In 2023, ADF celebrates choreographer, dance educator, and activist Tony Johnson by establishing a scholarship in his name. Help us reach our goal of $40,000 for the Tony Johnson Scholarship Fund! Text TONY to (844) 422-6444 or click here to donate now.
Tony C. Johnson is a life artist. He has experienced loneliness, betrayal, despair, and great loss. He is a man of deep faith, a creator of community, a dancer, and a choreographer. Every aspect of his life is woven into his art, and every filament of his art informs his life. He created the My Neighbor Ministry to provide concrete aid to the homeless such as meals and clothing and information on resources. Others do that, it is true. But Tony wanders the streets, looking for the homeless. He sits down with them and introduces himself, asks them if they would like coffee. And then he listens. He doesn’t tell them how to get better, or what they must do to get off the streets. Rather, he wants to get to know them, to hear their stories, to hear about their lives; he seeks to provide a listening ear, without judgment. Many he has known for years, recognizing when they are ready to take a step forward. He grieves when they go downhill, when they die; he rejoices when they move forward. He accepts when no change is likely. His art feeds a greater understanding of those he calls our neighbors, because in that art he digs deep to challenge what he thinks he understands and to discern more profoundly the nature of their experiences. He penetrates their stories to better live their lives on stage and allow an audience to begin to understand at least some aspect of our neighbors’ inner life.
I see people living on the streets, carrying bags of their personal items, men and women pushing two or three grocery carts traveling from one part of the city to another, always seeking a feeling of belonging. I ask myself, “Where they are going?” At times I ask if I can help carry their bags. Mary was a lady I met while she was crossing the street with three grocery carts filled with all her belongings. When I asked if I could help her she responded, “No.” I didn’t understand, so I began to ask myself, “Is she seeking to belong, or is it I who is seeking connection?” My way of belonging was to help make her journey easier. “Can you take me with you?” – Tony Johnson
I’m here to use the gifts of dance and choreography in the hope the work I do will bring awareness, hope, and healing to our communities. – Tony Johnson