Name: Kent Johnson
Profession: Co-Founder of Black & Abroad / Attorney
One Word That Describes You: Maven
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
I’ve focused my work on showcasing diversity in the travel industry, where African Americans spend billions of dollars each year, but go unrecognized in advertising and marketing efforts. I’ve dedicated myself to shifting the guard when it comes to how the African diaspora is portrayed in the world of travel, and how our community is marketed to. As one of the few black men in the travel industry, my efforts have empowered our community to see the world and experience travel in a way they hadn’t imagined before. I work to ensure we have a valued voice in the industry.
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
Being recognized by such an institution of ingenuity and perseverance is an honor. It’s an acknowledgment that means more than most and a reminder that I’m doing the right thing. As a Morgan State University alumni, it also makes me especially proud to be honored by the creation of fellow alum, Mr. Earl G. Graves.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
When I first relocated to Atlanta, the company that I was set to start at informed me that the position was no longer available the day after I arrived to the city. I hadn’t planned, financially or mentally, to be without a job and to have to look for another position. Being new to the city, I didn’t have the network of colleagues like I did back home to tap into for opportunity and it was definitely a rough welcome. It ultimately reminded me of my resourcefulness and tenacity and forced me to humble myself and start from the ground up to build my connections in a new place. Now I look back and appreciate the struggle because it made me a better man.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Integrity. I’m a firm believer in doing exactly what you say and being able to back up your claims. It’s one of the few things that’s required in any relationship, whether it’s business or pleasure.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
At Black & Abroad, we’ve just launched our curated travel division, Black & Abroad Journeys. We’ve crafted bespoke travel experiences in cities around the world, with a special focus on those within the diaspora. For each journey, we invite 12-14 individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives to meet in the destination and explore for a week. For our inaugural journey, we’re taking those individuals to Johannesburg to ring in the New Year.
Personally, I’m working on adding Spanish to my arsenal of languages I’m fluent in and turning an old screenplay into a novel.
What is the best advice you ever received?
A few years ago, I was told to strive to maintain my network like I maintained my credit—high limits, but minimal utilization. It stuck with me because it was so simple, and made perfect sense. The less you use that “credit,” the more your friends and colleagues are likely to extend to you when you need it most. I try to maintain relationships and never limit my contact with people to when I need something from them.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Find your purpose. Be the best in the spaces where you can, and recognize that you can’t help everyone. We all want to save the world, but we often fail when we try to save everybody. If you do your part in helping the community, and do that part well, you’ll leave more of a lasting impact than you would from trying to do everything.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I’m a researcher, so I always try to become as informed as I can about whom I’ll be talking to and potentially working with. But it goes further than that, you also have to know how to express your knowledge and not come off as someone looking for brownie points, but someone who’s genuinely interested in what’s happening in that particular space.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation? Share a story about your best vacation.
My best vacation was a solo one! My business is travel, so being in the places where people vacation is my job. As such, I have to find ways to make a visit a destination unique for me. The easiest way to do so is by going alone. Last year, I took a solo trip to Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur and it was hands down one of my favorite experiences. I was only accountable for myself, so if I wanted to sleep in, or stay somewhere a little longer, I didn’t have to worry about disappointing someone. I just had myself to make happy, and that alone was enough.
Further, few things test your confidence like being in a place where you barely speak the language, have limited access to the internet, and no one to rely upon but yourself. Traveling alone forces you to tap into these abilities and actually use skills you rarely get to flex when at home, such as being a social being and talking to strangers, accepting the challenge of critical thinking and problem solving to get where you want to go. It gives you the chance to be a carefree black man.
There’s also the opportunity for these freeing moments of clarity that you just can’t get while being surrounded by your normal atmosphere. Some of my best moments of reflection and healing (because we as black men need space to heal from the litany of attacks upon our being) came from being away from all of the static of my day-to-day. You’d be surprised by how clear the mind becomes when it’s away from home.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
It would be either Zanzibar or Seychelles. There are few places in the world that rival the beauty of those two destinations, and I’ve yet to visit, so if given the chance, I’d go to either one.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Don’t ever be afraid of how great you can be. There’s always someone waiting to pay for the idea you’ve sitting on, so what are you waiting for?
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.