Pedestal Professionals is a weekly spotlight series on our blog that highlights Black women entrepreneurs who are forging new paths in their respective fields.
Meet this week’s Pedestal Professional, Tristen Johnson, Student Affairs Professional and Editor-In-Chief of Adjust Yo Crown blog. Hailing from Peoria, IL, Tristen is committed to spreading the message of unapologetic Blackness to everyone she encounters. She has an inspirational story that she shares in her writing to encourage Black women to walk in their truths and to advocate for equitable treatment of all Black people. We had a chance to sit down with Tristen to learn more about her mission!
Tell us a bit about yourself, your career, and Adjust Yo Crown.
I am currently the Program Coordinator for the Our Wisconsin Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In this role, I am responsible for coordinating over 130 workshops in the fall semester dedicated to identity and inclusion for first-year, freshmen students living in the residence halls. I hire and train student and faculty/staff facilitators to facilitate the workshops in each residence hall. The mission is for first-year students to understand their own identities and how they play a role in how they navigate their lives but also to learn about the identities of the individuals who live on their residence hall floor.
I also am the Editor-in-Chief of Adjust Yo Crown Blog site. My blog site launched in January 2018 and was created for me to have a space to write about situations that have helped shape me into the woman I am today. I want to offer advice to other Black women who have gone through similar situations. Anyone can take some gems from my blog, but I targeted Black women because we are the most disenfranchised group of people in this country. We often cannot navigate any space without the intersection of our Blackness and woman-ness colliding. We have to be strong all the time and work three-times as hard as any other identity group. Adjust Yo Crown symbolizes the fact that yes, we are Queens, and the world literally could not function without us, BUT we, too, go through life experiences that are often challenging. We have to adjust our crown and take all of those experiences and learn from them. They help form who we are.
How did you get started?
I started working full-time in higher education in 2014 after I graduated with my Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration. I began my career working in residence life as a hall director, 2-years at a public institution in Illinois, and 1 year at another public institution in Illinois. I realized that my passion for social justice and equity extended past working in the residence halls so I applied for my current job now and was hired in July 2017.
My blog idea actually stemmed from a conversation I was having with Tekita. I texted her one day asking her if she wanted to start a podcast with me for us to have a platform to maybe talk about experiences young Black women have working in professional settings. After some conversation, we decided to collaborate on a blog site which turned into us doing our own separate blog sites so our voices would be heard more clearly. My blog is salient to who I am and where I am on my life journey. I had no prior knowledge of how to create a website, but I knew that I was a great writer. When I was younger, I used to make up short stories and write to clear my mind. I’m going to brag on myself for a moment and say that I am an excellent writer. As I got older, I stopped writing. I lost my passion…or maybe I got distracted. Once this blog idea came to fruition and I began writing again, I remembered why I used to love it. I get lost in the words I type. I can creatively write without having to think about what I want to say next.
Tell us about your educational journey.
I graduated from Western Illinois University with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in 2012. My two majors in college were Journalism and African American Studies. In 2014, I graduated from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a Master’s of Science degree in Education with an emphasis in Higher Education College Student Personnel. I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University. I am still thinking about what I want to write my dissertation about.
What’s the most rewarding part of writing?
The most rewarding part about having my own blog site is again, being able to write freely. But also the positive feedback and support I’ve received from people. Many have messaged me saying that they relate to someone of stories or have offered me words of encouragement because some did not know about many of the things that have happened to me.
In your opinion, what is unique about being a professional Black Woman?
Being authentic is unique about being a professional Black woman. If we look at the historical context of what “professionalism” actually is, it is stemmed from White male hegemonic society. As Black women navigate spaces of whiteness, we are often thought to try to assimilate to that culture. However, because we are authentic in who we are, we do not need to aspire to be like that. We can wear our natural hair and still be “professional”, we can hold a conversation with administrators and colleagues and still be “professional”, we can just be us. We can be ourselves.
What’s your business mantra?
Something that I am striving to achieve everyday is the notion of being authentic and vulnerable. Don’t negotiate your feelings for other people. Live in your own truth.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring Black women entrepreneurs and writers?
Just do it. When you do it, don’t give up. Don’t expect results after day one. Keep going. Find a support system in the process. Anything you want to do, you have to be dedicated to the process. In the process there are hurdles you will have to jump over and deep rivers you will have to cross. Keep jumping, keep swimming (or take a boat if need be) but know that you will get to your final destination. You can do this!
How can the Pedestal Project readers learn more about you and Adjust Yo Crown?
You can find my blog at adjustyocrown.com or on Facebook/Instagram (@adjustyocrown). Please follow the page, share the posts on your social media, and let me know your feedback!
Is there anything else you would like the Pedestal Project readers to know?
I am excited for The Pedestal Project and how this platform is going to inspire Black women of all ages to continue to be lifted up! Whenever The Pedestal Project is ready to collaborate with Adjust Yo Crown, I’ll be ready!
If you, or someone you know, would like to be featured in Pedestal Professionals, please complete the form in the “Connect” section or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.