At Frontline, we celebrate each facet of the persons-served, recognizing their differences and helping to bring meaning to their many life experiences. Please meet some of our unique individuals with different abilities.
When you have had the opportunity to interact with Johnny, you quickly conclude that he is a person who endures and is not defined by his disability, but by his ability to overcome. Growing up in the Washington, DC, area, Johnny was born to Haitian and Ethiopian parents. Although he comes from a large family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, his decision to live as a gay man would lead him down a homelessness path because of cultural beliefs around homosexuality.
Childhood traumas and challenges birth his love for poetry, but it was not easy as he had to overcome personal barriers mastering the English language. He recalls performing his first poem at an “open mic” in Washington, DC, where he had nothing prepared, but regurgitated an impromptu piece that wowed the audience. That performance paved the way for other opportunities to share his poetry, which spawned his desire to continue writing through the inspiration of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, and Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise.”
“Writing helps me to express my inner feelings and my life’s experiences,” states Johnny.
In addition to poetry, Johnny enjoys dancing to and singing Gospel Music. He recalled the support he received from members at his previous home church, who knew of his love for dancing and Gospel Music and encouraged him to showcase his talent at church events. Johnny would perform his first public dance to “Never Would Have Made It,” by renowned Gospel Artist Marvin Sapp. He described the moment as “moving and powerful, ” as he stated the presentation blessed many congregants. When he came to Frontline, Johnny stated that he had the opportunity to participate in the dance club started by a staff member. He has performed for company-wide events such as Thanksgiving and even a celebration for Frontline’s President, Dittu Abraham. His presentation was well received.
“The movements when I dance comes from what I feel with the music, my experiences, surviving on my own and having to lean on my faith, before coming to Frontline.”
Before Johnny came to Frontline, he was homeless. He currently resides in a Frontline home where he receives much-needed services and resources to help position him for success. He stated he is used to surviving independently, but Frontline has helped him pick up the pieces.
“Frontline has provided a home for me, where I don’t have to do everything by myself,” said Johnny. “It has been a while since I have been a part of an agency that has my back.”