Photos provided by Vincent Johnson
Contrary to the stigma and misnomer surrounding Cabrini-Green, the area he grew up in what was simply known as Frances Cabrini, located on the near northside of Chicago and originally referred to as Little Italy. Before the red and white projects were built, the Row Houses as they were called, represented the total extent of Frances Cabrini housing development: Hudson, Cleveland, Mohawk, Cambridge, and Oak Street, cut off by an alley going west and Chicago Avenue going south.
In this close knitted area were Italians, Chinese and Puerto Ricans, some of every ethnic people except Arabic and African. Before we realized, that meant them too. This would quickly change by the early 60s, and soon it was just them. White flight was on the move.
At 11 years old, Vincent became a petty shoplifter and just before turning 12, he got arrested and released to his angry mother. Afterwards, he became a regular Audy Home juvenile delinquent. That same year Vincent and three others were sent to a place called St. Charles for Boys. They had cottages named after presidents and that was where they were assigned. None of them got to be in the same cottage. Of the four, Vincent would be last released after nine months. Vincent was seen as the leader.
Once in his 20s and 30s, he developed into an upscale burglar, thanks to an Italian friend of his. However, his heart was dedicated to the community. So he and a friend started a non-for-profit organization chartered in Springfield, Illinois that was designed to generate economic and social independence and unity. Long story short, they were betrayed and an attempt on his life was made.
Thanks to Vincent’s mother, many years ago, poetry became his main focus. May book one and two, speak for itself.
“Dive into the lyrical world of Chicago poet Vincent L. Johnson, where every word is a brushstroke on the canvas of your soul!” — Joaquin Mann, ARTiculation Radio.
Published with assistance from BePublished.org in October 2023, Chicago resident Vincent L. Johnson’s literary debut (W.H.A.T.: Wisdom Honors All Truth) is a handy book of quotations written over a period spanning nearly 50 years that gives readers nuggets of wisdom to help navigate various paths in life. An inspirational work that moves you to keep going and perform introspection, readers are motivated by sage advice and empowered by emanating love to push past all attempting to keep them stagnated and bound.
Vincent goes on to say, “I cannot express the overwhelming sense of joy and awe I am feeling right now. THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me over the years and have pushed me to release my poetry and quotations.”
He continues, “If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, you need to get your copy of my debut book — W.H.A.T. (Wisdom Honors All Truth) by Vincent L. Johnson — as soon as you can. It’s a collection of quotations that are poetic masterpieces from my heart that I hope will awaken your senses, touch your heart, and stir your imagination. I invite you to join me on this enchanting literary journey.”
So, what are you waiting for? Immerse yourself in his world of timeless verses and embark on a poetic adventure like no other.
GO BANG Magazine: What was your experience growing up in Cabrini-Green? What were the biggest challenges and opportunities you faced?
Vincent Johnson: It was a time when we as a community had a lot of respect and we were very considerate of one another. We occasionally had good fun with drinks, laughter, dancing, and just good old positive vibes.
GO BANG Magazine: How did your childhood in Cabrini-Green shape your decision to become an author?
Vincent Johnson: There were no specific experiences. Just life in general.
GO BANG Magazine: How do you think your upbringing has influenced your writing style and themes?
Vincent Johnson: It did not influence my style of writing. It was something I gained on my own.
GO BANG Magazine: What inspires you to write? Do you draw inspiration from your own experiences or other sources?
Vincent Johnson: It’s a combination of what I’ve experienced and the way I perceive myself and us as a people.
GO BANG Magazine: What are some of the recurring themes or messages you explore in your work?
Vincent Johnson: My heart is with us as a people, and that influences my writing.
GO BANG Magazine: How does your writing process work? Do you have any specific routines or rituals?
Vincent Johnson: During the morning is when I have my most inspired thoughts.
GO BANG Magazine: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an author from Cabrini-Green?
Vincent Johnson: None that I can think of. My background is not so much a factor as my present mindset of how I see things today.
GO BANG Magazine: How do you hope your writing can impact readers, both within and outside of your community?
Vincent Johnson: I’m hoping that the young people who check out my work will find a greater sense of themselves, especially in terms of who we are.
GO BANG Magazine: Do you feel a responsibility to represent the experiences of your community accurately and authentically?
Vincent Johnson: Any reference to my former community will always be one of appreciation and love. During the time I was coming up in the 50s and 60s, we had a natural concern for each other.
GO BANG Magazine: What are your hopes and dreams for your future as an author?
Vincent Johnson: That I will be recognized as someone who told it like it was, raw with no filters, based on my love for us as a people.
GO BANG Magazine: What advice would you give to aspiring writers from marginalized communities?
Vincent Johnson: Just be your self whatever that is, in spite of nay-sayers and occasional setbacks.
GO BANG Magazine: How has the demolition and redevelopment of Cabrini-Green affected your perspective and writing?
Vincent Johnson: Actually, I’m glad they tore them down because compared to my time, we didn’t have all those shootings, killings, and rapes going on as it was. So again, I’m glad that they tore them down.
GO BANG Magazine: Are there any specific literary influences that have shaped your work?
Vincent Johnson: None at all. I’m coming straight from the heart, with my own experiences.
GO BANG Magazine: What would you like your legacy to be?
Vincent Johnson: A man who stayed true to our cause as a resurrected people from the slave effects of our past.
GO BANG Magazine: Well Vincent, I want to thank you for granting me this interview and you have now officially been BANGED! GO BANG!
Vincent Johnson: Thank you!
In the WHAT book, it’s about being you
and a closer look at who’s really who.
Plus, there is no “but” in the book of WHAT
because in it we find right from the start
it opens your mind and speaks to your heart.
WHAT is an acronym which means:
Wisdom honors all truth
It’s also a slogan that means:
Time answers hard work
The WHAT book is full of wit, humor and power,
And, bit by bit, the blue lotus flower!
The sayings that follow and the messages they hold,
may they make your tomorrow like silver and gold.
Believers beware these are changing times
and those who can bear the truth in these rhymes.
Life is a chance, challenge and sometimes a choice,
sometimes we mourn and sometimes rejoice.
But it’s never for sure when it comes to time
and nor are my thoughts when it comes to rhyme.
To order your autographed copy, simply contact Vincent to pay your $20 in person or to notify him you are sending your payment via Zelle to 312-772-7881 or email to:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com. In addition, he’s an Author, Singer/Songwriter, Actor, Model, Poet, Dancer, and DJ. He is also the Owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions and the Owner/Publisher of GO BANG! Magazine. Follow him on Facebook @Pierre Andre Evans, Twitter @Playerre, on Instagram @Pierre_Andre_Evans.