Black Joy spreads its wings with plans for Salem community hub for people of color

Members of Black Joy Oregon pose for a photo under a mural in Yachats in August, 2020. (Courtesy/ Julianne Jackson)

Julianne Jackson recalls how Black Joy began its work last summer with volunteers standing on the streets in cities and towns throughout Oregon with the aim of raising awareness of Black communities in mostly white spaces.

What started as a grassroots initiative to give Black children positive role models, especially in more rural parts of the state, has now expanded its mission to providing a community hub for people of color in Salem.

Black Joy this month received a $50,000 grant from the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley to hire its first employee and pay for an office space.

Julianne Jackson, founder of Black Joy, said the office space in the Reed Opera House will become a community hub to help people of color to access resources they need.

Black Joy is planning on hosting resume writing workshops, benefit sign ups like for food assistance and recovery meetings for those struggling with addiction.

Jackson said the group will continue to work with community leaders of color.

“We’re just trying to really expand on the services that are being provided to BIPOC folks in this area,” said Jackson, using a catchall acronym used for Black, Indigenous and people of color.

On Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. a member of Black Joy, Amira Stanley, is organizing an event in Salem at 5090 Center St. N.E. to “celebrate Black experience through art, storytelling and activism” and take action to end white supremacy.

Registration is on EventBrite. The event is free, but there’s a GoFundMe to raise money for event supplies.

Jackson, who lives in Keizer, said the group started last August when a woman in Grants Pass approached Jackson about throwing an event highlighting the lack of exposure to Black people in rural parts of Oregon. Statewide, about 2% of Oregon’s population is Black.

The first stops on the tour were along the coast in Coos Bay and Florence. Members of the group stood alongside Highway 101 and waved signs and flags in front of the Coos Bay boardwalk.

Jackson said when they have events in different cities, usually staying about an hour at each location, they try to meet up with local activists.

She said the signs are never hostile. They say things like, “Black lives inspire. Black lives uplift. Black lives bring beauty.”

Jackson said they’ve received positive feedback after visiting more than 60 cities last year.

“Anytime you use the word ‘Black,’ people have something to say,” she said. “We have negative folks come up to us and say some ugly stuff. But by and large people love what we’re doing.”

Take for example one interaction from last summer.

“Just met a man in Florence that we thought was going to counter protest. Turns out he has two Black grandchildren and with tears in his eyes he told us thank you for standing for them. Yessss. That’s the business. That’s what’s up and what this tour is all about. Standing with other Black lives in space they aren’t celebrated!” a Black Joy post from Aug. 8 read.

In the brick and mortar, Jackson wants to provide a space where women of color can learn how to lead in their community. She has a team of 12 who help organize events for the nonprofit.

“When you’re doing the work you’re supposed to be doing, the universe provides,” Jackson said. “I’m going to continue to follow my intuition on that.”

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected].

BE PART OF OUR TEAM FOR SALEM’S BENEFIT: Accurate local information is vital for any community and that’s harder to come by in this day of “anyone can post anything” to social media. People in communities without trained journalists working for them don’t have accurate, trusted information. Help Salem avoid that fate – join in putting fuel in the tank of Salem Reporter to keep it growing, going strong. Here’s how:

SUBSCRIBE: A monthly digital subscription starts at $5 a month.

GIFT: Give someone you know a subscription.

ONE-TIME PAYMENT: Contribute any amount and you support giving the people of Salem local news otherwise missing. (You can also mail your contribution: Salem Reporter, 72585 Middle Fork Lane, Bates OR 97817)