The authors usually respond when the book is released, “Thank you for allowing me to tell my story.” However, I am grateful to them for sharing their tales with me.

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