Although I am now a founder and executive director of a not-for-profit organization and an adjunct professor teaching a graduate course, I cannot say that I have always been a leader, or a high academic achiever or one who always knew her purpose in life. My life‘s journey is just the opposite. I am an African American female born in 1971 and raised in Baker, Louisiana, a small town near Baton Rouge, LA. I was always a very friendly, caring and somewhat ambitions person, but simply lacked direction and confidence. I am the older of two children raised by Michael & Wilma Johnson. My parents were very smart, hard-working and nurturing, but lacked a college education. From grade school throughout high school I was an average student who did just enough to get by. On a few occasions I was challenged by teachers who pushed me to reach my full potential and in those few instances I excelled every time. However, I had very few teachers who cared enough to push me.
I discovered around the age of 7 that I could sing. So from then until the present I’ve been a part of a school or church choir, but the thought of pursuing a career as a singer never occurred to me. Since singing was not considered a real career, I knew that I had to achieve an undergraduate degree in a more practical field. It was my personal challenge to be the first person in my parents’ immediate family to graduate from college. My biggest challenge was that I did not like to read. Reading was not a priority in my home. As long as I was not in any trouble at school and was passing classes my parents were happy.
I was a popular girl in school who, for the most part, got along with everybody. I never got into any serious trouble. I enjoyed being the center of attention, but still had self-esteem issues. I loved to laugh and have wholesome fun. I was always the girl who stood up for the “underdog”. Before I devoted my life to God at age 15, I would physically fight to protect and defend who and what I cared about.
In 1988, the fall of my senior year of high school, I applied to Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Tulsa, Oklahoma to study accounting. I choose accounting because I took it as an elective in high school and though it was an extremely easy course. I figured that I could breeze through it in college. Again, I lacked direction. During my 1st semester at ORU in 1989 I realized that accounting wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be. However, because I declared it to be my major I thought I had to make it work. It wasn’t until my junior year that I inquired about changing my major and was advised that it was not a good idea to change majors as a junior. That was the year I became an academic peer advisor for the freshmen in my dormitory. During my four years at ORU I participated in a number of campus activities. I participated in dramatic productions, fashion shows and ministry outreach for prospective and new students. I sang at a number of the local churches in the Tulsa area. My affable personality allowed me to make and maintain friends. I graduated from ORU in 1993 with a B.S. in Accounting. It was indeed one of the proudest days of my life. I felt that I had given my parents something they could be really proud of and my younger sister something to aspire to. My sister graduated college in 2005.
Soon after college I started a career as an insurance Claims Representative. I was hired by the first company that interviewed me, and I worked for more than 15 years as a Claims Specialist for insurance companies such as Progressive, Liberty Mutual and Travelers. I purchased my 1st home at age 25 and my second home at age 30.
In 1998 I was exposed to the “professional” entertainment industry after meeting my husband, actor Antonio D. Charity, and moving to the New York City area. After the move I still maintained my corporate positions but the artistic side of me was longing to break free. In 2004 my husband and I relocated to Los Angeles, Ca. That’s when I began networking with many of Hollywood’s actors, writers, directors and producers, and that’s when the artistic side of me broke free. I began working as a casting assistant in an established casting office and soon founded my own company, C&C Casting. I started working part-time as an Independent Casting Director in 2005 while maintaining my full-time corporate job in the insurance field. I have now cast several feature films, short films, plays and webisodes. However, I was still not fulfilled. In my quest for direction and purpose; therefore, I enrolled at Musicians Institute (MI) in Hollywood to see if singing was my destiny. While enrolled at MI I produced a demo CD entitled “Vessel Of Honor” to showcase my talent as a singer. I wrote several of the songs on the CD. I was having a blast at MI, but I couldn’t afford to complete the entire 2-year program. I completed two quarters at MI before I stopped.
In 2006 the course of my life began to change after visiting Penny Lane Group Home in North Hills, Ca with my husband who was conducting a free acting workshop. Penny Lane is a group home for girls in foster care. My brief time with the girls at Penny Lane affected me unlike anything else. Compassion was stirred within me in an irreversible way. I remember thinking about how blessed I was to be raised by a mother and a father, and I wondered why these kids weren’t given the same privilege. It was during that visit that I had a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of those wonderful young girls in foster care, but I didn’t know exactly how I could give back. I didn’t want to be a mentor because I knew I would be mentoring from a place of sympathy, and that sympathy alone would not help them much. I didn’t know what more I could do, but I never forgot them.
As destiny would have it, in 2009 I was still working in the insurance field when my employer, like so many others, was forced to downsize and make unprecedented adjustments as a result of the crumbling economy. My job was eliminated. I wanted to leave my corporate career on many occasions, but was too afraid to make such a drastic change. After a vigorous but unfruitful job search I decided that I did not want to work for anyone else, and this was the final chapter of my corporate insurance career…just like I wanted. I was still uncertain about what I wanted to do, and I was afraid of the unknown. I knew I wanted to do something that really made a difference in people’s lives, but I didn’t know what. I prayed and cried like never before for direction and for the confidence to pursue my purpose. One night in April of 2009, while sobbing and praying for direction, I remembered the girls at Penny Lane. That night I was inspired to create an organization that would help youth in foster care, and the vision for Kids in the Spotlight (KITS) was birthed. I had clarity of purpose like never before. The corporate side and the artistic side of me made a connection. I decided to provide a creative outlet for kids in the foster care system, and other disadvantaged youth, that would infuse them with hope and confidence. I was convinced that God had given me the desire to make a difference in the lives of underserved youth.
In May 2009 I founded Kids in the Spotlight, Inc. KITS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that provides 10-week workshops that train youth in foster care and other underserved youth ages 11-18 to create, write, cast and star in their own short films. This training culminates in an annual film festival and awards ceremony where we present “Movies by Kids, for Kids”. Kids in the Spotlight allow kids to express themselves through the art of filmmaking and encourage interest in careers in the movie industry, which is so prevalent in Los Angeles. Our kids are exposed to various aspects of filmmaking, including make-up, sound engineering, wardrobe, craft services, cinematography, etc. One of my proudest moments was returning to Penny Lane with KITS.
Kids in the Spotlight have touched the lives of over 100 foster care youth and have produced 35 short films to date. I currently lead a team of over 70 volunteers, interns from University of Southern California, and staff. I have been recognized for the work I do by Supervisor, Michael Antonovish and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisor. My organization has received proclamations from the City of Los Angeles, Tom LaBonge, Councilmember 4th District, the California Legislature Assembly, Assemblymember Adrian Nazarian, 46th Assembly District, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse, Congressman Henry A. Waxman and Ontario Mayor Paul S. Leon. KITS has been featured on CBS “The Insider”, KTLA Morning News, Telemundo and Wireimage.com and in Vibe Magazine, L.A. Sentinel, Pasadena Weekly, Celebrity Society Magazine, and other media outlet. We are currently nominated for the 2015 Best of Burbank Award in Nonprofit Organizations.
In May 2014, I obtained an MBA in non-profit management from American Jewish University with a 3.7 G.P.A., something that I never thought was possible. I was the recipient of the Jerry & Harvey Greenberg Memorial Award for academic achievement and the David Lieber Graduate School of Nonprofit Management Leadership Award which is awarded to only one graduate student per year. I am now an adjunct professor at American Jewish University teaching a class on managing the nonprofit enterprise.
More than ever, I am determined to provide hope and a sense of accomplishment to foster care kids throughout the country. As well as educate and lead a team of change agents who understands the power of teamwork. I believe that I am finally in the right place, and I desire to be a part of the women in leadership fellowship, the diversity fellowship and the not-for-profit leadership fellowship. Linking with a community of people who share my leadership values is a top priority. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Kids in the Spotlight, Inc. short films, Burbank, CA May 2009 – present
Music for the Ears, Medicine for the Soul Music Show, Burbank, CA January 2006-May 2007
CASTING: July 2005 – present
• “Chicago Pulaski Jones”, Cedric The Entertainer ~ Director
• “The Mannsfield 12”, Craig Ross, Jr. ~ Director
• “The Lawyer, Thug & Princess”, Reggie Gaskins ~ Director
• “Marco Polo the Movie”, Alton Glass ~ Director
• “Gordon Glass”, Omar Benson Miller ~ Director, Big Easy / Onyx Film
• “Grindin”, Marchello Thedford ~ Director, Done Deal Media Production
• “Nutt House”, Albert Chevalier ~ Director, Nu Lite ENT. Production
• “Dockweiler”, Nick Palmer ~ Director / AFI Student Film Production
• “Equestrian Sexual Response”, Zeke Hawkins ~ Director / AFI Film Production
• “The Second Half”, Jeff Elmont ~ Director / AFI Film Production
• “Layla”, Lydia Martinelli ~ Director / Lane City Film Production
• “The Thief”, Ed Broaddus ~ Director / Jack-Of-All-Trades Production
• “Kids in the Spotlight,” – Various Directors / 40 short films to date
• “The Only Man I Love, Tucker”, ~ Tucker Brown Production
• “Reggie’s Family & Friends” ~ One 2 Grow Productions
• “Spook Night”, T. Faye Griffin ~ Director / Lillian Theater
• “Here’s to Life”, Rose Marie Smith ~ Director / Colsac Theater
• “Westside Story”, Lamont Coleman ~ Director / Colsac Theater
• “Shaken the Mess out of Misery”, Rose Smith ~ Director / Colsac Theater
• “Kinsman Redeemer”, Lamont Coleman ~ Director / Colsac Theater
• “Heildelberg”, Ray Reid ~ Director / Colsac Theater
• “Southern Girls”, Lamont Coleman ~ Director / Colsac Theater
• “Inconceivable”, ~ Rainy Court Production ~ Director / Tara Hicks
• “Pink Slip”, ~ Rainy Court Production ~ Director / Muriel Campbell
• “Reggie’s Family & Friends” One ii to Grow On Production. ~ Director / Reggie Gaskins
• “168 Hour Film Project”, Film Competition / John Ware ~ Director
• “Watch What You Pray For”, Onyx Film / Diverse Casting
• “David E. Talbert’s Blackstage”, ~ Edmond Ent. / Chemin Bernard Casting
• “Female Actors in Hollywood” ~ Mike Kimbrew Prod. / Diverse Casting
Benefit fundraiser for Prostate Cancer; Burbank, CA June 17, 2006
New Creation Ministry – Baton Rouge, LA July 16, 2006
Al Sharpton’s Nat’l Action Network’s 4th American Women Changing America” …
…banquet in Las Vegas August 5, 2006
Highland Park Four Square in Los Angeles, CA August 20, 2006
A Gospel Night Out In The Valley at Dessert Charities in Lancaster, CA August 22, 2006
God’s Generation 10 year Anniversary Celebration in West Haven, CT August 26, 2006
The Hour of Power Ministry in Hamden, CT September 24 & October 2
Visions of Love Ministry~ Comcast Cable Studio in Los Angeles, CA November 25th
Fate of A Fool – Inglewood Playhouse, CA February 2006
The Misfortune of Others – Theatre/Theater, CA September 2006
The Queen Of Gospel Music – Inglewood Playhouse, CA December 2006
You Can Run But You Can’t Hide – Essex County College, NJ January 2005
College Weekend Entertainment Ensemble – Maybee Center Theater, OK January 1993
Pirfex Testimonial – Pirfex Products, CA June 2007
Turbo Abs Testimonial – Turbo Abs Product, CA November 2007
Informational Video – LWCC Insurance, LA March 1995
I really Am Injured – LWCC Insurance, CA October 1997
Spring Fashion Show – Oral Roberts Univ., OK April 1991
Hair Show – Classy Hair Salon, LA July 1991
Hair Show – Paul Mitchell Products, LA June 1990
Hair Explosion – Lasandra Faith Academy, LA February 1990
Singing, Modeling, Southern & Jamaican Accents, Bowling, Basketball and Softball
CD Release of Vessel of Honor CD release
Lead Vocalist for We Lift Holy Hands on Junior Fountain & God’s Generation CD, A Whole ‘Notha Level
Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA
On-Camera Technique with Vicki Goggin
Soap Opera Technique with Gwen Hillier