Taking place Sunday, June 19, 2022 from 1 - 5 p.m. at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids, the second annual Justice 4 All Juneteenth Jam is a free, family-friendly event with a focus of celebrating Black art, entertainment, culture and experience.
The event 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 those who were enslaved were now free.
Event attendees could expect to enjoy live performances by local artists and DJs, games for kids, delicious dishes from Black-owned food vendors and products from Black-owned businesses, information tables and an art showcase.
Julius Rogers, organizer of the Juneteenth Jam and owner of apparel company Justice 4 All, was inspired to create the event in 2021 after witnessing how the events of 2020 exacerbated and partially exposed the perpetual injustices and inequities that continue to impact Black and Brown communities.
"I have been trying to navigate a multitude of emotions surrounding all of the incredible injustices that have been taking place," Rogers said. "Trying to figure out the right outlet for my mixed bag of feelings has been one of the most challenging tasks. Any optimism that I find has most often been met with equal or greater pessimism."
During these times, Rogers explained, it can be very tempting to slip into a space of despair and hopelessness. But he then thinks back on the words of the great American author and activist, James Baldwin:
"I can't be a pessimist because I am alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter. So, I am forced to be an optimist. I am forced to believe that we can survive, whatever we must survive."
"So just as my ancestors did before me, I will survive what I must survive," Rogers said. "Emancipation for Black citizens in the United States of America was not willingly given—it was fought for, and won. So, I believe it is our duty as American citizens to celebrate Juneteenth as a true day of freedom for all. We invite you join us 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.