In August 2003 I was one in the party of the eight of us who went for a family tour of our past history. After several other great places, we visited a church in North Carolina that used to be part of a plantation in 1760. As we walked around the graveyard, close by the white steeple soaring in the blue sky, one of my cousins said, "Look Nessa, this is the church that
our forefather donated to this community." It was the first time that someone referred to my ancestor and omitted the mention that he was a white man and I am a black woman. That omission was indeed transformational.
It was one of the many instances that validate what I stand for, that we humans relate profoundly to each other. Through this relatedness we transform the very quality of our lives, regardless of the already agreed upon beliefs of the contrary so deeply ingrained in our society and culture. In spite of hundreds of years of well documented and much talked about social injustices, acrimonies, distrusts, and what not, I have experienced many of these moments where we overcome the past by honoring it as the past. Times when we are left to stand side by side facing a great future as a family. This is a vignette of a story of the reconciliation of the relationship between races, a new conversation.
My passion is story telling and I am well versed in our heritage as well as an avid historian. I was already quite impressed by what the Landmark Forum had provided to one of my colleagues. When I did the Landmark Forum in 1992, I was deeply touched by the new possibility it made available to me. I learned from Landmark that how one uses language can make a difference and shape the very culture that we live inside of.
Like many graduates, I took advantage of the many training opportunities offered in the Landmark Assisting Program in the Landmark Washington-DC Center. One program that has continued to contribute to who I have become today is the
Team Management and Leadership Program, which I took in 1997. This is a one year intensive training about effective leadership, powerful communication and presentation in public, available to the graduates of the Landmark Advanced Communication Program.
I value this training, had lots of fun with it, and went on to qualify as one of the many coaches. I coached many participants globally, each of them already outstanding leaders in their own varied and diverse communities. It was then I realized that I could, and that I will make a difference in this world. I had no idea then that in 2002 I would be the subject of so much news in the media when I told the story about my newly discovered Caucasian family. I did not know then that so many controversies would follow the fact that I was the first black woman invited to be a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
But this news and its subsequent dialogues were only the external manifestations of the transformation in my life and in me. It is the outward expression of the soul that is free to act upon the promise that has come to us through the ages. Of a future living and working together as people who are cognizant of the challenges and limitations imposed by our past, nevertheless courageous enough to let go of our own apathy about it.
I do not need the Landmark Forum or anything else to be what others called "a talented and a beloved storyteller". I have been whatever that
means already, but I sure appreciate Landmark for the conversations that free my being from the bitter poison of our entangled past.
My story is only one of the many heretofore-untold stories about how Landmark impacts the very fabric of our society through its work and its graduates. Here in the South of the United States, the home where the very psyche of this great nation dwells - as well as in many other places and nations globally.
I will continue to unfold and tell the adorable twists and turns of my story in my upcoming book. But for now I thank you all, my fellow Landmark graduates, for our awesome partnership in the Landmark Assisting Program,
The Team Management and Leadership Program, the Introduction Leaders Program, the Wisdom City Teams and for our accomplishments in the world.
I acknowledge Han and his team for this website that indeed has become the campfire of our time. This is the wonderful place where we, ordinary people with extraordinary commitments, tell our stories and make the world a better place to live. I invite you to share your stories too, and fully satisfy your part in the transformation of life itself.
The Team Management and Leadership
Program is one of the
Assisting Programs and available as the Landmark Communication Curriculum,
which begins with the first course, Communication: Access
In 2003 Nessa Johnson was
a participant in the Landmark Introduction Leaders Program at the Landmark
Washington DC Center:
Rebel. Nessa Johnson, Descendant of Slaves, Wants to Embrace All of Her
Washington Post, By Staff Writer Libby Copeland, April 16, 2002
I first heard about Nessa Johnson in April 2002 when many graduates sent me the link to the article about her, "The Rebel," at the Washington Post.
Since then I have known her through many emails and phone calls. As only a Landmark graduate to another can be, we immediately engaged into one great conversation after another. When a year later, in spring 2003, I went to visit at her home in Richmond, VA, it was like a meeting of two old friends.
I would not have the courage to present her story on this website if I thought of the immense impact of the stand that she has taken in life. I am not
so sure whether I can do justice to describe who Nessa Johnson really is for so many people and the difference she has made to them.
But as friends, it is a great joy and
a privilege as I introduce you all to another great Landmark graduate.
Some articles about Nessa Johnson on the net:
"Black historian joining Confederate heritage
Sierra Times, Associated Press, March 6, 2002
"She could be first Black member of Daughters of the
New Journal and Guide, March 22-29, 2002
"Nessa's Example: She Follows Scripture, Joins UDC"
The Winchester Star, Opinion, March 13, 2002
"Black Daughter of
New York Times, Associated Press, 2002