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Dr. Amber Johnson

Associate Professor, Saint Louis University

Founder, The Justice Fleet


As a scholar/artist/activist, Dr. Johnson’s research and activism focus on narratives of identity, protest, and social justice in digital media, popular media, and everyday lived experiences. As a polymath, their mixed-media artistry involves working with metals, recycled and reclaimed goods, photography, poetry, percussion, and paint to interrogate systems of oppression. Dr. Amber Johnson is an award-winning Associate Professor of Communication and Social Justice at Saint Louis University. Notable awards include the Golden Anniversary Monograph Award for research on black masculinity and the performative possibilities of social media, the Norm White Award for Engaged Scholarship and Service by the Saint Louis University Faculty Senate, Dr. Terry Leet Researcher Award from Generate Health for scholarship that centers social justice, the Lilla A. Heston award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies for work on embodied pedagogies and social justice, the Faculty Excellence Award for Diversity and Social Justice, a Presidential citation for social justice work within and beyond the Communication discipline, and several article of the year and top paper awards. Dr. Johnson has published articles in several journals including Qualitative Inquiry, Critical Studies in Media and Communication, Text & Performance Quarterly, Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, Communication Teacher, and Communication Quarterly. Dr. Johnson is the author of two books, African American Communication: Examining the Complexities of Lived Experience and Gender Futurity, Intersectional Autoethnography: Embodied Theorizing from the Margins. 


As co-founder of The Institute for Healing Justice and Equity, Dr. Johnson specializes in humanizing equity and exploring the relationship between healing justice and equity. Humanizing equity is the process of making organizational equity work radically inclusive in action. This requires bringing those most impacted by systemic injustice into the fold and including them throughout the entire process. If organizations are not inviting those most marginalized to create policies that are intended to create equity for those most marginalized, then how will they know their policies are necessary? Additionally, if organizations are not assessing the impact their policies have on actual lived experience of those most marginalized, how will they know their efforts are working? Humanizing equity is the process of being radically inclusive in all of our equity practices to ensure that the work is conceived, devised, implemented and assessed by those most impacted by systemic inequity. This requires valuing people’s input, treating them as stakeholders in the outcomes, ensuring that they are co-creators through the process versus experimental groups, and including them throughout the entire process from idea, to implementation, to assessment. Humanizing equity also requires healing justice. We must put equal effort into healing from past injustices and preventing future injustices. 


Dr Johnson is also the creator of The Justice Fleet ™, a mobile social justice museum that fosters healing through art, dialogue and play. The museum currently houses two exhibits, Radical Forgiveness and Radical Imagination. The 3rdexhibit, Transfuturism, is an art activism exhibit that projects Black trans and gender nonconforming people as super heroes in an effort to render visible the embodied heroic work of dismantling the gender binary. Dr. Johnson’s forthcoming book, A Great Inheritance, uses memoir to highlight healthy forms of love and support for trans and non-binary folks alongside young adult fiction to speculate on gender futurity as a site of liberation.