Johnniqua Charles is, by her own admission, not super Instagram- or Twitter-savvy. So when a video of her being detained on Feb. 5 by security guard Julius Locklear outside Diamonds Gentlemen’s Club in Dillon, South Carolina, for trying to reenter to retrieve her purse went viral, she didn’t ― and still hasn’t ― exactly wrapped her head around it.
If you haven’t seen the “Lose Yo Job” video yet, apologies in advance for getting Charles’ words, now remixed into earworms by DJs all over the internet, stuck in your head for the foreseeable future:
“At first I brushed it off, I didn’t want to pay attention to it because I thought my family would be embarrassed by it,” Charles told HuffPost on the phone last week. Charles, who made a point of saying has always been in touch with her family, not just since the video came out, said it was her sister Andrea who had a better understanding of its impact.
“She knew this was my moment,” Charles said. “She didn’t want other people besides me benefiting off of the video.”
In the original clip, Charles questions why the officer is detaining her (“for nothing,” according to the lyrics, but, more specifically, for attempting to reenter the club after being asked to leave twice, according to Locklear’s interview with BuzzFeed). It’s been dubbed a protest anthem and it’s catchy as all hell, but for Charles, it offers another, deeper message.
“Know your rights,” she said. “Understand your rights. Don’t take the route I took every time, but I knew my rights. In that moment I was pissed but I just wanted him to understand that he really couldn’t detain me. And also, everyone should just loosen up a bit more. Do a little dance. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious.”
Charles stresses that she has no ill will toward Locklear, and in fact praised him for his handling of the situation.
“Even though he detained me for nothing, he’s an example of how you handle a situation like that,” she said. “He is an example to cops who have been in the game for years. I wasn’t being out of control but I was agitating him and he wasn’t even agitated. With another cop it probably would have been a situation where it would have been fatal, something like that. Other cops can really learn from him.”
Charles says she has been blown away by seeing signs with her likeness and hearing her words chanted at protests, and is clear on what she, like so many others, want for the future. “Justice and equality,” she said. “In order to make the world a better place there must be justice, especially when the evidence is seen by the entire world.”
Charles, who struggles with addiction, told HuffPost the video went viral at the right time ― not only for her personally but for the world.
“In the midst of protests over police brutality, with an election coming up when Trump is getting ready to lose his job, it happened in the right moment,” she said. “And it’s been a breakthrough for me in my addiction, no one understands how much this is changing my life in a lot of ways, emotionally and mentally. Knowing I can take care of my son ― I have before ― but I haven’t always been the mother I can be, and now I can be.”
GoFundMe fundraisers and other efforts have been made to assist Charles and her family, and Charles marveled at the fact that now if her son wants something (right now he wants a trampoline), she is able to buy it for him. But she said more than that, she is most impacted by the very personal reactions she continues to hear.
“When people write me and say I changed their day or made the world smile ― I’m not too fond of the fame part ― but people saying I changed their day warms my heart,” she said.
And those whose days have been made by the video are wide-reaching, including singer Fantasia, who holds a special place in Charles’ family.
“We’ve been listening to her and following her story for a long time because my mom is a Fantasia fanatic,” Charles said. “She does these segments and at the end she was dancing and singing to my song. That was big.”