Memphis, TN | Owner, Kilowatt Entertainment Production Co.
B.B. Johnson is a queer African-American man living in Memphis, Tennesse in the year 2040. B.B. owns a large production company after starting in the entertainment scene as an event planner. The most he’s been involved with the Green New Deal is through his current role as the primary contractor for the Memphis arm of the National Carbon Neutral Celebration. He appreciates the wide-scale retrofitting effort of the city and talks about the happiness of collectively enhancing the built environment. He’s excited to create an inclusive environment similar to events he’s attended and concludes with touching on how various Green New Deal programs have contributed to his city. This takes place in 2040.
Interviewer: Hi B.B., how are you today?
B.B. Johnson: I’m doing great, have a lot going on but excited to know that as the primary contractor for the Memphis Carbon Neutral Celebration, we are only 6 months out from a great time. How are you?
Interviewer: I’m good and that sounds so interesting I’ll make sure to ask about it later in our conversation. For now, I wanted to hear about your perspective on the Green New Deal. So much has happened since it originally passed close to two decades ago, can you share your thoughts on some of the changes that have taken place?
"... I appreciate how we’ve been retrofitting thousands of buildings every year. Prior to the Green New Deal, many of our public schools didn’t have air conditioning or heat... Insane! That’s not a problem anymore though, our schools look great and feel great, all while remaining carbon neutral and keeping the city cooler as a whole...”
B.B. Johnson: I could have never imagined the pace at which the world would change under our feet, I mean, woah. The “Free the Mississippi” program has truly transformed the opportunities for enjoying the outdoors right by Memphis. Now, all you have to do to get in a great hike, have a family get-together, or go fishing is to head to the North or South edges of the waterfront and enter the new vast Mississippi Marshes. They’ve also got a tremendous Levee Work Camp Memorial wetland and education center only 2 stops from Memphis on the regional rail.
Another thing I appreciate is how we’ve been retrofitting thousands of buildings every year. Prior to the Green New Deal, many of our public schools didn’t have air conditioning or heat – I remember every year there were news stories about kids having to stay home because the temperature was too extreme. Insane! That’s not a problem anymore though, our schools look great and feel great, all while remaining carbon neutral and keeping the city cooler as a whole. I don’t have children of my own, but I’m excited that my niece and nephews are being educated in spaces that are designed for them to gain a quality education.
Interviewer: The retrofitting of school buildings is a really popular program, I hear people bringing it up a lot. Can you share some more personal experiences you’ve had with the Green New Deal?
B.B. Johnson: I’m always talking about retrofitting, it’s amazing what they can do with these buildings. After they retrofitted my apartment, I got central air, solar panels, and new windows that allow so much more light into my home. I love waking up in the morning and opening my shades to a room full of sunlight. Beyond my apartment being 70 degrees year-round, I feel a lot more connected to my community. Since we’re all kind of going through this together, I can walk around the neighborhood and see my friends working on their homes and businesses too. I can drive around the city and see the neighborhood improvements. I didn’t used to feel that way when I noticed new fancy things popping up in our neighborhood, but I love knowing that the rent and housing rules in Memphis that were dictated by the GND federal housing rules now mean that the people who have been living there will get to stay to enjoy those new places with no rent hikes. I mean, at least for me things are getting a lot better. Speaking personally, I have family members that sometimes struggled to find work and that’s not an issue anymore either. Not to sound selfish, but that federal jobs guarantee was a huge relief as I knew that I wouldn’t have to support my family as much as I used to. I’m always there for them, no matter what, but knowing that they’ll be more secure just takes a lot of weight off our shoulders as a family
Interviewer: You bring up a good point about the collective relief that people feel now. Financial stability, quality healthcare, good schools, these are all so important to creating a future we want to be a part of. Earlier you mentioned the National Carbon Neutral Celebration. Can you tell me about your role in organizing this event for Memphis and what it is?
B.B. Johnson: Definitely, I’m thrilled to have this opportunity. The government put out a request for a production company to manage the event logistics for the Memphis Carbon Neutral Celebration, a week-long event recognizing our achievement of net zero carbon as a country. My organization, Kilowatt Entertainment, won the contract so now we’re leading the team putting together a week-long celebration uplifting the fact that we are carbon-neutral! This is a dream opportunity for me. Yes the carbon-neutral part but more than anything being able to plan this event in my hometown! Throughout my life here in Memphis, I’ve been to almost every concert venue to learn about lighting, stage design, sound production, anything and everything that goes into having a great show. I want to combine that with the feeling I have at some of my favorite events and places like Dru’s, NYC Pride, and the Essence Festival. I want to create an atmosphere of joy, peace, safety, and community that I feel in those spaces for everyone that attends the Memphis Celebration.
Interviewer: I’m so excited for you. Based on our conversation, I can tell that you’re the right person to help lead this effort. Before we finish, do you have any last thoughts you’d like to share?
B.B. Johnson: I just want to mention is that I’m incredibly grateful to all the movement groups that have gotten us to this point. Our country has experienced so much devastation because we didn’t act quick enough to address climate change but the world we’re building now feels so much more hopeful than what we used to have. You remember when we used to argue about single-payer healthcare? When the federal minimum wage was $7.25 an hour? I’m so glad to be past that.
One more thing I want to note is that the Green New Deal has supercharged what we’re good at, making music. National arts funding has rocketed our entertainment scene into a place that we never thought we’d reach again. The Migration Support Program has funneled a lot of people to Memphis, so we’ve needed to expand our entertainment offerings and it’s done so much to restore the old feeling of the city. I love Memphis, I love the Green New Deal, and I’m excited for the future.