We met Monica Evelyn Johnson on the Jackson Street bridge overlooking the Atlanta skyline on a beautiful Sunday evening. Monica had this spunk to her—an attitude that could not be altered. She was so eager to tell her story and spend some time with two complete strangers.
As we approached Monica, she was doing her regular routine for Jackson Street visitors and tourists. She would approach the onlookers and ask for donations to support her as she lives on the streets. We saw her as a regular woman doing her best to survive despite her situation. Her signature orange hoodie made her stand out, and her presence was observed by everyone. She didn’t care if her overbearingness was unwanted, she wanted to interact with people, and we wanted to give her a chance to tell her story.
“I am rebellious at times. I don’t like rules, and that’s probably why I am in this situation. My mom carried me—originally from Puerto Rico and moved to the States. I contracted Meningitis, so my foster mom took me in. The doctors told her I was gonna be deaf, dumb, and blind. She told me Jesus was going to come and make me better. And as you can see, I am healthy and doing alright as far as mentality wise.”
Monica went on to explain her many accomplishments in education despite the predictions from medical professionals. She went on to attend Georgia Tech and studied Archeology. Due to her many health problems, she had to leave higher education so she could focus on surviving.
“My hopes and dreams are to get off the streets and finally get some mental health from a facility so I can live life in a normal fashion. As far as learning how to pay my own bills and learning how to drive a car. “ She paused, “I’ve never owned a car.
After a bit of conversation, my southern respect was shown when I called her ma’am. Monica quickly snapped at me for calling her ma’am. In her eyes, that was a title for old ladies, and she made it quite clear that she was not an old lady.
As we ended our conversation, I decided to ask her one final question: what is one thing you would like to tell someone? She replied, “Stay in school. Because being homeless, being a thug, being a prostitute isn’t gonna work.” After this simple, yet powerful statement, Monica began telling us a few jokes while she sang and danced. She brought so much spirit to us and the passerbyers on the Jackson Street bridge that the memory of her and the production of this project became a reality.