Ri'ana Johnson with students at Vernon Elementary School after one of her "read alouds."
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Kenoshan of the Week: Ri’ana Johnson

First-time author releases 'We Are The People', a book designed to empower children

By Andrew HorschakKENOSHA.COM

Known by many as "Schak" in the community, Horschak was a respected sports writer for the Kenosha News during a 22-year run covering two stints from 1995 to 2018. The Marquette University graduate is Kenosha.com’s first managing editor.

Four years ago, before she became a mother, Ri’ana Johnson was struck by a bolt of motivation.

“I was thinking about how important it would be for my children to always have positive messages with them,” she said, “so I wrote a list of affirmations that are simple, but powerful.”

“We Are The People” by Ri’ana Johnson

Fast forward and the Vernon Elementary School first-grade teacher is now the mother of two boys, Emmanuel (3) and Elliot (1), and the author of the self-published children’s book “We Are The People,” which was released last month.

It is currently available on Amazon with a description that reads: “’We Are The People’ is a book written to empower children and help develop their self-esteem and inner strength. This book encourages perseverance and celebrates how everyone’s uniqueness makes the world a better place.”

To celebrate her perseverance, Johnson has been selected as the Kenosha.com Kenoshan of the Week.

How have family and friends reacted to the first-time author?

“They’re all pretty excited,” Johnson said. “They’re proud that it’s out there for the world to see and view. I am a very busy person, but I’m also very determined, so it wasn’t unbelievable when I said I was writing a book.”

The 38-page paperback is beautifully illustrated by Howard Bakodie.

“I had to find my own illustrator and then find a company that I could afford that didn’t try to price gouge or take the royalties from me but allowed me to have some creative say-so in the process,” Johnson said. “I tried to illustrate myself, but I’m not an artist. I found some of (Bakodie’s) work on Instagram as a digital illustrator. We partnered up and he caught the vision.”

That vision is a book with no characters or storyline. Johnson called it “a poetic series of affirmations with empowerment throughout.”

Born and raised in Kenosha, Johnson is a 2009 Indian Trail High School graduate. She competed in track & field for Tremper High School and was a standout hurdler, qualifying for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association State Meet.

Ri’ana Johnson with The Black Child Book Fair president Darryl Harvey on April 30 in Madison.

After graduating from Marquette University, Johnson took her first teaching job at Milwaukee Math & Science Academy in February of 2015. She is in her first year of teaching at Vernon and is looking to secure a position for next school year.

On April 30, Johnson attended The Black Child Book Fair in Madison and was able to keep her promise to organization president Darryl Harvey.

“When my son was about 9 months old, we went to the first Black Child Book Fair in Chicago and I told Darryl, ‘One day I’ll be here as an author,’” Johnson said. “That day it came to fruition.”

The new author has shared her book with several classrooms at Vernon by doing “read alouds.” It has been well received by students and her fellow teachers.

“The school has been very supportive,” Johnson said.

With this project now completed, Johnson has no interest in being a one-hit wonder.

“I’m definitely going to write more,” she said. “I have started book No. 2 about building a sense of community — looking at different roles that people play and how we’re all essential in making our world better.”

To purchase a copy of “We Are The People,” click here.

NOTE: To nominate a Kenoshan of the Week click here or email Andrew@Kenosha.com.

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