In Georgia, a major film, music, or movie industry announcement arrives almost on a weekly basis. The monetary figures bounced around in the media are in the millions for plans for the latest studio, new movie shoot, or sound stage expansion.
Yet in the middle of these proclamations is a voice at Clayton State University who is calling for, “education and a well-thought out approach for both individuals and corporations looking to ride the wave of this burgeoning industry.” The voice is urging planning and preparation. The voice is one of experience, honed on a national stage while interacting with internationally known superstars.
That voice is Stanley Johnson.
At one time, Stanley received double platinum sales recognition for his vocal appearances on albums, “Wild and Peaceful,” as well as, “Love and Understanding,” with the group Kool and the Gang. Led by Robert “Kool” Bell, Kool and the Gang brought its style of jazz, pop, and deep funk music to the audiences of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The group would eventually sell more than 70 million albums worldwide and be immortalized in several movie soundtracks including the cult classic Pulp Fiction, and the 1976 Picture of the Year, Rocky.
For a young man who was still shy of his 17th birthday, his work in that environment became an invaluable education of the entertainment industry. That is why today, Stanley Johnson can speak so eloquently about the good and the bad, the wondrous and the scandalous, and the need to train a generation of young people who understand the numerous sides of the spotlight that is ascending upon the state.
“The buzzwords today are… `Atlanta, the Hollywood of the South.’ However, to be truly successful, we need to convince the industry leaders that we have knowledgeable executives,” Stanley says. “We desperately need, not only creative, talented people, but also individuals who are trained, educated, and equipped but to be the executives, the attorneys, the mentors, and the creative geniuses who position talent for the best possible, long-term outcomes. Only then will we be truly successful in this new environment.”
Today, as a multi-media specialist, Johnson is CEO/Owner of Diamond Light Entertainment, Inc., based in Atlanta. Johnson’s firm is a powerful communications company, “that combines the latest emerging technologies in television, film, music and the internet, with an abiding faith in God.”
The scope and number of Johnson’s projects are as varied as his background, including a book he authored on the time he spent with Joseph Jackson, father of the legendary Jackson 5 family, and Johnson’s successful efforts to become the first African American television producer to create a golf series that was featured worldwide on the Golf Channel. A successful writer, entrepreneur, radio personality and evangelist; Johnson has produced numerous documentaries and has served as the Director of Communications and Training at the Atlanta Broadcast Institute in Norcross, Ga.
Today, Johnson’s energy is derived from, “working with students, giving back to young people, reaching back and putting others first… just like my mother did with me.
“Teaching is my joy, my pleasure. Young people need so much help. My past might be the hook that draws an initial reaction, but focusing our attention on the generation ahead, and the fact that dreams are possible, goals are attainable, if you have the education you need to be successful… that is what holds their attention.”
Johnson is the director of Digital Music, Video Production and Entertainment Business Certificate Program and Continuing Education instructor at Clayton State University. For a man that has performed in Central Park, New York City’s Copacabana, Lincoln Center and the Apollo Theater, Johnson reports it is important to him that his legacy be, “motivating, encouraging, and educating people. That is my purpose. That is why I have been placed here.”
Clayton State University officials are reveling in the fact that Johnson, and his impressive industry past, has brought his talents to the University’s Morrow campus.
“We are very fortunate to have Stanley Johnson as part of Clayton State’s talented continuing education instructors,” explains Barton Bond, director of the Film and Digital Media Center at Clayton State. “Obviously he brings a unique perspective and unmatched experiences to the classroom. However, his passion and energy are what students identify with the most. Stanley offers great value to our program.”
Working with students, “some who never thought of stepping a foot on a college campus before they became involved in our program,” are Johnson’s favorite audience today.
“Once you capture a student’s attention, they will listen, and you can direct them,” he says. “I have been fortunate to have parents and young people alike tell me that my course at Clayton State was the most positive influence they have ever experienced. However that inspiring word about my teaching… my guidance… that is what I will remember the most.”
Johnson says he is constantly teaching his students about the hazards of being cautious.
“You cannot wait until you have it all together before you start,” Johnson states. “I started very young in the industry, long before I really knew much except that music is a universal language. However, you cannot go it alone. You have to seek guidance and partnerships. Hold your head up, walk tall, all things are possible… to me, these aspects are as important as the many entrepreneur lessons that are involved in my instruction.”
Television, radio, music, film, and multi-media arts are all parts of Johnson impressive resume. Yet, his instruction is not based in the clouds with unrealistic agendas.
“Yes, we discuss publishing, royalties, agents, and media relations, but we also look at what you can utilize to make a professional appearance on a very small budget,” Johnson says. “Your final digital product does not have to be created on the newest software, the most expensive instruments. All the final product has to be is something you are proud of, something you want to share with others.”
Johnson also has two widely known cousins that have made their mark in the National Basketball Association. Seven-time NBA All-Star Tracey McGrady and Vince Carter of University of North Carolina and Toronto Raptor fame are part of Stanley’s extended family. Johnson is quick to point out that lessons he teaches at Clayton State reach beyond the scope of the entertainment and athletic worlds.
“Whether it is the entertainment business, the world of professional athletics, or any other professional field, to be successful you have to have a mentor, someone who can guide you, someone who can give you an honest assessment of your strengths and talents,” Johnson comments. “That does not mean the mentor always says that it is green grass and roses. However, my students respect me and they appreciate the roads that I have travelled. Those experiences have allowed me the opportunity to secure numerous internships, many professional positions for my students… but more importantly, my past has allowed me to serve as a mentor.”
The ultimate outcome is what keeps Johnson coming back to Clayton State while navigating his numerous other projects including a nonprofit foundation established in 2007 that serves as youth and adult training program. In December 2013, Johnson was recognized as an Outstanding Community Partner to the Atlanta Regional Workforce Board for giving youth opportunities to learn career skills and expand their academic, social, and civic achievements.
“When my students walk across the Spivey Hall stage upon completion of the program, it is all hugs and smiles. There are no handshakes there,” Johnson says. “That is what it is all about for me!”
Based on its numerous intricacies and wide-spread tentacles of success, his life might be difficult to capture in music and song… however, a recap of Stanley Johnson’s life makes for a very successful story involving making a difference in students’ lives… and that is the kind of entertainment and spotlight that Johnson stars in today.