This weekend on June 19, 2021 is the first annual Justice 4 All Juneteenth Jam, held in honor of the Juneteenth holiday, which celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the U.S.
West Michigan Woman spoke with Julius Rogers, owner and organizer of Justice 4 All, LLC, about the celebration and the organization's mission.
Rogers, who is originally from Flint but has lived in Grand Rapids with his wife Misti and one-year-old daughter Kora since 2016, established his apparel company Justice 4 All in November 2020.
"The business' sole purpose is to challenge, provoke and disrupt America's post-racial fallacy in order to stimulate constructive and actionable dialog," Rogers said, emphasizing how 2020 exacerbated and partially exposed the perpetual injustices and inequities that continue to impact Black communities. "I had been trying to navigate a multitude of emotions surrounding all of this. So, I decided to channel my frustration and anger into creating shirt designs that help spread awareness on injustices and inequities impacting the Black and Brown communities in America."
Justice 4 All's first apparel collection, titled REDLINE, is dedicated to the Grand Rapids area and highlights HOLC (Home Owners Loan Corp.) redlining maps that aided in the inequitable lending practices targeted at Black communities following President FDR's New Deal in the 1930s. 10% of profits from the collection's sales are being donated to the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.
The events of 2020 are also what helped inspire Rogers to organize the first annual Juneteenth Jam.
"In 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, there was a movement by organizations to bring the Juneteenth holiday to the forefront of America's visibility," Rogers recalled. "It was very strange to see companies spontaneously (reactively) honoring an African American holiday for the very first time ever."
This brought Rogers to a place of realizing that West Michigan has countless celebrations throughout the year that celebrate diversity and culture—why can't there be another one?
"So I created one," he said.
The free event, being held June 19 at Ah-Nab-Awen Park in Grand Rapids from 1 – 5 p.m., is a celebration of African American culture, and pays homage to Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day. Why June 19? It was on June 19, 1865 that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
Event attendees will enjoy live performances and DJ's, community leader speakers, games for kids, Black-owned food and business vendors, and a graffiti art showcase. Rogers himself loves to DJ, produce music and dance in his spare time. He's also affiliated with Grand Rapids Hip Hop and Hope Dealers GR, assisting with hip hop related youth involvement activities. In addition to these efforts, Rogers also recently graduated from the Urban Core Collectives Transformational Leadership Program (Cohort 7) and is currently attending U of M - Flint to complete his MBA in Computer Information Systems.
"Ideally, my original idea for this event was very low key without a lot of stuff happening, but as people started to hear about the message behind the event, it started to grow," Rogers explained, emphasizing how this family-friendly event is for anyone and everyone.
The city of Grand Rapids will also be at the event to unveil an official proclamation honoring Juneteenth as a city-wide day of celebration—an action that Rogers sees as an important step in the right direction.
"Mayor Bliss and the city of Grand Rapids coming together to celebrate Juneteenth in my opinion is huge," Rogers said. "I believe you have to start with the definition of a proclamation: a public or official announcement, especially one dealing with a matter of great importance. By definition, this means that not only the Mayor herself, but the City of Grand Rapids recognizes the importance of celebrating this holiday."
But we can't stop there.
"It must be understood that although these proclamations are very much appreciated, they are merely starting points on the necessary journey to true equity for Black Americans," Rogers said. "Emancipation for Black citizens in the United States of America was not willingly given, it was fought for and won. I believe it is our duty to celebrate Juneteenth as a true day of freedom for all."
Rogers hopes the West Michigan community will take advantage of having an opportunity like the Juneteenth Jam to come out for what truly is a day of celebration.
"Black communities are constantly battling racism in one way, shape or form on a daily basis," he said. "I wanted to make this event a day where at least for a short period of time, we can celebrate Black art, entertainment, culture, history and experience.
"I invite you to join Justice 4 All on a journey that may not be easy, but is profoundly necessary in order to continue moving forward."
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
Photos courtesy of Julius Rogers; Justice 4 All.