Terrell "TJ" Johnson, a 2013 Alt.Sem graduate of the ITC Theological Seminary (Photo by Front Porch Alliance).

Terrell "TJ" Johnson, a 2013 Alt.Sem graduate of the ITC Theological Seminary (Photo by Front Porch Alliance).

Terrell "TJ" Johnson

President/CEO Wake Up Youth Foundation


At the age of 19, “TJ” Johnson (former gangster, kingpin drug dealer) was facing a 35-year to life prison sentence for drug trafficking.  During his incarceration, he felt a great need to share “real talk” amongst citizens in various communities.  He felt an urgency to provide vital dialogue with all youth that he encountered.

After his release, Mayor W. W. Herenton appointed Mr. Johnson as the Prevention and Intervention Coordinator for the City of Memphis/Juvenile Violence Abatement Project (JVAP). Under the direction of Dr. Rita Dorsey,  Mr. Johnson (the first ex-felon to be hired by the Memphis Police Department) successfully launched an aggressive anti-violence initiative with Memphis City Schools. 

During his tenure, Mr. Johnson spoke to thousands of youth.  Since then, Mr. Johnson has taken his message to 95% of Memphis City Schools, as well as across the U.S., providing prevention and intervention strategies.  His mission is to help create an “action plan” of survival for youth who would otherwise be on a path of destruction.  In a world where the rules are constantly changing, Mr. Johnson believes our young people need to hear from someone who has been where they are now.  He believes that today’s youth need to hear his real- life testimony of how he transcended above his environment and became a successful family man, businessman and a well-respected and prolific speaker.

Mr. Johnson maintains a plethora of accomplishments, including serving as the keynote speaker at the 28th & 29th Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus Criminal Justice Panel, where he voiced his concerns about the state of crime and violence that plagues our youth. Mr. Johnson message reaches many genres, reaching numerous local, regional, and national churches who are part of JVAP’s faith-base initiative.  Mr. Johnson also served as Community Liaison for the City of Memphis Second Chance Program; and he is a corporate relation’s spokesman on RE-ENTRY as well as an Executive Board member.

Mr. Johnson is the President/CEO of the Wake-Up Youth Foundation.  In November 2008, the History Channel interviewed him for their “Gangland” series. He has been featured on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Praise The Lord on TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network) and several other syndicated radio and talk shows. He has spoken at several local and out-of-state colleges such as University of Memphis, Christian Brothers, Lemoyne Owen, Rhodes College; Dyersburg State, Dyersburg, TN; Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), Murfreesboro, TN; Ole Miss University in Oxford, MS; and St. Johns University in Philadelphia, PA.  He also works with the Governor’s Office in Nashville, TN as an In-Service Facilitator addressing Practitioners on Juvenile Justice. Mr. Johnson Is a National Prevention and Intervention Specialist. He is certified by The OJJDP and the National Center for Youth issues.

In 2005, Mr. Johnson became the 1st ex-offender to be appointed as an official member of the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus Criminal Justice Panel.  In January 2005, he received the Humanitarian Award in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  In November 2006, he spoke on “Life After Incarceration” for the Jordan Foundation at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  In December 2006, Mr. Johnson spoke on “Healthy Marriages After Incarceration” for White House Officials in Washington D.C.  On January 15, 2007, he was presented with the Youth Service Award in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on behalf of Rainbow Push Coalition. In January 2009, he was appointed National Spokesperson for the National Exhoodus Council (NEC), a coalition of criminal justice experts from around the country.  On February 24, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., he presented to the Congressional Black Caucus the national proposal for Urban Peace, Jobs, and RE-ENTRY initiatives. Mr. Johnson is an operational and strategic problem-solving community advocate. He has prepared, managed, implemented and evaluated external and internally multi-agencies cooperative public safety programs. He serves as a liaison for federal, state, local justice and municipal agencies. Mr. Johnson is an international Chaplain for law enforcement. He is also a Certified Master Trainer for the “World Needs a Father” initiative. He recently completed the FBI Certified, Community Relations Executive Seminar training for the United States Department of Justice (Federal Bureau of Investigations).

In addition to the many accolades and awards received, none are more rewarding than his call to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Mr. Johnson is the Pastor of Wake- Up Ministries in Memphis, Tennessee and a 2013 graduate of the Alternative Seminary (Alt.Sem) Certificate Program from the ITC- School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia.