Anthony Johnson

LGBTQ2, Two Spirit and Diversity Expert

Anthony Johnson, a self-proclaimed spiritual nomad, is an artist, poet, photographer, cultural documentarian, public speaker, and a strategic analyst whose mission in life is to explore the beauty of the Earth and its inhabitants. A proud Dine (Navajo) man who was born and raised on the Navajo Nation, he’s lived in many cities across Turtle Island and even had a short stint in Shanghai, China. After graduating from Harvard University in 2009 with a Bachelors’s Degree in Economics and Social Anthropology of East Asia, he has worked in the tech industry, fashion world, and project consulting.

Back home Anthony Johnson regularly did odd jobs for individuals in his community and volunteered wherever he could. Johnson’s community has an unemployment rate of 50% which sparked frustration for him, as it was hard for him to visualize a future as it would be nearly impossible for him to be able to make a good life on his reserve. In dedicating his time volunteering and doing odd jobs in his community, Johnson learned that he had a strong will to help others through human connection. He realized the power of making someone smile, giving them hope and advocating for people who faced similar problems. That’s where he found the highest value for himself. This led Johnson down a new path of restoration with a passion to make real change in each other which will then change systems and social structures that promote inequality.

His move to Treaty 6 Territory in Edmonton, Alberta marked the beginning of the newest chapter in his life when he wed his husband, Dr. James Makokis while running the BMO Harris Vancouver Marathon in 2017. The married couple then represented the LGBTQ2S community as the first Two-Spirit Team (Team Ahkameyimok) on AMAZING RACE CANADA. They faced many obstacles during the season, escaping elimination on three separate occasions. Their resilience, teamwork and communication improved episode after episode and their “never give up” attitude showed the world the inner strength of Two-Spirit resilience. The season was the most-watched season in Canada and they had the world talking about their triumphs and their cause bringing awareness through their advocacy for Two-Spirit, LGBTQ2S and First Nation issues in the mainstream culture.

Anthony Johnson’s story is one of hope, overcoming adversity and activism. He represents the unfortunate realities of race and gender segregation and offers insights on individuals, families and friends that can help break down inner thought processes to treat others with respect, love and offer support. He is passionate to bring awareness to the importance to abolish social constructions and systematic segregation and replacing it with equality. Johnson is regularly involved with activism, community engagement and is passionate about educating others and promoting wellness, resilience and hope for everyone he comes in touch with. His customized presentations are often presented with his partner Dr. James Makokis. His story, education, and he are passionate to inspire and create real change through all forms and types of interactions.

Topic Presentations

Anthony Johnson’s life was never easy. Anthony grew up in Navajo First Nation has an unemployment rate of 48% which presented him with limited options to visualize a future for himself and discover who he was. Growing up on Navajo First Nation and identifying as Two-Spirit, Anthony faced numerous types of discrimination and disheartening challenges within himself, his family, and his peers. Two-Spirit is a contemporary English term to reflect gender diversity that Indigenous nations have always had. Although the history of the term Two-Spirit is to be a celebratory term within Indigenous communities, the imposition of colonialism has caused individuals that identify as Two-Spirit within their community to be often discriminated against and excluded from peer groups. Anthony felt pressure from his peers, his community and even some members of his family, to conform to gender roles which left him questioning his own identity and path as a youth.

Although Anthony struggled early on, his family played a large role to encourage and guide him through education. Anthony went on to leave Navajo First Nation to Harvard University to pursue a B.A. in Economics and Social Anthropology. It was during his experience at Harvard where he learned of the irony of his situation of being Indigenous at a prestigious school, built during the height of colonialism in North America, surrounded by peers from privileged backgrounds. Anthony found himself with more questions than answers and “woke up” to the realization he was living in two vastly different worlds. Because of his realizations, Anthony committed himself to his community to advocate and mentor younger community members to teach them the lessons he learned through his own trials, tribulations, and realizations.

It was in giving back that Anthony reconnected to “Dinê” the Navajo way of life. In reconnecting to his roots, Anthony became both a student and teacher. He has taken an oath of adventurous transformation to make the best version of himself, to assist others to find their purpose which will then make the world a better place. Anthony shows his authentic self in recognizing that we all have and experience shortcomings but more importantly that we are all beautiful and unique. Anthony teaches us to admit our flaws, support one another, learn to be grateful, embrace change, continue to grow, live our truth, stand with pride, and love purely.

Anthony Johnson was bullied by his peers while also facing troubling situations at home. The feeling of non-acceptance and the lack of being able to identify with others contributed to Anthony developing low self-esteem. An inner complex of blaming himself for being himself (something that many LGBTQ2S individuals face on many different levels) led Anthony down a troubling path. When family, friends, society and social systems continuously reject someone, and that person does not have a good support system, it leaves the door open for negative thinking, low self-esteem, and the constant need to look outside of oneself for acceptance. Anthony teaches the importance of positive self-thought, surrounding yourself with the right people and making moral-based decisions to gain confidence and raise one's self-esteem. He shows that bullies only have power if you give them power, and how to channel one's inner strength to know when to act and when to walk away.

Anthony Johnson has an incredible firsthand experience in growing up as Two-Spirit in a segregated and marginalized community. He has one of the most unique perspectives on the importance of acceptance and equal treatment regarding cultural, gender, sexuality, and racial differences. Two-Spirit is a contemporary English term to reflect gender diversity that Indigenous nations have always had. Although the history of the term Two-Spirit is a celebratory term within Indigenous communities. The imposition of colonialism has caused individuals that identify as Two-Spirit within their community often to be discriminated against and excluded from peer groups. Anthony felt pressure from his peers, his community and even some members of his family, to conform to gender roles while struggling with racial inequality, and racial discrimination in western society.

Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Many individuals face personal challenges in achieving success. He combines his story; everyday life experiences and areas of expertise to deliver practical insights on how to create accepting spaces and to implement strategies where EVERYONE can prosper by incorporating an accepting attitude to anyone that is outside of social norms. He will share insights on experiences LGBTQ2S and First Nation individuals face in coping, confronting and internalizing forces of discrimination.

Anthony Johnson teaches audiences how to identify and acknowledge our unconscious bias, which often creates and reinforces stereotypes and stigmas which then negatively impact our relationships. Johnson teaches how to become an ally to refocus our relationships to be accepting, safe and supportive. This presentation will provide key introspective learning for individuals and organizations that work and create new inclusive programs for diverse populations. By creating inclusive and accepting environments, we will be able to create new leaders, stronger teams and a humanistic and united synergy for equality and access. He will shed light on the type of support individuals and organizations can provide to create an equal, inclusive and accepting environment to eradicate the mistreatment of anyone labelled as being different.

Anthony Johnson takes us through the history of Colonialism in North America. Through a historical approach to identify the Truth and the effects of western settler colonialism in the Americas in the early through European policy, settler tactics and governing acts over the past 500 years. Through this history, Anthony shows the strategic tactics, from the first contact to where we are today to overtake and repudiate the culture and history of Turtle Island and the Americas through the exploitation and assimilation of Indigenous tribes and their lands.

Anthony will first take us on a journey back before European settlers landed in the Americas to show how civilization existed for Indigenous peoples. Across the Americas were Indigenous empires, large cities, villages, vast systems of trade, complex systems of governance. He also shows the intertribal connections and shared cultural practices and values of different Indigenous tribes with a strong connection to nature, their elders, spirituality, and family. the intertribal connections that were in place before settlers arrived in the Americas were strong, often heavily routed with the same values with little or no disputes between nations and the vast traditional territories they possessed.

When settlers first arrived in the Americas, Indigenous tribes welcomed them and hosted them with open arms. Unfortunately, European settlers had different intentions for creating strong relationships with the Indigenous leaders. The settlers took the opportunity to have study each tribe, their cultural practices and learn the lay of the land.  From the direction of the Catholic Church and the Monarchy’s from each country, In the name of “GOD, GOLD and GLORY”, settlers were directed to seize the land for corporate gains and the claim the land ownership for their home European countries. Colonialist tactics came in many different forms, which eventually led to the removal of all Indigenous structures, traditional lands and the destruction of cultural practices, families, languages, and people. Settler colonialism was enacted by vast means from ranging from violent depopulation of Indigenous peoples to legal means of policy and trickery.

Anthony highlights major events over the past 500 years that shape our perspectives on how we have arrived at this conversation today. He identifies key European figures that played a major role in colonialism, and the Indigenous heroes that we as non-Indigenous peoples have never heard their stories. He shows how many of the policies created over the 500 years has led to stereotypes that still exist for Indigenous populations today, and the impact they have in our society. Anthony also shares the Indigenous perspective of the history, current situation and what we can all do to repair the relationship we have with Indigenous peoples around the world.

In learning of these major events, Anthony reshapes our understandings of our history and identifies the systems of oppression created through colonialism which to conform both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to separate us from one another. He links the history to the challenges that Indigenous peoples are faced within their everyday lives, which then sparks a new understanding of our approach for First Nation groups and Indigenous groups around the world. Allyship is key for us all to claim our history and to stop systematic oppression. We must all play a role to abolish historical practices and ways of thinking, to assist one another for a united approach to our HUMAN experience and to protect our sacred planet.

Anthony then shows how the impact of colonialism and systems of oppression have been maintained and created through corporate initiatives, controlling the historical narratives, the imposition of western values and government policy and programs. He then identifies the important Indigenous movements in North America and how different groups have been able to reclaim their rights, history, culture, traditional values, and identities to restore Indigenous identities across the world. He also teaches us about different movements that are going on today and reinforces the importance that we all become an ally to all social movements that fight against the exploitation of cultures and lands around the world.

The history is important. Anthony shows us the importance to recognize our history as Non-Indigenous Canadians so that we can understand the complexity and deeply routed systems in place that have left us Indigenous people behind for over the past 500 years. We need to be conscious of the history to understand where we are now, and where we need to go. Anthony shows us the Truth of history and what we can all do now to make a difference and become an Ally to work together to take care of the earth and each other. He sparks our thinking to break down stereotypes and any bias through our relationship to our thoughts and by providing the history of colonialism and the problematic systems of oppression that support a misinformed narrative for Indigenous culture.

Many people are working hard to change the outcomes for First Nation communities, through changing government policy, but more importantly, by giving First Nation communities strategy to reclaim their cultures, communities, and their governance. Anthony assesses strategic plans of action that each community can take to improve social and economic outcomes for Indigenous communities. Anthony will learn the different challenges each community faces to empower each other through a resilient approach by first showing the cycles of oppression and focus on strategic action plans each community can take. Anthony’s presentation will show working examples of the success that other First Nation communities have taken to overcome negative outcomes for First Nation communities to break the cycles passed on to them through systems of oppression. Anthony’s presentation will reinstate the livelihood for each community by outlining the importance of traditional values, cultural practices, and teachings from elders.  He then identifies changes for systematic, cultural, and economic development each community can work on with and without the assistance of government and non-Indigenous Canadians.

Most Canadians do not know that most Indigenous peoples’ lives are governed by federal laws under the Indian Act of 1876. The Act is still in place today. Treaties were signed years ago to protect First Nation groups and their rights to land. The Government of Canada continues to treat treaties as though they are non-existent, with the United Nations pointing their finger at the Canadian Government to change their racial discrimination of Indigenous populations. Prior to the arrival and settlement of European immigrants, Indigenous people had complex and successful knowledge systems and practices about land systems, sciences, mathematics, clans, politics, physical and mental health, and food security that provided a healthy and abundant livelihood for millions of people for tens of thousands of years. The effects of colonialism and the Indian Act play a major role in First Nation access to education, health care, clean drinking water, housing, and many other things that non-Indigenous Canadians often take for granted. Canada’s horrific and not-so-distant past of the residential school system utilized education as a form of oppression between the 1880s to 1960s.

There are still over 40 First Nation communities that still do not have schools in their communities. The K-12 completion rate for First Nation students is 49%. There are anywhere between 52 and 70 languages indigenous to what is now called Canada (depending on how you count them). Only three are expected to survive this century. The sad fact that First Nation students are more likely to end up in jail than to graduate high school is in large part because of colonialism. Suicide rates among First Nations youth are up to seven times higher than among non-Indigenous youth.

Close to 20% of First Nations communities are under a drinking water advisory, a statistic that has remained remarkably consistent for the past 25 years. As corporations rarely being held accountable, the global threat of climate change, the lack of economic and social equality in all nations, the rise of fake news, the never-ending corporate fight of world domination and control, humanity and our earth have never faced so many global and social threats. Anthony shares insights on the importance of pivoting from our current path and that humans can band together to create a united mindset of peace, compassion, and forgiveness. He offers solutions on how to overcome systematic oppression and divide and conquer strategies no matter who we are, where we come from and what we think. We all have a responsibility to our planet, each other, and ourselves. In creating a united perspective on social change and an equality approach to the human experience we can work together to create reconstruct our reality to be aligned with our purpose.

A wide variety of individuals and organizations are opposed to LGBTQ2S movements. The reason is that may have learned to develop a personal prejudice through their political, religious or family structures. The Media, education system and society reinforce gender and sexuality norms which often lead to LGBTQ2S individuals being marginalized and oppressed as they are indifferent to other human beings on the planet. In studying history, we know that there were many different cultures who have partaken in homosexuality as well as identifying different types of genders as long as humans have been able to document their experiences.

In recent years, there have been some major developments to create a clearer path for gay rights, same-sex marriages and laws that protect LGBTQ2S individuals in their jobs, in their communities and in society. The Traditional family structure is set and reinforced through social policy. Often discounting historical accounts of homosexual relationships, it is only in the past 50 years or so that we have been able to determine that there are more than two genders, and that sexual preference is not something that is biologically determined by our birth gender.

Although we have come a long way for Gender and sexual equality, we still have a long way to go. It is important for us all to understand how far the movement has come and how we got to where we are today. Anthony takes us on a journey of major events that have positively and negatively affected the LGBTQ2S Movements. He identifies the negative impact of oppressive policies; media influence and how religious structures reinforced the oppression of LGBTQ2S individuals which often still exist today. He also identifies major historical events, social movements and advocates that have fought for LGBTQ2S rights.

From Disco Balls to Riots, From Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton, From the YMCA chant to Elton John, learn about the early, mid and new age stages of the LGBTQ2S movements for equality and human rights. Through going through the history, Anthony will break down the importance of these events and the impact they had. He will identify the roles and responsibilities institutions have within the movement and what needs to happen to change their ways. Most importantly, Anthony exposes individuals to their role and to develop compassion and empathy to better understand how we all have a role to play by developing new ways of thinking, standing up against oppression and how to be an ally for gender and sexual equality.

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