Desire Johnson-Forte  holds an BA from Mills College in Oakland, CA.  After graduation she worked in the Dominican Republic teaching English through a program run by her high school mentor. Returning stateside, she moved back to Oakland to begin non-profit work supporting black youth.  She is the Founding CEO of The BIZ Stoop and Damn Good Teas, alumni co-facilitator of the Youth Impact Hub, and the Program Manager of Downtown TAY.

Something to know about Desire is that she is home-grown.  She is from the communities that she works with, and her programs stem from the authentic understanding of need, and personal experience.  That said, she wasn’t always running multiple community organizations.  She started off volunteering, working closely with her teachers, and then during college she became a student leader and esteemed administrative assistant for several departments on campus.  As a survivor of trauma, she found poetry and painting to be highly effective in healing, and started a support group for other women who were survivors of trauma.  Desire then worked in the Dominican Republic for several months where she learned a great deal, and then returned home with a clear sense of what she wanted to do.  The issue was fatalism, the belief that one will die young, a feeling that affects 15% of young people, disproportionately so in under-served black neighborhoods.  Fatalism was a belief once shared by Desire when she was young, herself.  With her idea of how to address it, she joined the Youth Impact Hub and created The BIZ Stoop, which got her noticed by TPP.

The BIZ Stoop’s vision is to exponentially increase the life expectancy of Black youth beyond the age of 25 years – by way of access. With a mission to retain high opportunity youth from Oakland, and streamline them into prospective career paths.  Members are sponsored to complete an 18-week,  three phase experiential learning module(s), in which we: 1) address the roots of fatalism; 2) shift the narratives that commonly refer to our experiences; 3) and earn our keep by pursuing financial opportunities that suit our interest & pay a living wage. Desire does the work that she does because of her personal experience.  In her words, she is currently “ten years older” than she expected to be.  She has been in the shoes of the youth she now mentors through The BIZ Stoop.  When you have made it through extreme difficulties, teaching others how you did it can surpass passion and become simply what is essential.  She hopes that the Fox Fellowship will enable her to support the dreams and projects of BIZ Stoop participants, and to support grassroots organizations and projects in her community.

Main content from interview carried out by Youth Leadership Fellow Jessica London-Shields

Learn more about Desire and the B.i.z Stoop

Desire Johnson

2015 TPP Seed Grant

Desire´s work as a TPP Grant Advisor

Desire Johnson

History of the B.i.z Stoop