Busta’s Person of the Week: Q&A with Dr. LaQuoia about overcoming racism, transformational changes, and achieving peace and joy

Busta’s Person of the Week: Q&A with Dr. LaQuoia about overcoming racism,  transformational changes, and achieving peace and joy
March 28
12:41 2023

By Busta Brown

Happy God’s Greatest Creation Month! I say that because I truly believe there’s no greater creation than a woman. My Person of the Week is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about my comment. Depending on what time of day you’re reading this, grab a cup of coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner, and enjoy this empowering, inspiring and informative Q & A with Dr. LaQuoia Johnson. 

Q: Share with us a couple of trials you’ve overcome that molded you into this phenomenal woman you are today. One as a child and one as an adult.

“Childhood trial: I grew up attending a private Christian academy as a child. This experience shaped my life in profound ways I never understood until 2020. There I received a firm biblical foundation in an academically challenging environment. However, it was in the Christian academy that I first learned that I was Black and would be treated differently. I experienced racial trauma at the age of nine years old and it continued until I was 12 years old. In the end, I was begging my parents to leave. As a result, I attended public school for two years where I was exposed to a more diverse population of students and had the opportunity to attend the Shaw University Environmental Apprenticeship program. This STEM-based program, before it was called STEM, exposed me to a world I never knew existed and it became one of the reasons I decided to major in biology and attend an HBCU.

“Adult Trial: One of the greatest trials I’ve had to overcome was leading in a hostile and toxic work environment under the authority of racist leaders. And while I know that is a strong statement, it is true. After achieving academic success, building a solid career with excellent performance, I had checked all of the boxes. Yet, still I found that I could not out-degree racism. I was working 60+ hours per week, feeling exhausted, frustrated, depressed, and downright resentful at the lack of respect I received. As a person, I was devalued, and my gifts were exploited. It was until I was almost at rock bottom and considered giving up on life altogether that I made the decision that something had to change. I decided that I was the one that had to change. So, in 2020 I decided to choose joy and peace over remaining in an environment that was killing me mentally, spiritually, and physically. As a result, now I am living my best life. I enjoy everything I do. I’ve never been so fulfilled in my life than I am at this moment in time and this phase of life.”  

Q: What did your parents instill in you to help you overcome life’s challenges?

“My parents instilled in me strong Christian values. And in this phase of life where my brother and I are juggling the care of my elderly parents who suffer from a plethora of medical conditions including dementia, I am always reminded of Ephesians 6:1-3. We have lived a life in obedience to our parents and now we get to honor them in their days of transition.” 

Q: Tell us about Rxacism. 

“‘Rxacism’ is a term I made up as it relates to how racism manifests inside the pharmacy profession. My first book was published in October of 2021 entitled “How Rxacism Manifests: Inside The Small World of Pharmacy.” You could say this was my healing journey. Interwoven throughout this book is a glimpse into my early childhood, why I chose my career path, and the twists and turns of those experiences that culminated in me walking away from my six-figure leadership position on Sept. 11, 2020. Rx is the national symbol for pharmacy, so it’s sort of a pun on the profession. The ‘x’ in racism is very much noticeable just like the ‘covert’ racism Black professionals endure on a daily basis, not only in the pharmacy profession, but in corporate America in general. We all know it’s there, but it’s so little that we can either overlook it or give someone ‘grace’ enough to believe that they just made a minor mistake. But the “X” in Rxacism was intentional, just as intentional as the actions of some coworkers, colleagues, and people who call themselves your ‘ally and friend.’” 

Q: As a life coach, what transformational changes do you see most humans need?

“I’ve come to learn that the four keys to LIFE as the Holy Spirit has given it to me are: Love, Inspiration, Faith, and Effort. You have to love who you are AND love what you do daily. Next, you have to be inspired AND be an inspiration daily. After that, you have to put Faith over fear; and last but certainly not least, you have to put in some Effort because the journey will not be easy. Most humans fail at Step 1, they don’t love their authentic selves because they have not freed themselves of the labels and expectations of others. Consequently, they continue to do things they do not love to do daily for the sake of trying to appease other people. When we truly begin to love ourselves and do what we love in the service of others, your life will be transformed.” 

Q: On Sept. 11, 2020, you chose Peace over a Paycheck and Destiny over Complicity. Explain what you meant and how this can help us grow. 

“People hear it all the time that you can’t buy peace, but I found that this is not a mere expression. Rather, I live this phenomenon daily. Even while I am enduring one of the greatest challenges in my life journey, taking care of my elderly parents, I also recognize that I wouldn’t give this life up for my best day on my last job in corporate America. There isn’t an amount of money that would make me want to resume my role in the department I walked out of. The day I chose to bet on myself was the proudest moment of my life. It was the most empowering feeling to walk away from it all with my head held high, with all the dignity and grace that God had blessed me with. 

“When you know that you know you are a child of God, you know that you are destined for greatness. And the company I worked for was not going to let me be great! To continue to accept being disrespected, exploited, and devalued means that you are complicit in the behaviors. This will ultimately crush your spirit and affect your health and well-being in the same way it affected mine. 

“We all get to write our own story and even change the narrative if we so desire. So, while for others, Sept. 11 is a day many people in America memorialize an attack on our democracy, I celebrate it as my Freedom Day from Corporate America.”

Q: What is a GRACE Culture?

“GRACE Culture is a leadership development curriculum for growth-minded leaders of all ages and across all industries. It was designed for leaders who desire personal growth so they are well equipped to navigate the changing cultural landscape and lead in a way that fosters inclusion and accountability. GRACE is an acronym that stands for Growth mindset, Respect, Accountability, Courageous conversations, and Equity. 

“I approach leadership from the philosophy of Dr. Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” Leaders who practice a Grace Culture use the GRACE framework to hold themselves and others accountable in an environment where everyone has the opportunity to grow together. 

“The Grace Culture workshop has been given for school-aged youth as young as 10 years old, churches and religious groups, conferences, and is accredited for continuing education credit for pharmacists and technicians.”

Q: You wrote that corporate America is killing Black women. Explain. 

“Black women are overworked, underpaid, and undervalued in corporate America and on a much grander scale than any other ethnic group of women. Black women are often the victims of microaggressions, but often must walk around suppressing their voice for fear of being labeled as aggressive or angry. As a result of these suppressed emotions and fear of being blackballed, the psychological stress manifests into physical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and so many more chronic diseases.”

Q: I loved your 5 steps on addressing racial slurs at work with Grace. Share those five steps with our readers. 

1. Ask: how do I need to grow from this situation? No matter the situation, we get to grow through what we go through. There is a lesson to be learned, but you have to pause, take a breath, and ask the question. Sit with it for a while before responding. God may be trying to teach you something, or in my case, reveal to me what was really going on in my environment. This was my sign that my time was up! 

2. Ask yourself what you are feeling and if what is happening right now is respectful to you and/or the other person. You have to become self-aware enough to know your own triggers. “Respect” is subjective. What is respectful to you, may not be respectful to another person and vice versa. When thinking about respect, we must elevate our thinking to the ‘Platinum Rule.’ Treat others the way they want to be treated. If someone is not treating you the way you want to be treated, it is your job to clarify the expectations. 

3. Ask how you will hold yourself and the other person accountable. Accountability is a two-way street. You can’t walk around being mad at a person when they don’t know you are mad or even that they did something offensive. This is why ‘Accountability’ is so important in applying GRACE. You have to be willing to address issues head on because we show people how to treat us. 

4. Be willing to have courageous conversations. I remember the first time I heard the racial slur behind closed doors with my leader. I was shocked, horrified, and confused all at the same time. So, I too gave a pass. No one would believe me, she’d cry and/or I would have a target on my back. And believe it or not, in the three and a half years I led in this department, all three of those events happened. I did not believe, she cried, and I walked around with a target on my back. And all of these things may happen to anyone else who decides to stand up for what is respectful language and behavior. But if we change nothing, nothing changes. If you are unwilling to exercise courage to have the conversation, you are no longer a victim, you are a volunteer. 

5. Create Equity by educating yourself and others when you speak. No longer is ‘good intentions’ enough. The Bible says that people perish for lack of knowledge. And some people don’t have the knowledge they need. So, in your practice of Grace, leave the individual with something they can take with them to deepen their understanding of your experience of them. There are a plethora of books, articles, podcasts, and videos you can share with people who do not share your life experience. In this way, you will invite them to take the Grace Culture Journey with you by developing a mindset for Growth. 

“You can practice this same 5-step method with just about any situation. But when you practice, you have to be willing and open to receive other’s feedback as well as their experience of you. I use this method daily as I think through situations to check my self-awareness.”

Q: When I tested positive for COVID -19, the clinic I went to prescribed Paxlovid. At that time, I had never heard of the treatment before. So, I asked my doctor and other friends in the medical field if it was safe. The reviews were mixed. Educate us on Paxlovid treatment and who is at high risk of disease progression.

“Paxlovid is one of two oral antivirals authorized for the treatment of COVID-19. Two-thirds of North Carolina is still at risk for severe disease. Many of the diseases that place people in a high-risk category are diseases that impact people of color disproportionately, such as diabetes, heart disease including high-blood pressure, asthma/COPD, and obesity. The only non-race/ethnic category is age above 50. What people need to know is that COVID-19 may still be deadly for some people and that treatment is available if you are sick, but it has to be taken within the first five days of illness. 

“It excites me that as the communication and training manager for the North Carolina COVID-19 Testing and Therapeutics team, I get to educate health care providers and community-based leaders so they are best prepared to serve historically marginalized populations throughout North Carolina daily. This is a role that was created specifically for me and is my testimony that when you take a leap of faith and trust God, he will open up a door that only you can walk through.”

Q: What are the three reasons why Black patients aren’t getting Paxlovid and what pharma can do about it?  

“Three reasons Black patients aren’t getting oral antivirals are lack of awareness, lack of access to medical providers, and past negative experiences with the health care system. 

Q: “Grow, Thrive, & Exit what doesn’t serve you.” Explain this powerful quote. 

”I never expected that walking away from my job in 2020 would bring me so much peace, joy, and abundance. I learned what grace was when I weathered the storm. My mission now is to help leaders practice a Grace Culture so we all have equal opportunity to grow and thrive. However, I am a realist and recognize that there are some leaders and organizations that value performative metrics over true accountability. And for those reasons, I am making it my personal mission to teach ‘melanated’ women such as myself how to grow, thrive, and exit corporate America. My story is an example of how you can quit your job AND grow your career.” 

My phenomenal Person of the Week is Dr. LaQuoia Johnson. “When your passion and purpose intersect with your job, you find joy. When you have joy, a job doesn’t feel like work anymore. Work becomes a source of inspiration.”

For more info or to contact Dr. LaQuoia Johnson, visit, LinkedIn, or 

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