If you haven’t heard by now, Dr. Umar Johnson, the self-proclaimed prince of “Pan-Afrikanism” and descendant of Federick Douglass, has gotten caught with his hands – and other body parts – inside of the proverbial cookie jar.
The whistleblower is a woman in her 40s named Khym Ringgold, a blonde weave-wearing resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She goes by the screen name “Conscious Stripper” on social media. She has been putting Johnson on blast for nearly a month now, exposing him in a series of Instagram posts, tweets and YouTube videos, which layout personal SMS messages about their illicit affair. Johnson, who has been engaging in a fundraising campaign for an all-boys academy based on Pan-Africanist ideology, is known for both his homophobic and misogynistic rhetoric. That speech includes condemning Black women for their sexual behaviors and for wearing unnatural hair. The unmarried father of two children by two women also regularly lectures about the importance of Black marriage and abstinence. He was most recently a guest host on The Roland Martin Show in May, and he revealed to the listening audience that he is celibate.
Dr. Johnson has responded publicly via his Instagram to Ringgold (he later deleted it from his page, but a few people and websites have managed to save the original text). He contends that he and Ringgold never dated, but rather engaged in a series of three “after midnights.” Furthermore, he states that he was tricked by this “maggot in life” posing as a queen and that he didn’t know she was an exotic dancer until two weeks into their affair. He also blames his “escapade” with Ringgold for allegedly costing him a million-dollar donation for his boys academy, which would have come from an unnamed NBA player.
In an exclusive interview with MadameNoire, Ringgold shares with us her reasons for coming forth about their affair, which she said began in January and lasted until May of this year. In particular, she wants to let the public know that she is more than a scorned stripper. Rather, she is a real woman who wanted to be part of a movement for Black liberation, but instead feels as though she was led astray by a charismatic leader. And while she does not see herself as bitter, she says that she does want to set the record straight about a man who is promoting one set of standards to his followers, but is living a totally different reality.
Charing Ball: You go by “Conscious Stripper” on Twitter. Tell me how you came up with that name?
Khym Ringgold: Actually, it was Umar Johnson who came up with that name, not me. He said that to me during a conversation we had where he was like, “Oh, you’re a conscious stripper.” It was kind of jokingly made up. That was until an argument, which happened right before I released the text messages. This time he used it with me in a threatening way. I felt that this was going to be last time that somebody is going to try to demean me because of my profession. So I embraced the name. And it was sort of an empowering thing for me to do.
CB: So are you an exotic dancer?
KR: I am an entertainer. They have a lot of different names for it, but I choose to use entertainer because that is exactly what I do. I dance. I do not strip. That is just a term that I use because people can identify with it easily. I dance and entertain in a strip club for both females and males because strip clubs are not just gentlemen clubs. They are for everybody.
[editor’s note: Ringgold also told me that she is a female celebrity impersonator. You can watch a video of her Janet Jackson performance here. For the interest of space and brevity, this part has been edited out of this interview]
CB: One of the questions people are going to want to know is can an entertainer who dances in a strip club actually be conscious?
KR: Yes, most definitely. Based on the response to this scandal, I would say humbly, that I am more conscious than a lot of other people I thought were conscious. The word conscious just means awareness of self. You have knowledge of what is going on around you. You have knowledge of who you are as an individual and not just following somebody else and their philosophies. You can think and conceptualize for yourself. I think that a lot of people use the term, and they don’t really know what the term really means. And they take it and try to define you with it, but they themselves don’t know what it means. I went to college, but I withdrew. Still, I am self-educated. Before I even found out who Dr. Umar was, I was a student of Amos Wilson, [Yosef] Ben-Jochannan and basically all the greats prior to him. So his message was not really new to me. What I was attracted to was the work that came with the message. The work that he promised he wanted to do. Also, I home school my own son and prior to that, I worked in elementary schools tutoring other kids. So I have also been an educator myself.
CB: Tell me about your involvement in the Pan-Africanist movement.
KR: I came into the conscious community about two years ago. I had studied most of the other religions. I was Jehovah’s Witness, Christian and all of that. So the more I studied it, the more I learned and the more I evolved. And that is how I was led to the consciousness. So I actually wanted to learn more about that community. And it was a year ago that I learned who Umar was, his work and what he wanted to do. I learned that he was at the top and the most popular in his community. And I wanted to become active in it because I wanted to see some real change.
CB: And how long have you been a follower of Dr. Umar?
KR: I wouldn’t call it being a follower, but I would say that it has been a year since I have become familiar with his work.