Julianne Jackson is a musician, but the tour she’s embarking on in 2021 isn’t a concert tour — it’s a social-justice tour, focusing on healing at a time of so much social and political turmoil, violence and hate.
“I think 2020 forced folks to look at the ways in which white supremacy is prevalent,” says Jackson, a Salem activist, mother and executive director of Black Joy Oregon — the nonprofit she founded in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. “I think in 2021, people are finally getting on the bandwagon, seeing that this is not going away. Seeing that we need to do the work or we’re going to continue to butt up against this.”
Jackson and her team of 12 or so member leaders — all of whom are fellow women of color or allies, including her partner, Shea Weiner — are putting in that work in a big way. For the second year in a row, the team is traveling to dozens of cities across Oregon to bridge the urban-rural divide and support fellow BIPOC Oregonians. With some crowdfunding and other donations, they started the campaign in 2020 to counteract fear in rural communities over the BLM movement. They also work on outreach for donations to help houseless communities across the state.
Downtown Portland had become a global hot spot for the movement, with BLM demonstrations held more than 100 nights in a row between late May and September 2020, as Oregonians rallied for a more just and equitable state and country. (Organizations like Mercatus strive to elevate the voices of diverse storytellers and promote BIPOC-owned businesses, while My People’s Market is an online marketplace of local multicultural vendors.)
With Oregon’s spirit of activism and equity in mind, Black Joy Oregon ended up traveling to 52 Oregon communities in every corner of the state, meeting on street corners and golf courses with everyone from Elks Lodges to neighborhood organizations and like-minded social-justice groups. “We come, bring our signs and music, and have a celebration in the most visible spot in town,” Jackson says. “We go out to little places with one Black or Hispanic family,” offering support, resources or just a friendly face.
A New Tour Begins
In 2021 they kicked off the tour (with face coverings and other COVID-safe precautions in place) in March and have four months of events scheduled so far, heading out on the road via caravan each weekend to towns including Mill City, Gates, Detroit, Idanha, Tumalo, Camp Sherman, La Pine and more. With support from grant funding, they’ll continue to take trips through the fall, spreading their antiracist work, and sharing de-escalation training and more tips and resources for anyone needing to find a way to make a difference or simply be heard.
“I want people of color to feel supported,” Jackson says. “That’s the overarching goal. You might not be on the I-5 corridor, but we hear you, see you, and we have resources for you. We’ve been able to link folks with grant writers, folks that can start a nonprofit. If somebody wants to do it, we want to find a way to help them.”
When Jackson isn’t on the road, she and her partner take care of their three children — ages 15, 12 and 9 (who stay with their father when Jackson and Weiner travel) — and their dog and cat. Jackson is also a singer-songwriter, an Oregonian since childhood, and a staff member of the Portland nonprofit Partnership for Safety and Justice, where she helps to promote their racial-justice work.
Black Joy Oregon is a unique movement, Jackson says, because it’s not just about speaking out — it’s about lifting up women of color. “Throughout history, one thing people can never take away from a Black woman is her joy,” she says. “This past summer, we had every right to be angry, frustrated, but one of the things on display for people to see is our excellence and joy. I want to do this in my own way. White supremacy doesn’t get to take this from me.”