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Mayo group honors local 'Black History Maker'

Having grown up in Mississippi during a time when black people struggled daily for equal rights, Jackie Johnson learned at a young age the importance of fighting the good fight.

Her continued passion for civil rights and bringing people of different races and backgrounds together is being honored by the African Descendants Support Network. The Mayo Clinic employee group is celebrating Johnson as a local "Black History Maker" on Friday at its third annual Black History Month Event at Christ United Methodist Church.

Event organizer D.C. Mangum, the director of the Employee Service Center in Mayo Clinic's Human Resources department, said the annual event gives ADSN the opportunity to honor a longtime community advocate.

"We look for someone who's been in the community for at least 10 years, who's been out front, leading efforts for diversity, civil rights and community support efforts for African-Americans within Rochester," Mangum said.

Johnson, who has been in Rochester for 23 years, is known for that work in the city, including as an outspoken advocate for closing the achievement gap in Rochester public schools.


Her three kids are grown, but Johnson continues to care about students. She led an effort last year to put on a Community Celebration of District Achievers, which took place in June at Bear Creek Park.

She said the idea for the event came out of her disappointment that so many people were focusing only on the negatives of the school district. So, as is usual for her, she did something about it.

"Nobody was saying anything about the positive things that were happening there. And with the achievement gap narrowing, and with the test scores having gone up, we just felt that it should be a celebration; and that the community should be involved," Johnson said.

The event drew more than 200 people and was a good example of how Johnson is able to pull together people from different parts of the community, Mangum said.

"Mayo employees can sometimes just come here for Mayo and be a part this organization and really not connect to the community, for various reasons. But we were looking for someone who really gets involved in the community, and Jackie Johnson is such a person."

Johnson said it feels good to have her work recognized by ADSN.

"I'm humbled. I'm grateful and appreciative," she said.

Johnson is a medical social worker, but that's not all she does at Mayo. She is the community activities coordinator for Mayo Medical School's Rochester Education and Advocacy for Community Health program. She also is the operational manager for the program's clinics, held twice a week at the Salvation Army.


She is a woman with a lot of energy and "a can-do attitude," Mangum said. "She's a person who is determined to have an impact and to make a difference."

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