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Ashley Alexandra Johnson: A Year of Returning

  • Ori Gallery 4038 North Mississippi Avenue Portland, OR, 97227 United States (map)

home school and Ori Gallery are excited to present a talk by Ashley Alexandra Johnson, Founding Fellow and Program Director of Birthright AFRICA, 18 Nov 2018, 7-9p. This is the final engagement of the 2018 curriculum! Snacks and refreshments will be available, and as always the session will be livestreamed and archived online for distance learning. 

Joining us remotely from Accra, Ashley will discuss her work with Birthright AFRICA, how it led her to moving back to the African continent, "The Year of Return" (the Ghanaian commemoration of 400 years since the slave trade began), and the roles and opportunities she sees for the BADASS (Black American Descendants of American slavery & sharecropping) displaced diaspora on the continent.

Birthright AFRICA is a foundation which gives youths and young adults of African descent the opportunity to explore their cultural roots and legacy of innovation through educational travel on the local, national, and international level.


As Founding Fellow and Program Director for Birthright AFRICA where she ensures effective operations of experiential travel and project-based learning opportunities for Fellows and Scholars on the African continent. Ashley holds a BFA from Columbia College Chicago after transitioning from The University of Chicago where she briefly studied Anthropology. 

As a native of Chicago, Ashley was prepared in her youth to serve her role as a “woman for others” through her Jesuit education. She supplemented her schooling by volunteering in a local soup kitchen and a local battered women’s home in her largely underserved African-American neighborhood. The daily juxtaposition of these two environments and the realities of her service background had a profound impact and impassioned Ashley to engage her skills in public service. 

Upon graduating in 2007, Ashley taught an African Garments and Textiles course at the Anthony Overton Academy, at the time Chicago’s most underfunded grammar school in the city's poorest neighborhood. After a year, she moved to Mexico City where she re-engaged in textile arts working in an atelier and showroom designing garments. In 2012, Ashley continued her Fashion career moving to NYC and where she worked as an independent designer and consultant for various brands and celebrity clients. 

Ashley left the fashion industry and NYC in 2014 for New Orleans where she began her work with Walla Elsheikh founding Birthright AFRICA at the start of 2015. Ashley has since relocated to Accra, Ghana where she is serving the Birthright AFRICA program, in addition to being a startup entrepreneur.


home school is a free pop-up art school in Portland, OR run by Victoria Anne Reis and manuel arturo abreu. They provide welcoming contexts for critical engagement with contemporary art and its issues with a curriculum featuring artist talks, exhibitions, monthly classes, poetry readings, and more. Their pedagogy honors the casual rigor of the etymology of “school,” from the Greek ‘shkole,’ meaning “spare time, leisure, idleness, rest.” The 2018 home school curriculum was funded by a Precipice Fund grant, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Calligram Foundation / Allie Furlotti, and a Rhizome Net Art Microgrant.

Earlier Event: November 10
Art 4 Direct Action Group : Initial Meetup!
Later Event: November 20
Trans Diaspora of Resilience