Educator returns home


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Dr. Patrick Johnson teaches Journalism 130 as an adjunct professor in the journalism department this spring semester. Johnson is an MCHS and CCC alum and former Advocate staffer.

By Xavier Johnson, Web Editor

Students entering AA-215 for their Mass Communication class were greeted by an unfamiliar face on Jan. 28 for the first time in 39 years.

Dr. Patrick Johnson is a newly hired adjunct professor teaching Journalism 130 after nearly four decades of the course being taught only by journalism department Chairperson Paul DeBolt.

Now, five weeks into his first semester teaching at Contra Costa College, Dr. Johnson is bringing a fresh perspective and engaging teaching style to the journalism department.

That unique style is resonating with his students.

Part of what makes Johnson an engaging teacher is the joy he exhibits while lecturing.

His enthusiasm is backed up by an expertise in media theory.

“If you’re making this boring, you’re doing this wrong. The material is fun. What’s fun for me about teaching is I can be watching a ‘Breakfast Club’ interview and use that in the classroom,” Johnson said.

Ralph Boquilon, who has yet to choose a major, said Johnson’s course is one of the best he’s ever taken because of how engaging it is and, more importantly, it’s one of the few classes he is excited to attend every week.

“I never thought I’d want to go to class like this before. I want to see how he’s going to put each topic into perspective,” Boquilon said.

When the position opened in November, Johnson was an applicant that stood out to DeBolt as qualified and someone that would be a strong fit for teaching in the journalism department.

“He brings a fresh perspective to the department, which is much-needed. He’s young, African-American and has a doctorate,” DeBolt said. “Patrick is a true gift to Contra Costa College students because he was one of them and he is so relatable. I knew he would be a perfect fit (to teach) the Mass Communication class.

The ability to put the coursework into an interesting perspective that keeps students engaged is a part of Johnson’s broader teaching philosophy.

During one lesson about Gordon Parks’ photography and the importance of Life magazine, Johnson showed images of Parks’ work then showed how Kendrick Lamar uses Parks’ imagery and reproduces it in his music video for his song “Element.”

“I try to create entry points where folks can get something out of it. It comes from having experience teaching, but also being in classes that I was bored with. I don’t believe in wasting someone’s time,” Johnson said.

Music and music culture informs a lot of what Johnson references during his lectures and even how he thinks about teaching.

Johnson said his teaching style is similar to a DJ mixing.

“There’s a certain relationship you’re having with your class similar to someone who is performing. Music gave me a lot of ways to think about life,” he said.

With a high level of education that focuses on race, culture and how it relates to media, Johnson makes it a point to foreground people of color when crafting his coursework.

He said he wants students to understand people of color, particularly black men, as sources of knowledge.

“DJ Premier has something to tell you about how you watch television. Gordon Parks has something to tell you about photography. Yes, it’s about representations of black people, but it’s also knowledge you can extract to larger parts of the world,” Johnson said.

As a black male teacher, Johnson said he sometimes recognizes what it means to not only be a black male teaching but also what it means to teach as a black male.

“I don’t shy away from the things that have been a part of my experience in my teaching. I let my students know that’s how they too should move through the world and hopefully through me as an example,” Johnson said.

Johnson graduated from CCC in 1998 and transferred to Howard University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism in 2003.

After Howard, Johnson earned a master’s degree in cultural studies of sports and education from UC Berkeley and just recently earned a doctorate in education: social and cultural studies, in 2018 from UC Berkeley.

Johnson has taught at UC Berkeley’s summer bridge program for the past eight summers to work with incoming freshmen in critical media literacy courses and African-American studies courses.

After graduating from Howard, Johnson worked with Youth Radio in Berkeley running their intro and intermediate training programs teaching about sports and media literacy.

It was during this time that Johnson became interested in pursuing the questions he had about black media representation and media theory.

Those questions led to him staying in academia to get his Ph.D.

During his time teaching at Youth Radio and working as a teacher’s assistant, he said he started asking questions that would later go on to inform his dissertation.

Johnson’s dissertation looked at the resonance of 90s black sitcoms in the lives of modern black millennials.

“I was working with younger people and they’d tell me ‘So Pat, what you know about Tupac?’ like what do you mean what do I know about Tupac?” Johnson asked.

He said the intersections of his interests and his students’ interests and what role that plays in their lives was the driving force behind his dissertation.

Johnson served as sports editor of The Advocate while attending Middle College High School and said being a writer on the newspaper gave him confidence and the opportunity to get real feedback.

DeBolt said Johnson was the kind of student who would hang out in the newsroom all day. He said Johnson was one of the staff members that everybody loved.

Growing up in the Bay Area in the 90s, specifically connected with the independent music scene and do-it-yourself culture informs how Johnson makes sense of culture.

“Part of growing up in the Bay Area is being OK with, and celebrating, the hodgepodge of people, ideas and cultures and not being afraid to list those things as influences.”