Baldwin woman, 80, was first to successfully fight unfair housing in Great Neck
Baldwin resident Johnnie Walker, 80, shared with News 12 her long, impactive history in the community, the work she did to advance opportunities for those discriminated against, and her hopes for the next generation.
Johnnie Walker says she first tore down a discriminative barrier in 1959. During her search for an apartment in Great Neck, she says she was told over the phone that an apartment was available, but when she arrived there were no apartments available for her to see.
Walker says she suspected she was being discriminated against, so she reached out to a friend who was a white, Jewish woman.
"I told her my story…She got the apartment. We had a lawsuit...I was the first one to win a lawsuit for unfair housing or discrimination in housing in Great Neck," said Walker.
Walker says that her experience with discrimination, led to her fighting for equal housing opportunities for others, through her work with the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County, other government organizations and the work she continues to do today with the National Council of Negro Women.
In 1994, Walker founded the Long Island Cross County Section of the National Council of Negro Women. She says the mission of the nonprofit organization is to lead, advocate and empower women of African descent, their families and communities.
Walker says she learned to be a leader in the organization from Dr. Dorothy Height, the civil rights-era and women's activist, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In addition, Height served for more than 50 years as president of the National Council of Negro Women.
"She explained everything to me," said Walker. "If Dr. Height hadn't done that, I don't think I would be a member."
Walker adds that one of her proudest accomplishments is getting young women involved in community service.
She also says she's is committed to civic education and ensuring people know exactly how government impacts their lives, such as when it comes to filling out the United States Census.
Walker's advice to the next generation is more of a challenge that she hopes people take her up on:
"Why aren't you running for Congress? Why aren't you running for the Senate? Why aren't you doing something that could fix the system?"