Dr. Minnie Moore-Johnson: A Southwest Legend

From right Eric L. Harrison (son-in-law), Frances Y. Harrison (oldest daughter) Honoree Dr. Minnie Moore-Johnson, Jameala N. Wilson (granddaughter), and Jameal R. Bolds, grandson
From right Eric L. Harrison (son-in-law), Frances Y. Harrison (oldest daughter) Honoree Dr. Minnie Moore-Johnson, Jameala N. Wilson (granddaughter), and Jameal R. Bolds, grandson

For some, the motivating reason for helping others is to be recognized for it or to move up the social ladder. For Dr. Minnie Moore-Johnson, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In her words, “If it’s not from the heart, don’t do it.” Although Dr. Moore-Johnson has received countless accolades that adorn her living room walls, they don’t mean nearly as much to her as the people she has helped throughout her life – and she has touched the lives of thousands.

Beginning her career as a social worker at Tasker Homes, one of the city’s first public housing projects, Dr. Moore-Johnson would work overtime so she had the means to help tenants’ pay their utilities. This is only one of the personal sacrifices Ms. Minnie has made for others throughout her life. “What I do is not what I do. What I do is who I am. It’s easy to do things when that’s who you really are,” Ms. Minnie said.

Dr. Moore-Johnson’s work feeding the masses on Thanksgiving has had an impact reaching far beyond her local Southwest community. Throughout the years, she has received honors from four US presidents because of the scale of her service. City and state officials have recognized her people-focused projects for decades. In fact, she even has a framed pen from former Governor Ed Rendell for her work helping to raise the minimum wage.

Some of Dr. Moore-Johnson’s most defining work has been done in the city’s prisons. There, she has been able to talk to incarcerated men one-on-one and help address their families’ needs on the outside. She also helped incarcerated men build meaningful relationships with their children through an organization called FACT (Fathers and Children Together). The mural painted on the side of her Woodland Ave home was commissioned by Mural Arts and completed through FACT.

By examining her life through the lens of the people she has served, one would never know about the hardships Ms. Minnie has endured herself. Traveling frequently to the South for work while going to school as a child before the civil rights era, she witnessed lynchings and cross burnings. She has also grieved close family members including her twin sister, but through it all, it has been her family and community that have given her the strength to continue helping people. Two months ago, Minnie had a stroke. But that did not stop her from going out just a few weeks later to march in the streets for the city’s celebration of her work. Her family wanted to get her a wheelchair or a car to make it up the hill, but she didn’t need the help.

Ms. Minnie said her favorite song is ‘I Made It Through the Rain’ by Barry Manilow. She went on to quote her favorite lyric, “I made it through the rain and found myself respected by the others who got rained on too and made it through.” Ms. Minnie said it’s her goal to try and help others get through the rain as well.

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