ALLIANCE – Portia Johnson, the principal at the Alliance Alternative Academies in the Alliance City School district, was saddened and disappointed after waking up to hateful, racist and demeaning images and words spray painted on her Alliance home – the home that her grandmother purchased 60 years ago.
Authorities had noticed cars down the street from the Johnson household had been vandalized with spray-paint. While circling the area, that’s when they came across her home.
A mother of four children (ages 5, 7,9 and 16), she had to have a conversation that all too many Black parents have had with their children.
“They’re usually proud of seeing their signs on the side of our house and their classmates seeing them as well when the school bus pickers them up. I had to have a very serious conversation with my younger ones,” she said. “I had to tell that what the denotation of the word n*gger is and where that comes from – the history behind it. That’s something I wasn’t prepared to do early morning before they went to school.”
After gathering her thoughts, Mrs. Johnson went to social media to make her community and neighbors aware of this senseless act.
“You have to speak up and you have to say something to bring those people to light, because in the end, that’s the only way we will teach and equip the next generation how to deal with this mess that we’re in,” she explained.
Mrs. Johnson said that growing up, her parents had to have tough conversations with her about the color of her skin and what people of color may endure; she didn’t think she’d be having those same conversations with her children decades later.
“This is a conversation that they had to have with me as I was growing up and experiencing different things as well,” she said. “It was a difficult thing to do but I know that God gave me what I needed to be able to do it.”
“Unfortunately we have to deal with this, because it’s part of being a Black person in America but right now, with everything we’re going through, I think it’s important for us to educate our children and for them to not be hearing it from their peers. It’s an important conversation to have.”
A native of Alliance, she expressed she is saddened by what transpired but not surprised.
“I love this community, I was born here, I graduated from Alliance High School but I know what I encountered in the hallways but now, our district is preparing students,” she added. “We are working on social justice values. We are teaching our core values but there are some people in this community who are ignorant. They need to know that this community in particular does not stand behind ignorance, hatred, bigotry and vandalism.”
Alliance City School’s Superintendent Robert Gress released a statement on the senseless act, saying they will ‘not condone nor tolerate’ this type of hateful and racist language.
“We strive to provide learning opportunities that teach our students the importance of equality and understanding of all people, regardless of their race, religion or background to create acceptance and awareness,” the Superintendent added. “This will remain a priority now and in the future.”
Members from the school district responded to the words and hateful images by displaying positive messages and signs in the yards and an empty lot near the Johnson household.
This moment in their lives has become a teachable moment for the young minds in the Johnson family.
“I’m telling my kids, as young as my five-year-old, that this is the reason that this is happening,” Mrs. Johnson said. “It’s important for him to know as a Black man coming up in America, because you never know what can happen. Black lives do matter, my sons lives matter, my life and my daughters lives matter. I’m not for it.”
Her oldest son, a 16-year-old preparing for college, has a better understanding of the incident than his younger siblings.
“My son is one of the strongest people that I know,” she said. “He was born wise, has always been very intuitive. He has done nothing but try to support his siblings.”
She hopes this motivates her son to be the best he can be.
“He is very equipped to deal with anything that comes along. He’s poised to go to college,” she said. “I expect him to use this as a springboard to go forward in life because it happened to him.”
As previously mentioned, the Alliance home was bought by Johnson’s grandmother nearly 60 years ago. It breaks her heart to see the home, a representation of her grandmother, defaced.
“My grandmother bought this house 60 years ago – this house has been standing since 1850. None of this has ever happened,” she said. “In the midst of the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement…this has ever happened, so why is this happening now?”
Mrs. Johnson’s grandmother passed away in May of 2020 and she said she’s glad her grandmother isn’t around to see the spoiling of the home.
“People have put a lot love and sacrifice into this home,” she said. “I just hope they [the person responsible] gets saved.”
As for the person guilty, Mrs. Johnson said she just hopes it was a kid trying to show off or be funny, but the perpetrator needs to be held accountable for his or her actions.
“I’m not going to let up because this is a hate crime,” she said. “But if this is a child, you’re going to have to learn your lesson. I do believe in positive and negative consequences but hopefully the negative consequences that come from this will teach [the person responsible] what we believe as a family, a community and as a country.”
Mrs. Johnson concluded her interview with JMN by saying her husband’s grandfather passed away from COVID early into 2021. In the grandfather’s obituary, there is a statement about the ‘reckless mishandling’ of the coronavirus and the family hopes this hateful act wasn’t committed in retaliation.
Officers from Smith Township and the Alliance Police Department are working in conjunction to find the person(s) who committed this hate crime.