Jia Johnson is a social justice entrepreneur at the intersection of creative education, liberative praxis, public ministry and community healing. She was the co-producer and co-host of the Abolition as Resurrection podcast. Johnson designed and established the Solidarity Building Initiative for Liberative Carceral Education at McCormick Theological Seminary (MTS), and currently serves as its director.

As director, she develops community-based collaborations, co-creates learning communities, and curricula that tend to the whole of incarcerated learners at the Cook County Jail and their communities of belonging. She is currently, collaborating and co-leading on a new project entitled ARTivism and Proclamation for Community Healing. ARTivism and Proclamation for Community Healing utilizes art and social activism, through an inside-out model, to bridge the gap between learning communities at the Cook County Jail with those in the free world at McCormick Theological Seminary and the broader community. In collaboration with Kaia Stern, PhD, Johnson developed the Healing and Justice Conversation Series, a pilot partnership with the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. She is currently co-authoring a book chapter in Higher Ed in Prison Manual a project of Bloomsbury Publishing. She initiated the establishment of the Cook County Jail Higher Ed Committee for the IL-Coalition for Higher Education in Prison, and currently serves as chair. She is the founder and director of Freedom Dream Collective, offering strategic consulting, mission driven program design and coaching.

Johnson has 10 plus years of project management experience, leading and developing pilot initiatives in both corporate and nonprofit settings.  During her career in social services, she nurtured relationships with families and children impacted by the justice system, connecting them to vital systems of nourishment.  She has years of experience designing and implementing mission driven programs and curricula. Johnson had a successful career as a business development executive and board service, and brings high level experience with partnership development, strategic consulting/coaching and a creative solution driven approach. 

Johnson’s commitments to dismantling oppressive systems and imaging into existence new systems of flourishing are influenced by her lived experience, community of belonging and progressive faith beliefs. Her thoughtful leadership styles and innovative approach to social justice entrepreneurship earned her Cook County Department of Correction 2021 Educational Program Tier Volunteer of the Year, the 2021 John Purdy, Sr. Memorial Leadership Award at Community Renewal Society, the 2018 New Faces of Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary, 2019 Evanston Vision Keeper at Interfaith Action of Evanston, and 2019 Fields Leaders at the Fields Foundation. Her tenacity for pioneering new social justice initiatives was recognized by Chicago Foundation for Women’s Willie’s Warriors; Chicago Theological Seminary’s Resilience in Leadership Initiative, and Bonfire Women.

Jia holds a Master of Arts in Public Ministry from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She’s a participant of Maroon University’s Abolition Institute, 2021 and 2022.

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