Picture a woman with short turquoise hair, a black dress, leather jacket and fuchsia boots. What do you see?
If your answer was someone who could provide an ass whooping, well, you are sort of right. But this is someone who can be more overwhelming than a broken nose: a Black woman with a voice.
A December graduate of Florida A&M, Cory Johnson is a writer, creator, and poet — one of the few people who make the tiny hairs on your body stick straight up with the command of her voice.
Johnson, a native of Charleston, S.c. who now lives in Atlanta, quickly became popular around campus since performing her standout gun violence poem last year at Jake Gaither Gymnasium.
Her stage name is Inner(g).
“This ain’t a game baby! Bring your two-dollar a** this way, I make change baby,” Johnson yelled emphatically from the stage.
“We so busy killing each other we don’t have to worry about the system and white police. Sick of seeing grief-stricken mothers at their sons’ funerals and little girls walking around with their brother’s death date tatted in roman numerals, It figures though.”
She took a moment to fight back her tears before continuing: “They say you’re a product of your environment and what you allow is what will continue until you get tired of it and I know my time is coming, so I’m going to keep living this life until death sends me into an early retirement, because real n****s, we don’t get tired of it!” she said, as the crowd erupted in applause.
Johnson’s high-octane performance and powerfully delivered message felt battle rap-esque as the building began shaking from the crowd’s forceful stomps and cheers.
“I’m not a religious watcher of battle rap, but I do watch it sometimes. I guess it’s just my demeanor,” Johnson said a few days later in an interview.
However, Johnson admits that she was not always this confident. In fact, Johnson experienced an event when she was a young girl that took a toll on her for quite some time.
“I was in fourth grade and I had written a poem that apparently was so good that my father and my stepmother questioned that I had wrote it. They even accused me of stealing from a book. That moment made me self-conscious about sharing my art,” Johnson said.
But there was something burning inside her chest that had to be shared with the world. Her truth.
“Poetry allowed me to express myself freely, because initially I was not being honest with myself. From there it created a domino effect because when you are being true to yourself it will come out in your art regardless,” Johnson said.
As one of the founding class members of Voices Poetry Group, the 24-year-old has surely caught the ears of a few students on campus.
Junior information technology student Destiny King, who met Johnson in the induction stage of becoming official members of Voices in 2018, describes her FAMUly sister on and off stage.
“Cory is a force. She is the sweetest and most genuine person you will ever meet. She is a great friend,” King said. “Inner(g) is an extension of her badassery, in my opinion. Inner(g) reflects Cory’s fearlessness to say exactly what she thinks.”
Although Johnson is a force to be reckoned with when she performs, she has a soft side to her as well.
“Cory really helped me during a time of trial and tribulation during my life and she barely knew me at the time. She was outgoing and ready to help someone she had just met,” senior psychology student Pilar Chase said.
Johnson continues her selfless attitude by finding even more ways to help students. For instance, she hosted virtual open mics via Zoom typically on Sundays to offer an outlet for all talents during the virus.
“This is not just a platform for poetry. Of course, we would be more than happy for you to join in on the Zoom call to read poetry to us, which is what most people have done, but you could also come and sing, rap or read a monologue, whatever your talent may be it is much appreciated and welcomed,” she said.
As Johnson reflects on conquering her own self-doubt, she notes that others might be feeling even more insecure about themselves and their creations during the virus than she once felt as a little girl. However, she reminds them that they are not alone.
“Just keep pushing,” she said, “because you never know what kind of greatness lies on the other side of fear.”