Jennifer White-Johnson is an Afro-Latina disabled artist, designer, educator, and activist.
White-Johnson was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and currently lives and works in Baltimore. Her mother was raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, before moving to D.C. and meeting her father, a Black man from the South Side of Chicago. White-Johnson, who self identifies as Afro-Latina, was raised around colorful art—her mother liked making arts and crafts, and her father once painted an entire mural on his DC apartment wall.
White-Johnson holds a BA in Visual Arts from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and a MFA in Graphic Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She currently teaches as a Guest Lecturer at the University of Minnesota School of Design as part of the Design Justice Initiative and was an Assistant Professor of Visual Communication and Digital Media Arts at Bowie State University for ten years.
White-Johnson has ADHD and Graves disease (an autoimmune disorder), and as an artist-educator, her work centers disability advocacy as well as redesigning ableist visual culture. One of White-Johnson’s graphic designs combines a black fist—representing protest and solidarity—with the infinity symbol, which Autistic communities use to depict the breadth of the autism spectrum as well as the larger neurodiversity movement. After making posters with the symbol free to download, organizers, advocates, and allies across the globe used it in protests for the Black Lives Matter movement. One of those spaces was a BLM protest in Washington, D.C., on June 6, 2020, where White-Johnson brought posters for a disabled advocacy group led by two Black disabled women, Justice Shorter and Keri Gray. That same weekend, individuals in London who run the artist disability collective Hart Club printed over 100 protest signs incorporating the symbol and marched all the way to Parliament for Black disabled lives. In the next few weeks, the symbol reached the New York Times, Teen Vogue, Crip Camp, Rolling Stone, and even graced Barack Obama’s Twitter and Instagram feeds in amplification of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
When her son was diagnosed with autism, White-Johnson started an advocacy photo zine entitled KnoxRoxs (2018), to give visibility to children of color in the Black Autistic community and to amplify “autistic joy.”
My definition of Mothering as an act of Resistance aims to empower and to activate change—encouraging disabled and non/disabled families and communities to engage in conversations about acceptance, starting with how Disabled/Neurodivergent children are treated, valued and seen. When my son was diagnosed as autistic at the age of three, I felt it important to begin redefining my role as a mother of a disabled child exploring how my art and design practice could inform a framework for community engagement advocating for autistic communities, breaking the visual cycle of unjust stigmas within social and clinical practices in the process.Jennifer White-Johnson
Jennifer White-Johnson’s work has been featured in The Washington Post, AfroPunk, the New York Times, Teen Vogue, and Latina.com. Since its release, the zine has received national and international recognition, and White-Johnson's work has been featured on AfroPunk, Today at Apple, and among design presentations within disability communities at Nike, Converse, and Amazon. Her 2022 design collaboration with Target centered her identity as an Afro-Latina woman with visual “statements of solidarity and unity.” A large vinyl graphic of the symbol was previously on display at The Art of Disability Culture exhibition at the Palo Alto Art Center in 2021, which showcased artists with disabilities dispelling myths, dissolving barriers, and disrupting prejudice. In 2020 she was selected as an honoree on the Diversability’s D-30 Disability Impact List and was listed on today.com as one of 20 Latina artists to watch in 2021.