I hope you’ve read PART 1 already of my liberating conversation with Jay Morrison and Ernestine Johnson. As promised, here is PART 2. We discuss the wrap-up of the Corner Class, business, past, the future for them both, and #DigitalLivesMatter, which airs tonight on BET at 8:00 PM EST. Don’t forget and be sure to watch and check out more about it below:
PYNK: By the way, thank you all for what you do; definitely, important to our black communities with your art and your financial literacy. Speaking of, I know you all just wrapped up the “Buy Back the Block Tour” and the Corner Class Finale this past Tuesday, which I was there, and I know you had the “Credit to Cash” class and workshop on Wednesday, and I know it’s an accomplishment to make the history that you all have made. How does that feel?
Jay: Well, it just feels good to know that we’re letting God use us to be servants, to be vessels for, and be change agents, and to help serve our people. Whether or not it truly becomes historic or legendary, I guess we don’t know yet, but we just want to continue to do the work and do the work that most people don’t want to do, and make sure that we’re serving those who are least amongst us.
PYNK: Absolutely. So do you all feel like so far that you have impacted Black lives, of course? And then the hopes to repair the communities, and every effort that you make, whether it’s the tour or the recent boycott, or the classes, the CEO essentials you mentioned Tuesday, and all that good material that you always provide. Do you feel that you see results already? I know there’s so much more to do.
Ernestine: I definitely think we’ve made a mark and put some prints in the sand, but there’s so much more work to do, and we’re doing it, and we’re relentless, and we’re here to just continue to do the work.
Jay: Yeah. It’s always encouraging to see … to hear the stories and protégés and mentees that I work with personally or with Ernestine. She does mentorship for young women, and for moms, and for acting class. But just to see people like “Jay, I just bought my first three-family home,” or “Jay, my credit score went up 100 points in the last six months.” I know what it did for me. See, I have a very good memory.
I remember vividly being in the streets, and being in prison, and being poor, and having screwed up credit, or not even knowing how to buy a home, or how to start a business. And I remember when I got my first email. I remember when I first learned how to use an email. 2005.
I just know how those things are. A lot of the times, we take … not advantage, but we…
Ernestine: Take it for granted.
Jay: Take it for granted. We sometimes take for granted a lot of things that we know commonly now, but that for someone else from their environment, it’s a really big deal; like buying a two family or three family home, or flipping your first home, or getting your first refinance or equity, or just starting your first business, or your credit score boosting. It may not be that big a deal to us at this point, but to see someone else so excited about it, and see that it’s life-changing for them and their family, and knowing what could spiral out of there.
When I was leaving the streets as a high school drop-out, three-time felon, no one thought that I would be who I am now today. So we don’t know; who’s the next leader, who’s the next millionaire, who’s the next actress, or poet, or anything great and substantial.
“We don’t know who we’re touching right now and how these seeds that we’re planting all throughout the country are going to come to fruition. We certainly see the impact and I look forward to seeing how it grows.”
PYNK: Speaking of ownership and freedom, could you discuss that a little bit just for the readers and the importance of?
Jay: Yes. I think not many of us in our lifetimes truly get the opportunity to feel like what it is to be free, where you really control your destiny where it’s not dictated by a clock, it’s not dictated by a corporate policy, it’s not dictated by the college you’re a part of. There are some people that have some really cool lives, right? Like some rappers, and some ball players, and celebrities, but then many of them still are held to the constraints and confines of the organizations that they are a part of.
As you start to own your own businesses, lands, franchises, assets, and you understand how to make money make money for you, and how to start a business, and how you’re creating and financing it, how to leverage businesses, how to negotiate well, how to build teams. All of these things are not really that hard, they’re just new to us. No one ever told us. And when you do that, you start to get a different kind of sense of empowerment because you could really move around how you want to do and provide for yourself and your family; and live even a comfortable or great life, and then don’t have to ask nobody for nothing, or be beholden to anybody for anything that you may want to stand for or take a knee for or speak out on.
So that feeling of freedom and liberty that we have, that I have, is just really, really invigorating, and that’s what we want to pass on and we want to make it contagious and we want to just drive that home to our community. It’s like our NFL athletes. If each of them owns 100 doors of real estate or apartment buildings that was bringing in 30, 40 grand a month, they may have the power and the liberty to flip the bird to the NFL and the owners and say, “Screw you. I’m gonna stand what I want to stand for and kneel when I want to kneel. I’m my own man. You don’t control me. We have a business relationship together. I’m a boss, you’re a boss, and we have this contract together where I entertain and you pay me a check. But you don’t control me.” But they can’t have that kind of posture yet because most of those athletes are not yet free.
PYNK: I know you both are a great example of leveling up as individuals and also as a union. What are you guys up to next? What can we expect from you all as individuals as well as together?
Ernestine: Yeah. I’m really super, super excited about that. It’s my first leading role in a feature film alongside D.C. Young Fly and Emmanuel Hudson, who were amazing. I had a lot of hands in helping with this movie. I was also the casting director, also a co-producer, so I’m just really excited for this film because it’s really special to me and it’s very historic because this is a Black director Terri J. Vaughn. This is her directorial debut too, so I’m super, super happy for her. Her partner Cas Sigers … This is a completely Black-funded, Black-produced, Black-written starring Black cast members, so we’re really excited about being a part of history in Atlanta. We’re filming this 100 percent in Atlanta.
I also am working on my own Docu-series called “Vulnerable,” which I will begin filming next week. I’m really excited for that, and it will be released for Christmas.
So that’s definitely something you can look out for me, and as a working actor, I’m always actively auditioning, so you just never know what call comes next. I’m also a producer and a lead in a new series called Besties, my girlfriends and I created. So be on the lookout for that as well. And I’m sure Jay and I have something up our sleeves. We might be going on another tour, another event. You never know with us.
“We’re always active together.”
PYNK: Did you ever expect to receive so much love from fans on social media?
Ernestine: Oh, yeah, for me, this was my very first public relationship via social media. I’ve never been a social media relationship type person, but for Jay and I … We’re such big social media personalities, it only made sense and it was very organic for us to display our love on social media. And for me, it’s more important to explain healthy Black love.
“I want everyone else to know that healthy Black love does exist and this is the way it looks like. We can have healthy relationships, we can mend our relationships between Black men and Black women, and for me it’s important to show that.”
PYNK: On social media the other day you mentioned funding for her ring. Should we expect an engagement sometime soon?
Ernestine: (laughs) Get the answers girlfriend! Get the answers. Do you know how many D.M.s I got? I got so many D.M.s that say “Oh, Jay’s going to propose at the last class.” Put the pressure on him, guys!
PYNK: I was hoping. I was like “Oh my God, if he does this, this will be classic.” (laughs).
Ernestine: Even my personal friends were like “I already know Jay is gonna propose at the last class. Just be ready for it.” (laughs).
PYNK: Well, either way, he has to do it on social media.
Jay: “I’m starting a Young Betty ring fund.”
PYNK: Oh no, that’s right. You have to do it on social!
Ernestine: Oh, it’s expected on social media. You think he’s not?
PYNK: So, the importance of abstinence, what was that like for you to come to that agreement to say “Hey, this is what we’re gonna do.?”
Ernestine: Yeah. I think it was important for us both. When we met, we had such an intrinsic chemistry and energy between each other and we both knew that this relationship was different from any other relationship that we both had in the past, but we didn’t want to make the same decisions that we made in the past, so it was important for us to really truly get to know each other without the physical. We wanted to get to know each other emotionally and mentally first before we implemented the physical in our relationship because many times, people just get into relationships and their relationship is based solely off sex. When sex gets old and boring, what else do you have? What else do you have attractive?
“We wanted to make sure there were so many things we were attracted to about each other outside of sex so that the sex was just a bonus.”
Jay: It’s all about being rooted in substance; do you know what I mean; the more substantive, the more deep that you are rooted. Like any foundation. The deeper the foundation, the stronger the house, the stronger the building, the higher you could build it. If your foundation is shallow, you can only build it so tall before it topples over. So we built our foundation really, really deep.
They both laugh, and in unison say, “Really, really deep!”
Photo Credit: Ernestine Johnson and Jay Morrison’s Social Media