Web Pioneer Lynne d. Johnson

 
 


Photo credit: lynneluvah

Testament to her
pioneering leadership comes from Anil Dash, vice president of Six Apart, the
company that owns some of the top properties in the blogosphere: Movable Type,
Live Journal, Vox and Typepad. Dash said that one of Johnson’s greatest
contributions in heightening the profile of people of color online is as "one
of those rare examples of someone who leads by doing."

He continued: "To be
a pioneer, you inevitably have to suffer some arrows in your back. To be a
prominent black journalist online, to be a prominent woman online, you have to
put up with a disproportionate amount of obstacles. And just to be online at all as a person, you sometimes get
caught up in situations that require a lot of patience.

"To be able to
handle all of that with grace and still take the time to educate people, you
have to have some perspective and be able to look at the big picture. That
seems to come naturally to Lynne, and for someone like me that had to work for
years to get better at that sort of thing, it’s been inspiring."

Johnson’s blog has been
online since July 2001, and through the years she has shared her views on not
just technology and music but politics as well. When African-American teen
lesbian Sakia Gunn was murdered in Newark,
N.J., Johnson weighed in on the
tragedy. When Africana.com sought out commentary from the community on 9/11,
they included Johnson. Staying true to her style, her essay on the tragedy was
actually a series of emails and listserv messages stitched together that
captured a sense of profound loss and vulnerability.

When Princeton University
held a panel moderated by Cornel West on homophobia and hip-hop, Johnson was
asked to participate. Her love for the genre in no way comprises her view that
homophobic lyrics "are just ignorant" in rap as well as dancehall
reggae. In 2006, she won a Black Blogger Achievement Award from the Black
Weblog Awards.

"Lynne is a magnet
for black techies on the web," said Angela Benton of Black Web 2.0.
"Her wealth of knowledge and willingness to forge connections within the
industry has made her the number one go-to person among black techies on the web."

When Twanna Hines, a online
dating columnist, needed advice on how to pitch a panel at SXSWi,
she contacted Johnson. "Before proposing a panel, I made contact with
Lynne because she was one of the original panelists on the early ‘Blogging
While Black’ discussions," said Hines.

"I was impressed
with her career online, and she really inspired me to submit a panel idea of my
own. Lynne is wonderfully talented and unbelievably approachable. She’s way too
modest to speak about her own accomplishments, but her contributions to the
online world do not go unrecognized."

Johnson also sits on the
board of directors of the Literary Freedom Project, a nonprofit arts
organization that seeks to empower communities of color through literature,
creative thinking and new media.

On a personal level, Johnson
is in a relationship with her partner of several years, whom she does not
identify. The couple co-parent a pre-teen and live in Brooklyn.
"I’m a very private person," she said.

Yet given the heft of the
content on her blog, it is easy for readers to feel like they do know her on a
personal level. But she maintains that once she starts talking about her
girlfriend, she’s bringing someone else into the spotlight, and "that’s
just not fair."

Hines agrees: "The
minute you link your real name to your online personality, you put your life,
work, politics, family and other personal aspects on display, whether you like
it or not."

One thing Johnson does
reveal: She is a die-hard L Word fan.
"Sunday nights we have a ritual," she said. "We have dinner, put
the kid to bed, and then it’s our time. My girlfriend says I’m like Bette."

Given her
accomplishments, it’s not hard to view Johnson as an alpha female with high
expectations for herself and those around her. But her refusal to settle for
mediocrity in her professional life motivates others as well.

"There are a lot of
ways to inspire people by offering a great narrative, and of course Lynne has
always done that," said Dash. "But she’s also put the ideas into
practice, helping show by example how all of us can stay true to ourselves
socially and culturally while making really smart use of new media. That’s a
tough balance to strike, but it’s a really powerful demonstration, especially
when there are still people out there saying that there’s a contradiction
between being a digital native and being authentically ‘black.’ Or being
authentically anything-non-dominant-culture."

In short, Johnson’s view
on life can be summed up by a popular black idiom: "Just do you boo."

"I think that even
if you view Lynne’s resume — which is deep and shows versatility fo’ sho’ — you
still won’t see her coming until she is right in front of you," said Clarence,
of doyouknowclarence.com, who met Johnson at
this year’s SXSWi. "She’s got that ‘do you’ flavor that garners respect
from a number of circles, and that is the thing I respect the most about Lynne
d. She is always Lynne d."

For more about Lynne d. Johnson, visit her website.

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