The Black Girl Magic series has shared stories about young women making a difference around the world. This week, we will hear from Jaynay Chanel Johnson, author of Dear Teen Self, teen advocate, speaker and family therapist. Jaynay will share with us her journey: from growing up in Newark, NJ to being an inspiration to teens all around the country. Jaynay never took her eye off her vision, and she will encourage us to keep going even if disappointments may come our way. Read more to learn Jaynay’s inspiring story.
Name: Jaynay Chanel Johnson
What inspired you to create your own book?
I was inspired to write Dear Teen Self to help young girls navigate through adolescence. I wanted them to have a tool as different situations arose in their lives. Growing up, I struggled being a teenager. I went through many highs and lows- lows that I now know were depression. I want to help girls around the world know that it is never too late to achieve their dreams. It is never too late to be positive. It is never too late to want more for yourself.
Jaynay with mentee holding Dear Teen Self book.
What is Dear Teen Self about?
Dear Teen Self is an interactive book for teenage girls to explore stories while identifying ways to avoid those situations, assist with coping in a healthy manner and learning what has prompted them to make certain decisions. I candidly discuss scenarios that I experienced as a teenager while exploring the reasons I felt compelled to make certain choices. The book holds 30 journal pages, a word bank, and multiple activities that accompany the tips written. This book covers topics such as teen depression, various types of abuse, friendship issues, and much more that can be difficult for a teenage girl to deal with. Along with these components, Dear Teen Self also has motivational content to inspire teenage girls to continue being positive. With the 80 plus tips, every girl is surely going to find a situation with which she can relate.What I love most about this book is how I was able to discuss what made me make each of my decisions. I took it a step further to examine how I processed information because that is always missing when people talk to teenagers.
How did you deal with disappointments that came your way, while creating your book?
First thing first is a scream, lol. I would literally scream and then get back to work. Disappointments happened frequently. However, I never took my eye off the vision. That helped me remain aware that I could not let disappointments distract me. I dealt with it in real time, for a short period and got back to work. With every disappointment, I learned something new about the self-publishing process. Learning is never a disappointment.
“Be beautiful on the inside.”
My advice for youth writing their own book is simple. Stay true to what you want your reader to know. During the writing process, many people will be significant so it is imperative that you stick to your vision/voice. You never want to feel like your project is no longer your own. Advice that is more practical includes, setting deadlines and scheduling time to solely work on your book. That could mean writing, researching, talking to others or simply sitting and thinking about your vision. Make time for your dreams.
Black Girl Magic means living in your own purpose, your own way no matter what others say. It means you have realized the strength within yourself and forged your own path. My love for black girls is unapologetic and genuine.
Jaynay with her mentee
What college did you attend? What advice would you give to teens who are in the college process?
I attended Delaware State University for undergrad and La Salle University for my master’s degree. I majored in Psychology at DSU and Clinical/Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy at La Salle. College will teach you skills, not make your life a cakewalk. You still need vision and creativity to create your magic. Put in what you want from it. Be a part of the club for your major, do work outside of the classroom, and most importantly, make connections. My senior year when I was low on money to pay for my tuition and the provost was able to assist me simply because I was always pleasant when we interacted. I made great connections while in college that came to my rescue when I needed it. I was able to travel to Beijing, China while in college with the study abroad program. Definitely, travel while in college. That experience enhanced my life greatly.
Jaynay with mentees at the Step into College Conference in Philadelphia
While growing up in Newark, I learned that my current environment did not have to be my future. The struggle of navigating what people call the "hood", I learned how to adjust and adapt. I used my street smarts in appropriate ways to help me be a successful woman. There's nothing wrong with being from the inner city and it actually made me the person I am today. Without my experiences in Newark, the Jaynay everyone knows now would not exist and neither would all her work.
My advice for teens that want to get involved in social justice and activism is to understand it is a lifelong journey and that no platform is too small. Many people want the spotlight in order to do the work and this is not my default rationale. I believe in doing the work when no one is looking. Besides, there are a plethora of people working on a macro level and not enough on the micro level. Do the work in everything you do and you will see genuine outcomes. Essentially, practice what you preach.
Jaynay speaking to teens