In 2012, the Urban League of Greater Madison launched its Young Professionals network which has been bringing together community leaders in their 20s and 30s to make an impact in the Madison area for the past decade. This year, there have been young professionals taking on some new roles … among those is Sun Prairie native Krystal Johnson who recently became the new advocacy co-chair.
Johnson has spent the last decade taking on leadership in different aspects, and after attending the National Urban League Annual Conference in 2022, she jumped on the opportunity to get involved with them here in Madison. Although this specific undertaking is new, Johnson spoke to Madison365 about how the inspiration for work with community and advocacy started with a trip to the capital of the nation as a teenager.
“When I was 16, I went to a national leadership conference in (Washington) D.C.,” said Johnson. “I noticed that at our nation’s capital, there were a magnitude of homeless people just sitting right outside of the White House. From there, I just started to do a lot of digging into [questions like] how does homelessness start? Where does this come from? From 16 years old, up until now, I’ve just been an advocate for homelessness, literacy, and overall economic wellness for not only the Black and brown community, but really for all.”
Johnson would go on to earn a degree in organizational leadership with an emphasis on emergency management at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. With experience in both leadership and working with the community, it is no surprise that Johnson also found herself involved with the DEI Advisory Committee for Sun Prairie Public Library where she now also serves as a board member. Johnson says that there are connections between literacy and advocacy work, and that reading and comprehension skills can also help to curb difficulties in other areas of life.
“The library is the core of every community, in my opinion. Your local library is where people go to gather. That’s where you find programs and resources, and for the bulk of that, you have to know how to read,” Johnson says. “Being an advocate for literacy, and also being an advocacy co-chair, one of my objectives this year is to reach into the community and bridge that gap between adults and literacy. Our libraries are so central to bridging that gap and how we can mesh that together. Making everybody’s library a place of wellness, and inclusion, and everyone feeling like they can come there to learn.”
Johnson happily spoke to Sun Prairie’s new library building plans among other strides the city has taken to acknowledge population growth and possible areas of contention for some residents. The idea of transparency was suggested to be most vital for the city’s success, and intentional moves towards actions like equity audits and connecting with lesser heard community members serve as positive steps in reconciling any growing pains. Johnson says the adaptations Sun Prairie has had to navigate are something that other surrounding Madison suburbs should plan to confront soon if they haven’t already.
“I do consider myself a Sun Prairie native. Sun Prairie is next door to Madison, so I also feel connected to Madison in so many ways. One thing that I speak on for Sun Prairie is the community is changing in many different ways, not only in diversity, but also economically,” Johnson said.
“The growth is wonderful to see. I think as long as we keep diversity, equity and inclusion and the sense of belonging in the community, Sun Prairie will continue to grow and prosper,” she added.
If there is a strength Johnson specifically brings to the mission of helping Sun Prairie grow and prosper, it is in being an incredibly active individual in both community and personal projects. Besides personally working on projects such as writing books, hosting a book club, managing a T-Shirt line, and doing a podcast, Johnson also works as a branch manager at Park Bank in Sun Prairie.
The pandemic also compelled Johnson to create Krystal Clear Connections LLC, a virtual assistant and consulting business where she assists small businesses with a variety of services. Johnson also leads the Public Relations Ministry of the Faith Place Church, a non-denominational church in Sun Prairie, along with serving on the board of the KLJ Movement, a non-profit dance organization and company that serves as a space for Black and brown dancers in Madison.
As evident through her involvement across the board, Johnson’s passions for community involvement, community growth, and community prosperity all coalesce in the opportunity she hopes to capitalize on as an Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professional advocacy co-chair.
“The Urban League Young Professionals has been life-changing,” said Johnson. “For me, being a Madison native, I appreciate the group and the way they have allowed me to not only expand my own professionalism but my own community involvement. I would love to continue to grow with the organization and you’ll see a lot more of us to come.”
To learn more about the Urban League of Greater Madison’s Young Professionals, visit their website here.