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Artist Jen White-Johnson Answers the Youth Questionnaire

13 May 2022

Neither ADHD nor an autoimmune disorder stops Jen White-Johnson from creating art; rather they provide a purpose for her work, celebrating neurodivergence, and amplifying messaging around anti-ableism and disability justice.

“My creative practice shines best when I can infuse design justice, disability justice, photography, zine-making, collaging, and art activism to center anti-ableist practices,” says White-Johnson. “Neurodivergent mothering, care work, and joy are important acts of resistance in a society that so often devalues disabled lives.” 

This practice comes through visually in her portraits and zines—vibrantly colored, energetic, and full of life.

“I have a love for making kid-centered crip/disability artwork and design, which led to photo zine-making,” she says. “My first photo zine entitled KnoxRoxs (published by Homie House Press) is a visual love letter written to my Black and autistic son, amplifying his Autistic Joy.” White-Johnson also recently published, “From the Black Anti-Ableist Diary: A Tribute to My Black Disabled Son From a Black Disabled Mother,” an essay printed in the book The Black Experience in Design, Identity Expression and Reflection. She can currently be found at the University of Minnesota’s School of Design, guest lecturing in a course called Special Topics in Design Justice: Disability, Racism, and the Intersections of Design Justice. 

Below, Jen White-Johnson answers the Youth Questionnaire.

Question 02: What will your greatest impact be on this earth? 

Making someone feel seen. 

Question 03: Where are you most free? 

When I’m napping. 

Question 05: What do you dream of? 

Paying off my student loans, universal health care, and making my son laugh. 

Question 06: What does pride mean to you? 

I like to think of Disability Pride as a space of total freedom; there is a sense of true pride in being unapologetically disabled.

Question 10: Describe your relationship with your ego. 

I try to nurture it, humble it, water it, realizing that life is full of constant unlearning and growth. Humility is an underrated strength. Be humble or your ego will betray you into thinking you’ve learned all that you possibly can. Plant seeds and see what grows beyond your ego. 

Question 11: What is your favorite flower or tree, and why? 

Huge oak trees, which represent so much strength and longevity. There is an oak tree on the lane where my grandma lives that first sprouted in 1548, and it still continues to grow—alongside my Grandma who is 96 years old. 

Question 12: To you, what is the most soothing sound?

A little baby breathing. My son was born at only 2lbs. He spent 45 days in the NICU and the sound of his breathing when I was finally able to hold him to my chest was the best sound I had ever heard. 

Question 14: If you could encourage others to support something you believe to be universally beneficial, what would it be

To create a more accessible world that centers all types of body-minds, If non-disabled people would accept the authenticity of our pain and pleasure as power,  we can collectively build, create, and exist in a world that has been deemed inaccessible to us. I  work and play best with others that believe in an accessible community-building approach to activism and design. I love how art and design can express and uplift themes of intersectionality, and be used as a blueprint to create alternative support structures.

Question 15: What is your personal goal for this year, month, or day? 

To finally finish my second photo zine centering creative, neurodivergent womxn.

Question 19: If your energy were visible to others, what would it look like? 

It would look like a huge collage of flowers, confetti, and glitter. 

Question 24: What does it mean to find yourself? 

I don’t think you ever truly find yourself, you keep learning yourself, you keep exploring yourself, which allows you to celebrate yourself and love yourself even in times when you feel completely lost. 

Question 25: Who are you when you’re free to dream? 

Creating anti-ableist visual media that helps to break and dismantle unjust stigmas targeted at the Disability community.

Question 26: What does it mean to live your truth?  

Embracing that your body-mind can be a radical space of softness and resistance at the same time. As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

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