For 35 years, Michael Eugene Johnson has served Baltimore City as an activist and advocate for the homeless and the community, as well as a candidate for public office. But on March 2, an explosion in Johnson’s kitchen ignited a fire that destroyed his home in Eutaw Place and 59 years of memories, including a treasured art collection and a book manuscript.
Even as he works to get back on his feet, Johnson continues to think first of the people of Baltimore.
“Whatever somebody would assist me with would be great, just so I can get back on my feet monetarily, and the other end would be, anything else, I would want them to donate to other people who are as less fortunate as I am,” said Johnson. “If you have a blanket, or some pillows, or chairs you were thinking of giving to me, I would prefer [you] to go out and give to some of the homeless people in the street.”
Johnson lost nearly everything in the fire, including his collection of African American art and posters.
“That (collection) will never be recovered. Two of the oldest posters I had were an original ‘Porgy and Bess’ poster, and an original ‘Carmen Jones’ poster,” said Johnson, who also lost his manuscript for a book which he still hopes to release on his 60th birthday this Aug. 31, titled “60 Years a Black Man.”
Johnson was at home when the explosion occurred, and managed to grab a few articles of clothes before he escaped the house. He said he is grateful to be unharmed and that he can still spend time with his loved ones, noting that even that devastating fire did not manage to take everything.
“As I was going through some stuff yesterday, one of the things that showed up was a picture of my grandsons. The frame was melted up, but their picture was still in the [frame].”
For the moment, Johnson is grateful to have family and friends with whom he can stay as he works to restore some measure of normalcy.
“It’s pretty tough to even know which way to go,” said Johnson. “And it’s funny because I’ve helped people get housing, I’ve helped people get food, get jobs, do this, do that, do this, but when it hits you personally you get to a place where you say, ‘well wait a minute, what do I do now?’”
Anyone interested in making a donation to Johnson can do so at Northwestern Senior High School (6900 Park Heights Ave.), Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Donations can also be mailed to 6671 Buckstone Court, Columbia, Md. 21044 (Attention: Michael Eugene Johnson).