by Ginny Albert
In early 2016 Ms. Anna Johnson, a senior who never stops moving, growing and creating, asked if I would assist in crafting a presentation at the Reverend, Dr. Dan Tibbs’ Calvary Baptist Church here in Atlanta, Georgia. Not one to refuse when a friend — particularly a fellow senior — honors me with such a request, I answered affirmatively. At the time it was unknown what would be required of me, the subject matter, or whom the other principles were.
When Anna revealed that we would put on a KWANZAA extravaganza for the purpose of explaining the uniquely African-American celebration, and that the participants included children, my heart skipped a happy beat. I love working with children! Having a grown daughter, and two grandchildren made me feel fully competent to undertake the challenge, and challenge it was! Anna, a expert seamstress, had numerous grandiose plans for what can only be deemed a pageant. She had made from scratch elaborate costumes for the children, as they would portray ancient African kings and queens, and the toast of African-American historical figures. What I found daunting was the fact that we had so little time to prepare. Nonetheless, Anna insisted that we go forward — two days before the event! It has escaped me what happened the reason we did not rehearse prior to the event, but we did not. The children were given their lines and costumes two hours before we were to perform! Quickly and frantically, we listened to each child’s reading, correcting words they found difficult to pronounce. Once in a while Anna or I would peek inside the church to see how many congregants were in the pews. We were scared, as it was becoming crowded and those who sat there were becoming impatient. Ultimately, Pastor Tibbs sent word that we needed to begin the presentation. We scrambled to get the children in line, adjusted their too large hats, and I left to begin the introduction. Me, on stage before a huge congregation greeting them with “Good evening everyone!”
It is impossible to measure the depth of Anna Johnson’s great knowledge of African and African-American history, the inspiration that is Kwanzaa, and her willingness to share the result of her copious research with others. Anna’s work ethic is indicative of the contributions made by seniors throughout the years centuries, and it deserves our eternal thanks and appreciation. Her intelligence and fearlessness were fully on display. It was difficult to believe, but everything we did that night was nearly on the fly, but thanks to Anna Johnson’s special abilities, her attention to detail, her belief that sooner is better than later, and her faith that we could actually pull off a a bravura performance in record time speaks to her years of experience . . . the kind of experience that all seniors have at their disposal. She helped me to believe that time was not important — not even rehearsal. The children were wonderful — the youngest little boy of about 6 years played Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and it was Anna Johnson who gave him the part.
Anna, and indeed all seniors should continue to share with a world that requires and awaits their continued contributions to corporations, friends and families — to all of us.
UPDATE: Reverend Anna Johnson now teaches a new Sewing Workshop for Our Time 21st Century Seniors, Inc., and we are elated to have her.