Over the weekend Erika Johnson, the 114th Miss FAMU, made her family proud as she experienced her coronation celebration. Yet the story of the Florida A&M University student and her ambitious family is one not you hear every day or even every decade. Learn about just how many Johnson family members have held a FAMU crown before Erika in this surprising HBCU legacy story originally written by Skylar Boone in Texas Metro News.
Some would say that a profile of the Johnson family would have been ideal for Black History Month, but when you have a family like theirs that is so full of accomplishments, any day and any month is a good one for a celebration. And celebrate is what this family and many, still observing social distancing measures, will do when they witness yet another milestone this weekend, with all eyes on the youngest Johnson, Erika Nicole, at her Miss Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) coronation. Although she has reigned the entire year, this weekend is her big weekend and she is more than deserving of all the pomp and circumstance that comes with this honor.
“Miss FAMU 2020-21, Erika Johnson, has served Florida A&M University with dignity and grace while lifting her voice in service and praise of the University,” said FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson. “She has successfully fulfilled the legacy of Miss FAMU and within her own family, succeeding her mother and sister, both outstanding alumnae. She was one of the student recipients of the FAMU MLK Leadership Award for her commitment, dedication, and leadership. She has reigned supreme as Miss FAMU.”
And reigning supreme comes naturally for Erika’s family.
MEET THE JOHNSONS:
Dr. Vivian Bradley Johnson is the Senior Vice President of Clinical Services at Parkland Hospital Systems and a proud graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU), where the names Bradley and Johnson are legendary; almost as much as they are in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Frederick Johnson, Sr., a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, was a leader on campus, graduating from FAMU’s renowned School of Business and Industry (SBI). He brought those skills to Dallas and is a successful entrepreneur. Vivian served as Miss FAMU her senior year, in 1981, and she said she had no idea that she was beginning what many have dubbed “the royal dynasty” and a true Black History footnote. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Links, Inc. and is also a former vice president of the D-FW FAMU National Alumni Association. She and another FAMU Rattler were the inspiration behind the formation of the Dallas Metroplex Council of Black Alumni Associations.
In 1980, Frederick graduated from FAMU and a job offer helped him decide to move to Dallas. Vivian graduated with a degree in pharmacy and then obtained her doctorate degree and completed a residency in New Orleans. Then the two Lake City, FL. natives tied the knot and settled in the Metroplex where a thriving economy was just the place for an enterprising and successful accountant and a brilliant pharmacist. They immediately became involved in their community; finding a church home at First Baptist Church of Hamilton Park in Richardson, locating other FAMU alumni and friends from their home state and eventually following their plans to start a family. Little did they know it would be one of royalty, FAMU Royalty! Everyone knew that Vivian was a songbird and their three children were also gifted in the arts; whether it’s singing, acting or playing an instrument, so it was only natural that they would find their way to The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (TBAAL) where some of the most talented artists were either trained, like Erykah Badu; or commanded sold out audiences, like Miss Ruby Dee.
TBAAL founder Curtis King describes Erika as “absolutely, totally amazing.” “Fifty years from now we’ll be talking about her, like we do other greats, like Leontyne Price,” said King. “She’s got that ‘it,’ thing. I recognize it in her. She is an amazing artist and singer and she’s going to be huge.”
MORE OF THE DYNASTY
Frederick II (you may recall seeing him on the “Bachelorette” as he tried to capture the heart of the first African American bachelorette Rachel Lindsay), graduated with degrees from both FAMU and FSU the same semester; all while serving as Mister FAMU. Then here comes Michelle Marva, who followed in her mom’s footsteps and was crowned Miss FAMU in 2017.
Both are products of Newman Smith High School and, like their parents, Frederick II is a Kappa and Michelle (her friends call her “Marva”) is an AKA. And if that wasn’t enough Black History, here comes Erika Nicole, the baby of the bunch; who will be crowned Miss FAMU on March 7, 2021 (a little late because of COVID-19). The graduate of the prestigious Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts knew she was going to be asked one question once people knew that she was from that family of not one, but two, Miss FAMUs and a Mister FAMU!
Each Johnson heir to the throne took a different approach on their journey to the crown. Frederick II, was ready to make a change on FAMU’s campus, he was ready to make it “A Different World” as the 12th Mister FAMU. Marva was providing a dream with a “MARVAlous Beginning,” as the 111th Miss FAMU and Erika has recently just brought the university into a “New Era” on the Royal Court for the 2020-2021 academic year. Vivian said that the people, businesses, and loved ones in the Dallas area provided support during each of their campaigns. Getting support in Dallas was a team effort with the Johnson children and their parents.
“The Dallas community has been very supportive of our family,” she said. It wasn’t hard to embrace the Johnsons because of their involvement and efforts at home, work, church, schools, and throughout the community. And that school in Tallahassee, FL where such local notables as former Dallas Cowboys Bob Hayes and Nate Newton, businessman and philanthropist Oscar Joyner, 94.5’s Indy B, and former Dallas City Councilwoman Tiffinni Young was always present in their lives. “Even though we were in Dallas, growing up we knew about FAMU and the significance the university had in our family’s hearts,” Erika said. Marva said her mother was very spirited growing up and that even in the church you could see the connection between her mom and other HBCU alums. She also shared she was nervous about running since her mom held the position but had to pray and reflect on her reason for running.
“My mom is the person to remind you of the bigger picture when you are down,” said Marva. “She gives you hope by providing a new perspective on a situation.” The girls said their mom reminds them to look for the positive in everything. During their campaign weeks, each one shared how their mom supported them with encouragement and how their dad also was supporting them through much-appreciated prayer.
The Johnson family is excited to celebrate the reign of Erika, the 114th Miss Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University for the 2020-2021 academic year. Erika successfully navigated the first-ever completely virtual campaign season in FAMU’s history, executing a well-put-together campaign during a pandemic. After yet another year of serving the college of love and charity with innovation, the Johnson family has worked together to host a virtual crowning celebration before the coronation. Unlike most coronations that include a weeklong of activities with tens of thousands of alumni and friends participating, this new norm is the first of its kind, and family and friends want Erika’s crowning moment to be just as special as in previous years.