Rev. Nelson N. Johnson and Joyce Hobson-Johnson, civil rights activists and community leaders, are recipients of North Carolina A&T State University’s Human Rights Medal.  The medal will be presented to the couple at the university’s annual Sit-In Anniversary Breakfast on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

The medal is given annually to individuals who have endeavored to correct social injustice and have contributed to the betterment of the world.

Nelson serves as the director of the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro Inc., and pastor of Faith Community Church.  Since high school, in the late 1950’s, he has been active in the movement for social and economic change. In college, he was a local and national student leader at N.C. A&T, where he held the position of vice president of the Student Government Association.   Johnson also served in the United States Air Force for four years. 

Johnson is heavily involved in a myriad of initiatives.  He focuses his efforts on facilitating a process of comprehensive community building, which include a convergence of racial and ethnic diversity, social and economic justice and genuine participatory democracy.  At the Beloved Community Center, in the spirit of mutual support and community, he and his colleagues bring together the homeless, the imprisoned, impoverished neighborhoods and other disenfranchised groups.

Johnson actively builds relationships with and provides leadership within organized labor, faith groups and other public and private community organizations guided by his three-part emphasis of diversity, justice and democracy.   In 1997, he and other local ministers of the Greensboro Pulpit Forum actively supported workers at the Greensboro K-Mart Distribution Center and as a result the employees received a significant contract settlement.   Johnson is often invited to share that success story at workshops and meetings including those sponsored by the George Meany Labor Institute,  the AFL-CIO of New York and the Michigan AFL-CIO.

By virtue of his extensive experience in community organizing and socio-political analysis, Johnson is beckoned to speak on university campuses across the country to share his vision of community building.  He has also written articles for the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law and The Witness Magazine, published by the National Episcopal Church.  Additionally, he is a former national chair and contributing editor for the African World newspaper and assistant editor for the Carolina Peacemaker of Greensboro.

Nelson received his B.S. degree in political science from A&T and master of divinity from the School of Theology, Virginia Union University.
Joyce, a former university professor and research director, is currently director of the Jubilee Institute of the Beloved Community Center, a community-based leadership development and training entity.   She also became an activist for civil rights in high school and deepened her involvement in college as one of the earlier black students at Duke University and while supporting campus non-academic employees and the movement for relevant education. 
In her community and church, Joyce has been active in a myriad of grass root efforts to improve housing, employment practices, education, healthcare, women’s issues and support for African liberation struggles.   She serves on the North Carolina NAACP State Executive Board, the Guilford Education Alliance Board, and the Faith Community Church Council.

Her organizational affiliates have included the Afro-American Society at Duke University (founding member and co-chair), Black Student Movement at University of North Carolina  at Chapel Hill, the Student Organization for Black Unity, the African World Newspaper, the National Black Political Party, the Voter Education Project, the Coalition to Free the Wilmington 10, the African Liberation Support Committee, the Greensboro Association of Poor People, the Citizens Committee Against Police Brutality, the Southern Faith, Labor and Community Alliance.

Joyce and her husband Nelson, were recognized for their involvement in establishing the pace-setting Truth and Community Reconciliation Project, modeled after the South African process and other international efforts, the initiative is designed to encourage truth, understanding and healing throughout Greensboro related to the tragic murder of five labor and racial justice organizer by Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party members on Nov. 3, 1979.  They were recognized for their work in 2005 by both the prestigious Ford Foundation “Leadership for a Changing World Award” and by the Faith and Politics Institute of Washington, D.C. “Beloved Community Award.”   They also received the “Purpose Prize Award” from Civic Venture of Palo Alto California and the “Defenders of Justice Award” from the North Carolina Justice Center of Raleigh in 2008. Additionally, they were recognized by the Association for Conflict Resolution as recipients of the “Diversity and Equity Award.”

Joyce received a B.S. degree in anthropology from Duke University and M.S. degree in adult Education from N.C. A&T.  She conducted doctoral studies in higher education research and administration at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1993-1995.
The Johnsons have two daughters, Akua and Ayo, and four grandchildren.