Chronically Under Touched

In this talk, Aaron Johnson takes on the tender topic of deep human connection, using three principles that he has used to work with the Chronically UnderTouched black male body in America.

One of the first practices is that of listening. Aaron has found that when opening up the emotional and physical nest of safe/brave space for black male bodes, listening with your whole body is a necessity. Listening is not just a casual practice, but a way of building foundation for needed connection and mutual seeing.

The second practice Aaron speaks on is connection with the earth and singing. The singing he describes is not the kind that occurs in a performance or as a performer, but as a means to see each other. Singing as a way to hold each other’s hearts with voice vulnerability. Singing while feet and hands are in the earth through activities like building earthen structures are methods that Aaron and the CUT Project use on a regular basis to preserve practices that the world outside has a hard time offering black people. With a desire to make tender platonic touch between two cis black men “Googleable,” this final practice comes from a mantra that came to Aaron through his work with a particular mentee: “Hugging, holding, snuggling is a life saving act.”

Realizing the improvement of one’s mental health, a connectedness to village one can feel through a sustained practice around touch, Aaron holds the beauty and power of how grounded touch can save lives. Aaron invites us all to connect with touch, to build with the earth, and to sing with the with the vulnerability of humans who desire to be close to each other in the entire process. Aaron takes the time to hold the stories of black people around homophobia, transphobia, internalized racism, and those that are Chronically UnderTouched. Because oppression is a part of historical and present American culture, the long term impact of those trauma stories should be acknowledged and held as a map for our collective healing.

Aaron Johnson practices and invites various methods of moving through these stories, such as the communal listening ear, sound healing, meditation, and closeness to the earth. He has facilitated over fifty workshops that required multiple hours of professional speaking and engaging with the audience. He has been a keynote speaker for events with well over a hundred attendees. He performed with a professional music group for over 25 years. As cofounder of Grief to Action, he facilitated small intimate groups around grief and loss. He has been the keynote speaker at events in the US and internationally, speaking in front of crowds of 400 people plus. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

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