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Meet Ms. Rocki, co-host of Juneteenth: The Movement 2022

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Madeleine C King
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Ms. Rocki, co-host of the good news webshow "North End Update," joined us for this year's taping of "Juneteenth: The Movement at xBk." She's got a new children's book in the works.

Joshalyn Hickey Johnson, also known as “Ms. Rocki,” was born and raised in Waterloo. Her parents were a biracial couple who had difficult times in the 1950’s, and after her family moved to Iowa from Mississippi during The Great Migration, she is the 6th generation in her family to live in the predominantly Black North End district of Waterloo.

Rocki worked a very labor-intensive job for 30 years at a pump factory in Waterloo, but always felt like she wanted to do more. The timing didn’t seem right, however. She was making a decent income, and, it being 1977, it was at the forefront of the Women’s Lib movement. Rocki was getting equal pay as a result, a rarity at the time.

The desire to do more continued, however, and Rocki found herself inspired by Oprah and Martha Stewart. After quitting her job, Rocki turned to her best friend, Chaveevah Banks Ferguson, who owned a publishing company. Rocki had always wanted to write, so she wrote a story she hoped would benefit children of families who were like her own. The book, “Good Morning, Lovey,” did well, so she wrote another one.

Then she started to paint. Oil on canvas, landscape paintings, exploring other avenues of creativity.

Recently, though, after a spate of negativity and bad actors in her community, Rocki decided she wanted to promote the good things about Waterloo, the town she grew up in and knew had positive things about it. Not just the distortions of social media that didn’t feel right to her, that didn’t feel like her city. The churches, the clubs, the organizations that meet and bring positivity to Waterloo.

Rocki and Chaveevah (who is an artist as well) began to go live on Facebook on Fridays, with a show they created, North End Update. They talk about the good things happening in Waterloo and the Cedar Valley area, and have tough conversations about race. The show blew up for the two friends, and the attention has given Rocki other writing opportunities.

She’s currently working on another children’s book, the story of Susan Clark, the first African-American woman to integrate schools in Iowa.