We present to you author, certified life coach, and performer Jeremy Johnson. He is one of eight writers set to appear at the forthcoming ILTA Literary Café Event on Saturday, September 4. In his book, Intimacy from His View-What Black Men Have to Say About Intimacy; Johnson presents an insightful look at how African American males perceive relationships.
Johnson is the President and CEO of Applaud You Talent Group, LLC, a boutique talent agency. Johnson shares his talents through music, acting, and writing. The Newark, NJ native developed his talent for singing at the age of six, performing in the church choir. Performing under the stage moniker J’Da Prynce, Johnson served as the lead vocalist for the award-winning International band; Heat. The band toured popular Asian nightclubs. He is currently a contributing writer for The Unleashed Voice Magaize (TUV) and has contributed his writing services to Cons2Dons and Sheen Magazine.
Below, the Atlanta resident discusses the exact moment he decided to write this book, offers tips for black men to have more intimacy, and what he did to keep the creative juices flowing during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Why did you become a writer?
I honestly never thought of being a writer as something I “became.” I believe I was born with certain gifts, and storytelling initially through songs and poetry was one of them. As I got older, being a black male in America inspired me to note many situations, ranging from police brutality and inadequate housing to the ever-changing black family structure and other noticeable occurrences. As a result, I would feel then, and even more now than ever, compelled to lend my voice to these and various other issues.
How do you identify and nurture ideas for new projects?
I wish I had a more excitable answer to share, but truthfully, I feel that the projects that appeal to me most often are birth in my sleep or dreams. Many of the songs I’ve written, and even my new book, Intimacy From His View, What Black Men Have to Say About Intimacy, was placed in my spirit, and I’m just grateful to be the chosen vessel.
Describe for us the exact moment you decided for sure that you needed to write this book.
I recall it was November of 2019, and I was living at Lindbergh Station in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time. I was still teaching middle school English and had serious thoughts about how much more time I would devote to this profession. I was standing in my apartment, and a voice spoke to me and said, “I have an assignment for you.” I must have looked crazy talking out loud to myself because that’s exactly what I was doing. I began having this outward exchange between that voice and my inner thoughts. Long story short, the voice, which I call “spirit,” gave me all the pertinent information needed. It gave me the title, the method I was to gather the data, the content, everything. That was November 2019, and I can remember that day as if it was yesterday.
Talk about some of the challenges you encountered while writing this book. What did you do to overcome those challenges?
When writing this book, the biggest challenge I faced was my insecurity and fear that other men would view me as weird when asking them about intimacy. I’m a strong writer, so it wasn’t language mechanics, spelling, punctuation, or anything of this nature. Additionally, I faced balancing my everyday responsibilities, like work, financial obligations, and balancing my social life. I overcame these challenges by working with a mentor and being very vulnerable with family members and close friends who would lend the encouragement needed for me to keep going. Lastly, I would say that keeping the end goal in mind and continuously walking by faith helped me through the process.
It’s nearly impossible to find books on healthy relationships between black same-gender-loving couples. Why was it so important to write this book?
I think that the answer to this question lies within the opening statement. This book is important because it is hard for black men to find healthy relationships between black same-gender-loving men and black men in general. We don’t get to read about healthy relationships enough. We don’t get to see them displayed sufficiently in movies, and I would almost dare say, many probably have very few personal examples of which we can learn and grow. So, it is for these reasons that this is such a timely and relevant read.
How do you define intimacy?
I define intimacy as a close bond or an exchange between two individuals or groups of people. The parties involved are welcome to be vulnerable without fear of repercussions. This exchange can be of a sexual, spiritual, mental, physical, or emotional nature.
What is the biggest misconception black men have regarding intimacy?
From what I’ve learned and understand, the biggest misconception regarding black men and intimacy is that we do not desire intimacy and are incapable of expressing intimacy. We all think intimacy and sex are the same things. These falsities couldn’t be further from the truth.
Tell us three things we as black men can do to have more intimacy in our relationships.
I like this question. The first thing we as black men can do to experience more intimacy in our relationships is express more vulnerability. Too many black men are taught that being vulnerable is a “female trait” or that we are weak when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. This belief is false. I believe it takes a strong man to make the deliberate choice to express himself unapologetically and without fear of judgment. Vulnerability begets vulnerability. So, when we open ourselves up, we create the space for others to do the same.
Another thing we can do to experience more intimacy is unlearn many of the harmful ideologies we currently have about intimacy. Many people believe that intimacy is an exchange that is supposed to be shared between members of the female sex only. This is a very unhealthy school of thought that must be abandoned. Unlearning negative ideas about intimacy can free up space to learn new, truthful, and beautiful things about the advantages of expressing and experiencing intimacy as a daily part of our lives. Thirdly, as black men, something we can do to experience more intimacy is to seek counseling. Many of us are walking around with trauma and useless baggage from which we have yet to heal. This often prevents us from taking steps towards experiencing true intimacy in our lives. It’s never a bad idea to seek out professional counseling.
Have you considered writing an advice column for black gay men?
Yes. I would very much love to be the go-to voice for black same-gender-loving men. I prefer this word over gay, but that’s a different story for another day. I think of myself as someone who is often able to be very objective on various subject matters that impact the lives of black gay men, and it would be my greatest honor to write an advice column that speaks to our unique and critical issues.
After the ILTA Literary Café Event, where else do you plan on promoting this book?
After this, I plan to continue working with several partners on developing my book into a stage play. Additionally, I am currently creating a podcast that will dissect the book chapter by chapter for various audiences. The completion of my new music project will afford me the opportunity to combine my gifts of music performance and education, which I’ve coined the phrased ‘edutainment’ to help promote the book. I am also looking forward to bringing back my talk show, “Cocktails and Conversations,” and using this as a marketing platform. But, baby, when I tell you, I am open to any other ideas and suggestions; that’s precisely what I mean. No man is an island.
What did you do to keep the creative juices flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Covid-19 presented me with the opportunity to expand upon my artistic abilities. During this p[l]andemic, I’ve continued to pen the lyrics to new songs and worked on music production. Additionally, I’ve found myself increasing my social media influence by creating new video content for social media platforms like Tik-Tok and Instagram. I’ve been blessed to do a little traveling which is always a source of inspiration for me. Go figure.
What other LGBTQ writers do you follow?
My favorite LGBTQ writer of all time is E Lynn Harris. I had the honor of meeting him when I attended South Carolina State University. The way this man developed characters and whipped a plot into shape still has me aspiring to this day to become half of the phenomenal writer he was.
What would you like to see if you could look into your life’s crystal ball and glance in the future approximately ten years from now?
I would like to see me owning and operating my resort on Khao Samed Beach in Thailand. There, I will be the resident DJ hosting parties for elite groups of my family and friends. I hope to be a highly sought-after guest speaker and successful artist developer. These are some of the things I anticipate accomplishing. The canvas is still being created.
Meet Author Jeremy Johnson in person at the ILTA Literary Café Event on Saturday, September 4th at the Atlanta Marriott Suites Midtown, 35 14th St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 from 1:00 pm – 3:30 pm.