No doubt, Aunt Kiva kept me from getting fired by The Commercial Appeal

COMMENTARY

DALLAS — In May 1996, I was one of a dozen college journalists around the country invited to participate in a three-month-long internship for The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

TEAM PLAYER --- Kiva Johnson, a Memphis East High graduate who died Tuesday night as a result of a car crash in Southeast Memphis, contributed greatly to the journalism career of MemphiSport senior writer Andre Johnson.

TEAM PLAYER — Kiva Johnson, a Memphis East High graduate who died Tuesday night as a result of a car crash in Southeast Memphis, contributed greatly to the journalism career of MemphiSport senior writer Andre Johnson.

For me, it was a monumental opportunity, a dream come true, considering my byline and stories were about to be published frequently in my hometown newspaper.

But within an hour after arriving for my first day at The CA, my internship was placed in serious jeopardy after then-executive sports editor, John Stamm, learned that I did not have a car.

“How can you possibly get around the city to cover your assignments without wheels?” he asked me as I sat seemingly intimidated and dejected in his fifth-floor office.

Luckily for me, Mr. Stamm allowed me to work from the newsroom my first full week and demanded that I “get wheels” within seven days.

That The Commercial Appeal was paying me somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 a week, I managed to put a down payment on a brand new vehicle by the end of my first week on the job.

FAMILY AFFAIR --- Kiva's children, Mariah and Markeem, pose alongside their father, Marlon Johnson. Marlon was the best man in MemphiSport NBA reporter Andre Johnson's wedding in October 2005.

FAMILY AFFAIR — Kiva’s children, Mariah and Markeem, pose alongside their father, Marlon Johnson. Marlon was the best man in MemphiSport NBA reporter Andre Johnson’s wedding in October 2005.

During my summer break from the University of Tennessee at Martin, I stayed at the residence of my favorite uncle, Marlon Johnson, and his new bride, Kiva. Kiva, in fact, made sure I got to and from the newspaper the first week, this after months removed from having given birth to her first child, Mariah.

Tuesday night, Kiva died as a result of a horrific car crash in Southeast Memphis.

News of her death comes just one day before the sixth anniversary of the passing of my grandfather, Edward Johnson, Sr., who died hours after my beloved Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to capture their 17th world title.

Hours before writing this column, I mentioned in a social media post that it would be virtually difficult to produce any sportswriting today, given the devastating phone call I fielded in North Dallas Wednesday morning regarding my aunt’s tragic and untimely death.

I’ve since had a change of heart.

For starters, Kiva would have wanted to me to do my job. By and large, she have demanded that I exhibit my journalistic passion to the best of my ability, something about which I learned firsthand during my summer audition for The Commercial Appeal 18 years ago.

DADDY'S GIRL --- Marlon poses with his daughter, Markeeva. Kiva leaves behind three children.

DADDY’S GIRL — Marlon poses with his daughter, Markeeva. Kiva leaves behind three children.

With my much-anticipated internship  suddenly hanging in the balance, it was my aunt who essentially helped salvage my job.

Surely, such a summer-long dress rehearsal — which ultimately gave way to a second internship in May 2000 and my subsequent hiring as a full-time staffer by The Commercial Appeal three months later — was a slam dunk, or sorts, considering my journalism tenure has afforded me to cover the NBA, to attend shootarounds and All-Star Games, to attend pregame and postgame news conferences, to interact with and write about the best basketball players on the planet.

For six years and counting.

Conversely, in assessing a professional sportswriting career that spans nearly 14 years, no doubt the huge assist was obviously handed out by my aunt Kiva who, in estimation, saved my job as a college intern long before my career ever evolved into what it has become.

Which is to say it is only befitting that I borrow two familiar, fervent words uttered recently by Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant.

That is, Kiva, you are the “real MVP.”

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, email him at memphisgraduate@yahoo.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

Comments

  1. Antonico Thomas says:

    This was a very nice read. Very proud of you. This was heartfelt. You are in my prayers. Be strong and keep up the great work.

  2. Robia Wilson says:

    This is beautiful!!! Kiva was an inspiration in herself, I found this out just knowing her for a very short period in my life! I was a 2013/2014 classmate at Vatterott College Cosmo program and we just graduated June 6, 2014! That day I’ll never forget, she hadn’t made it yet and we were lining up to walk in and everybody was like where’s Kiva and behold she walked in and her smile lit up the place. I felt a touch of relief, It just wouldn’t be right to finish this with her, she worked to hard and went through so much just to get this far! Kiva was a mother before she was anything else, she would come in to our classroom every day and speak with a bright smile even if she didn’t feel like it! Then that evening she would have long sessions of conversation with us…..she was hilarious at times! But when her daughter calls her to pick her up from school, she was like let me go get my child!! I found out she was also a good friend, Kiva was always helping somebody, suggesting her advice and her kindness! I’m going to end this here, I can go on and on! Kiva Johnson you will be truely missed!
    Love Robia “RO” Wilson
    Vatterott COSMO C/O 2014

  3. Tommerria L. Hearn says:

    This was a wonderful tribute to no doubt an angel in disguise. My prayers to you and your family.

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