When I was 4 years old and living in New York my mother enrolled me into a program that to this day has colored my world and given me a drive that without those experiences I don’t know where I would be today. I ask myself why I do what I do. Where does my drive come from? And who really influenced me? Of course the obvious answer is that my parents influenced me the most but you all know just as well as I that outside influences have a great influence on your upbringing and for 15 years Bernice Johnson Dance School of the arts most definitely effected me and the way I live today.
I remember one of the first times I actually got on a stage in front of people and sang at Lincoln Center. I was 5 years of age and the song I sang was “I’ve got rhythm”. I remember when my sister and I were partnered up and I had to carry her across the stage. I remember the late nights I stayed there dancing away and sweating like there is no tomorrow. At the age of 12 I stopped dancing and did something that changed my world back then and to this day has affected many in a positive way.
At the age of 12 I began to learn how to play the percussion and not just any percussion by African Drums. When I took my first lessons I became hooked and haven’t turned back since. Learning new patterns and rhythms became a thrill to me. Every Friday and Saturday whether rain, snow, in the heat or in the cold I played and learned from the best. All thru that, I did not know it, I was learning some very important lessons about life and hard work. I learned that thru hard work and perseverance one can achieve and become successful in an endeavor even when the world says that it may be impossible. I learn that positive mental toughness is a key to concurring most if not everything life has thrown at us. I learned that family is important and true friendships are forever and not just a flash in the pan.
I would watch BJ (Bernice Johnson) from a distance and see how see acted and reacted in so many situations. To me she was firm but gentle, a leader and always looked up to. A motivator because no one ever said no to her but that they would try and in most cases succeeded at what she wanted them to do. A successful business woman, in my eyes Oprah has nothing on her, nothing at all. She was very patient and knew how to delegate and did that well. She knew talent and knew how to get the best out of everyone she touched. But most of all she was a Christian woman that believed in love and never did she ever give up on anyone or anything, especially me.
I have taken the BJ model and put it into my everyday life and it has made me who I am today. I wish so many of the people I have interaction with on a daily basis could have met her then they would understand why I am the way I am today. She cared about others and not just herself. She did not understand the word no or the words “I can’t” but what she did understand was that you would “try” and try we did. In this society today so many have watered everything down. We no longer hold people accountable for anything. Our attitude has become, “Oh, it’s OK… you tried” instead of,” No, now get back at it and get it done this time.” This is missing in society and because of that America is becoming soft in so many ways. I believe that BJ understood the power of the mind and its ability to overcome any obstacle. We have lost that understanding. We have more excuses now than Carter has liver pills.
As I see it, BJ influenced so many. There were many of her students that went on to professional careers on television and on stage that for me to name them all this blog would go on for another thousand words. I can think of one person that BJ teaching influence and now he is dead but his music and dance will remain with us forever, Michael Jackson. Now I don’t know if she knew Michael Jackson but one of his choreographers, Michael Peters was a dance instructor from BJ’s and helped with choreographing some of Michael Jackson’s greatest pieces. This is the influence her organization and she had on the world.
I think we all can learn a lot from her life. She is missed.