Rev. Nelson N. Johnson
Plenary Speaker: Thursday, July 17
“Building a Movement for Social Change:
Challenges and Opportunities of the 2008 Presidential Election”
Reverend Johnson is Executive Director, Beloved Community Center of Greensboro, Inc. and Pastor, Faith Community Church, Greensboro, North Carolina. He also serves as Co-President of Interfaith Worker Justice, headquartered in Chicago and Vice-President of the Greensboro Pulpit Forum.
A lifelong activist for social and economic justice, Rev. Johnson centers his efforts on facilitating a process of comprehensive community building, which includes a convergence of racial and ethnic diversity, social and economic justice, and genuine participatory democracy. At the BCC, he and his colleagues attempt to bring together the homeless, the imprisoned, impoverished neighborhoods, and other disenfranchised groups in the spirit of mutual support and community. Johnson and his wife, Joyce, were recognized for their work in 2005 by both the prestigious Ford Foundation “Leadership for a Changing World Award” and by the Faith and Politics Institute of Washington, DC “Beloved Community Award.”
Guided by his three-part emphasis of diversity, justice and democracy, Rev. Johnson is actively building relationships with and providing leadership within organized labor, faith groups and other public and private community organizations, with a special emphasis on drawing upon the liberating faith tradition of the African American church to bear witness in the struggle for economic, racial and social justice for working and oppressed people. To address that need, he and others recently founded the Southern Faith, Labor and Community Alliance. He and other local ministers of the Greensboro Pulpit Forum led an active support effort in 1997 that resulted in a significant contract settlement for workers at the Greensboro K-Mart Distribution Center. He is currently playing a leading role in the Justice at Smithfield Campaign.
One of the most challenging and transforming events in the Rev. Johnson’s life was the tragic killings of five labor and community organizers, the wounding of ten others and the terrorizing of the African American Community at an anti-Klan rally in 1979. That incident has given rise to the first Truth and Community Reconciliation Project of its kind in the United States, which Rev. Johnson and the Beloved Community Center played a leading role in organizing.
Because of his extensive experience in community organizing and socio-political analysis, Rev. Johnson is routinely invited to speak on university campuses around the country to share his vision of community building. He has written articles for the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law and The Witness Magazine, published by the National Episcopal Church. Rev. Johnson is also a former Contributing Editor for the Black Scholar Magazine, National Chair and Contributing Editor for the African World Newspaper, and Assistant Editor for the Carolina Peacemaker of Greensboro, NC.
Awards received include the Bennett College Human Relations Award, the National NAACP Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights Award, the Greensboro NAACP John B. Ervin Service Award, the National AFL-CIO Faith Leader Award, the Greensboro Human Relations Service Award, the University of Massachusetts Labor Relations and Research Center Robert Haynes Award. Rev. Johnson received a baccalaureate degree in political science from North Carolina A&T State University and a Master of Divinity Degree from the School of Theology at Virginia Union University.