It’s A Wallet by Calvin Johnson


Original Art
Calvin Johnson
36″ x 36″


It’s A Wallet – Amadou Diallo
by Calvin Johnson
36″ x 36″
Original on Canvas

In the early morning of February 4, 1999, Diallo was standing near his building of residence after returning from a meal. At about 12:40 a.m., officers Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss, and Richard Murphy were looking for a serial rapist in the Soundview section of the Bronx. While driving down Wheeler Avenue, the police officers observed Diallo standing in front of his building entrance looking up and down the street. They stopped their unmarked car intending to question Diallo. When they ordered Diallo to show his hands, he ran up into the building entrance and reached into his pocket to produce what turned out to be his wallet.
Assuming Diallo was drawing a firearm, one officer fired as he was walking up the stairs. The recoil of the gun caused the officer to fall backwards. The other three officers, believing their partner was shot, fired their weapons. The four officers fired 41 shots with semi-automatic pistols, hitting Diallo 19 times, fatally wounding him. Eyewitness Sherrie Elliott stated that the police continued to shoot even though Diallo was already down.

Calvin’s lifelong  love of art was first nurtured in a home filled with creativity flowing from his grandparents, parents and siblings. It grew immensely with his introduction of arts and crafts projects in the Philadelphia Public School system. As a first grade student, Calvin was assigned to design his very first mural; a colorful chalk-rendered zoo motif on the old-school blackboard partitions in the back of the classroom. The process continued with several inspiring art teachers whom Calvin encountered throughout his primary school years, Saturday morning art classes and summer art camps.

His passion was refined at Millersville State College, where he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1981. It was at M.S.C. that Calvin was exposed to many mediums, but it was oil and acrylic painting that captured his heart. “I became enamored with the wonderful array of colors, the fun of exploring the different techniques of their application to the canvas and developing an inner peace within myself that painting, for me, is truly a joyous discipline.”

After ten years of meaningful yet low paying freelance projects, Calvin was faced with self-doubt, slowly coming to the realization that he may never become successful with his talents.

In 1990, those negative forces were expelled when an opportunity to become the summer camp art instructor at the historic Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club in his Germantown, Pennsylvania neighborhood. Through this new position, Calvin was renewed and it became apparent to him that it was time to give back to those young artists in need of his instructional and creative energy. He instilled self-esteem in many, as well as empowering a sense of self-worth in the youths that encouraged them to utilize their gifts and make statements of who they were and what they wanted to achieve in life through art. “Like the singers, rappers, musicians or dancers that you see every day…brushstroke your feelings, beliefs, joys and pains on the canvas for all to see.”

After 11 years of inspiring and educating youths to pursue their dreams, Calvin left his artistic imprint throughout the facility (painting a new gym floor design in 1995 and an Egyptian wall mural in 2000), and resigned from W.B.G.C. to pursue his dreams in Los Angeles with his wife and best friend, Thea.

Calvin has continued his artistic odyssey in Los Angeles with countless hours at the easel in preparation for exhibitions at the Art in the Park annual shows, The Lankershim Gallery, the NAIMA Awards Show and various other community shows.