INSPIRING WOMEN: Rachel Phoenix Johnson

Rachel Phoenix Johnson is a strong woman in my circle from Hamline University. Our paths connected in a variety of ways throughout college and I was always impressed by Rachel’s work, passion, and strong voice. Rachel is radical, unapologetic, vibrant, kind and creative. 

Throughout college, we had a lot of connected friends as well as involvement and employment in common. Rachel was also a dedicated member of the McVay Youth Partnership staff and worked for Residential Life. (I know I’ve mentioned McVay before – it was the most amazing program to be part of. I’ll go more into detail in an upcoming post.) Our mutual friends are countless and include another inspiring woman in my life, Kelly Dahlman.

Rachel truly practices what she preaches in through her work. She has been active in the field of gender empowerment, sexual assault and domestic violence advocacy in professional and grassroots environments for six years.  While studying at Hamline University in St. Paul she earned degrees in Public Service, Spanish and Sociology. Her sociology pilot research focused on heterosexist bias towards sexual abuse history disclosures of LGBTQAI survivors.

Rachel also shares a passion for travel and an investment in world and global affairs. In 2011, Rachel studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador. While she was there she also worked at a women’s shelter where she provided supportive, Spanish language services to domestic violence victims and their families.

Most recently, Rachel worked at North Shore Horizons in Two Harbors, MN serving as the facilitator of the Coordinated Community Response Team while also providing advocacy and crisis intervention services to sexual and domestic assault victims. Rachel is currently the Multidisciplinary and Outreach Coordinator at First Witness Child Advocacy Center, where she serves a child abuse forensic interviewer, provides youth education and coordinates the child abuse response multidisciplinary team for Saint Louis County.

As you can glean from her work history, Rachel is passionate about the integration of advocacy into systems response to foster community accountability, inclusivity and cross-cultural competencies. The work she is doing is so, very important for Minnesota communities. We need more women-centered advocates like Rachel in our world. Rachel is also a musician performing with two bands, The Social Disaster and Black Diary.

Rachel radical and unapologetic!  These are qualities that exude from within her. I sensed this from her at Hamline and have seen in grow since our time away from school. As I have paid attention to Rachel through social media in the years following college I love Rachel’s unique portraits, pointed status updates, artistic expressions, and rocking band photos.

Although Rachel and I do not remain very tightly connected, I have always been impressed by her and admired her work and spirit. Her dedication to social justice issues and women’s issues is always apparent --as you can clearly see from her biographical info and responses below. I love the strong voice she brings to important and necessary conversations. I look forward to staying in touch with Rachel as she continues to make a positive impact on our community and world.

What inspires you? And, what do you care about deeply?

“I care deeply about human relationship dynamics and the dismantling of oppression. I care about women’s relationships to their bodies and their right to self-determination. I care about art and art as a conduit of social change, especially fringe media and self-publishing or self-led production.  I am inspired by unapologetic selfhood; the women (but also men) in my lives that pursue their dreams, goals and aspirations without hesitation. I am inspired by creators; women that translate ideas into visionary futures. Because women are excluded or devalued from so many social and political forums and discourses I am passionate about women building platforms and infrastructure to further their passions and pursuits.”

Who are women in your life or throughout history that inspire you

“I am lucky to have so many women in my life that inspire me. The women in my family are all vibrant, unique, passionate people that have worked exceptionally hard for all they have. I am inspired by their perseverance and drive. In my current community, I am surrounded by a lot of working women artists of which I am inspired to work with in a lot of different contexts. I am inspired by women that actively engage and critique pop culture and address social norms, Roxane Gay, bell hooks and the women at Bitch Media just to name a few.  I am also a critical theory nerd so I also love women like Hannah Arendt and Susan Griffin.”

If you had one piece of advice to your former younger self, what would it be and why? 

“Do less. Self-reflect more on what really motivates you and focus energy on these things that really sustain you and pay less attention to the rest.”

Additional wisdom from Rachel:

“Horizontal hostility sucks! It is a destructive tool used to dismantle women’s power as a collective, political entity. I implore women to be aware address their horizontal hostility they have towards other women.”

 This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!