The K-State Parents and Family Program recently caught up with K-State alumnus Chandler Johnson. He graduated from K-State in 2012 with a B.S. in both Communication Studies and Journalism and Mass Communication. He is now an Online Visual Design Specialist at Unbound, a nonprofit based out of Kansas City, Missouri, helping families find resources to become self-sufficient.
Since his time at K-State, Johnson has continued to find personal ways to preserve and share powerful narratives. This month he has been celebrating Black History Month in style. Johnson created Pick Progress, an independent web-based mixed media art project focused on “sharing stories of Black individuals and highlighting elements of Black culture.” The project centers on 31 hair picks that he designed, each featuring a different phrase of empowerment inspired by Black community and culture. Johnson also interviewed and photographed a broad range of individuals whose voices are “traditionally underrepresented in the greater American narrative.” Each person is photographed holding or wearing the pick, and their stories, thoughts, and experiences related to the featured phrases are included on the website
Why focus on the pick? According to the website, “The afro-pick and hair comb have been around for over 6,000 years. It is a conversation piece representing natural Black beauty.” Johnson echoed this sentiment, “Whether I’m sportin’ them in my hair or rockin’ them in my back pocket, picks are dynamic tools that elevate my life.”
The project launched January 31; however, Johnson spent 7 months prior conducting interviews, researching other social movements, and designing the online platform.
31 Days. 31 Picks. Over 31 stories about the Black experience.
Choosing the number 31 was not at random. Johnson explained, “Starting the project the day before and ending the day after February is a little nod to the fact that Black history is relevant all year long.”
Johnson explained that he found his passion for sharing stories during his undergraduate work at K-State. In gratitude he asked to share the following message to current K-State students and families: “When you join K-State, understand everyone is your family. From past to present, everyone you meet is part of the tradition of togetherness. I have been fortunate to have two younger sibling also wear the purple pride, but I’m also blessed to have met people in Manhattan who are still my friends to this day. They are all considered family. So my advice is to spread joy and camaraderie throughout this family. Build others up and support one another. Remember, we will always be K-State Wildcats no matter where life takes us.”
While on campus, Johnson was involved in the Speech Unlimited Team and was involved in the 2011 Next Big Thing Pitch. His team was awarded first place for Loudspeaker, a nonprofit dedicated to broadcasting performances, speeches, and stories online. Additionally, Johnson worked part-time on campus and was involved in undergraduate research.
To learn more about Pick Progress or to contact alumnus Chandler Johnson visit www.pickprogressproject.com