When Nicole Johnson found herself out of work because of the pandemic, she said she sat on her couch with a cup of tea and asked God what to do next.

Johnson said she then pitched an idea for a Black-focused talk radio show for a community radio station, CIOE-97.5FM, in Lower Sackville.

“I don’t know about radio, but I know that I have a heart for people,” Johnson said last week in an interview with the Examiner. “And I just focused on that and made that my main reason to develop a story, to pick the guests, and learn about them, and then talk about it with them on the show.”

“I met with the station owner Jim Robson, he listened to my pitch, and he talked, and he gave me an opportunity. And I ran with it.”

Black woman posed in front of a radio station promo poster.
Photo: Nicole Johnson

Johnson is now the host of A Seat at the Table, an hour-long interview program that airs Wednesday at 7pm on 97.5FM.

Since the show’s debut, Johnson has hosted a number of guests including, Russell Grosse, the executive director of the Black Cultural Centre and technical director at CIOE, James Downey, the owner and CEO of Blacktop Asphalt Paving Ltd., and his operations manager Gary Good, and Rev. Debbie Simmonds from East Preston United Baptist Church where Johnson is a member.

“There’s an old saying and a proverb in the scripture that says, ‘What good can come out of Nazareth?’” Johnson said. “But what good can come out of Preston? North, East, Lake Loon, Cherry Brook? Great things have and great things still are. And so that’s kind of where my head is. It’s like, changing that negative and celebrate and highlight the positive and all the great things that we do.”

“I’m a person who likes to watch people, see what they’re doing, how they invest, and how they overcome. And those are things that should definitely be heard and celebrated.”

Two Black ladies pose in front af a radio station promotional poster
A Seat at the Table host Nicole Johnson and former Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis. Photo: Nicole Johnson.

One of Johnson’s most recent guests was former Lieutenant Governor, Mayann Francis, who was Nova Scotia’s first African Nova Scotian to serve in that role.

On Johnson’s show, Francis talked about her upbringing in Whitney Pier, Cape Breton, and as a member of the African Orthodox church where her father was a clergyman.

She talked about her education and career background, her experience as Lieutenant Governor, her memoir, and children’s book, as well as some of the issues she feels are important present-day.

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Stories for future shows

Johnson is volunteer in her role as host of A Seat at the Table. She also works as a community specialist with the Halifax Public Libraries, with a specific focus on services and programs within the Preston township.

Johnson said she hopes to interview poet and author George Elliott Clarke, members of 902 Man Up about their work around local crime prevention, and her own grandmother who, in her 80s, went back to school.

“She has a great story,” Johnson said. “Back in her day, they raised families and they weren’t able to complete their education. But she loved education. She was always proud of being an educator. And so I want to share her story.”

Johnson’s most recent guest is local Black female entrepreneur, Tia Upshaw.

“And that’s another great story,” Johnson said. “A young lady who has turned her whole life around as a single mom, somebody who’s been incarcerated, and now has great success.”

Two Black ladies pose in front af a radio station promotional poster
A Seat at the Table host Nicole Johnson and entrepreneur Tia Upshaw. Photo: Nicole Johnson.

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A smiling Black man with a shaved head and wire rimmed glasses wears a headphone in a recording studio

Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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