By Deon C. Jefferson
Major life events and turbulent situations can inspire change. It can also inspire groups to be formed. Groups like the Black Panther Party or NWA are just minor examples of a long list of advocates. In 2018, artist Jai Tahlea Allen-Ible created The Uproar Project to marry her passion for the arts, social activism, and community service. We had the opportunity to catch up with the founder to discuss the organization and the origin.
Deon: When was the Uproar project established? What were the reasons for starting the uproar project?
Jai: Initially, I thought of the project in February 2018 after the Parkland Shooting. At this point, a good amount of school shootings and hate crimes had occurred. Tragic events like the Pulse shooting, Cory Jones and Sandy Hook shooting had me frustrated with the violence in our communities. I felt like something needed to be done, so I brainstormed creative ways to get the message out. I thought about creating a team of art advocates to spread a collective message of non-violence. I am an artist, so I was able to connect to the fact that some artists use their talent to send an empowering message. In May 2019, I launched our first ever event in Fort Lauderdale at Garage 22.
Deon: How does the Uproar Project decide which programs or sessions to have?
Jai: Our main priority is to find creative ways to highlight local talent. At the same time, we select our highlights based on social events of the times. For instance, in 2019, we felt that school shootings were the crisis that needed attention. In 2020, evidently, it was police brutality. Now that we are post-covid times, mental health is the focus.
Deon: What has been the most memorable moment since you all have been established?
Jai: 2020 was a big year for the U.S. It shed light on a lot of things that needed to be adjusted including racial equity. We participated in many protests in 2020. We co-led and co-organized the July 4 protest in WPB which led to more awareness of who we are as an organization. Shortly after the George Floyd incident, I reached out to local organizations that focused on black issues and racial equality projects. Through these connections, we collaborated in organizing. The July 4 protest went well, but there was another protest happening the same day in the same city. We tried to work together, but they were not interested in unifying because we had the cops involved. This resulted in a verbal altercation on the day of the protest which was the opposite of what we wanted to create. The media (WPTV, WPBF & Palm Beach Post) were involved, and they saw the altercation. It looked like we couldn’t agree on the message of the protest, and it led to headlines saying that we couldn’t get along. After the protest, we had several resolution meetings with the other group. We were not able to agree, but we were able to come to a compromise. I sang and shared poetry at these protests, and it led to people being curious about our art group. The altercation was our first challenge as an org, but it also supported us in clarifying our mission. At first, we said we wanted “peace”, but this altercation showed us that people will not always get along. Our mission isn’t to make people get along. I get that people will disagree, so can we have a compromise and co-exist amongst our disagreements.
Deon: Out of all the events, which one do you think was the most impactful?
Jai: Our semi-annual (2 times a year) showcases are the most impactful. It’s hard to select only one because all have been great. Our showcases are where most people get to see what we’re about. Our events have almost every genre, and the only thing we tell people is that “all are welcomed”. The shows at the Haus Lounge in February 2021 were amazing. We had a range of styles from drag to folk music to R&B music present, and people loved it. Diversity was welcomed. Our showcases are diverse and inclusive because we include all styles of art that range from hard metal to drag shows to hip hop to eliminate expectations and welcome anyone to our shows. We do not announce what will be at our shows. Our only disclaimer is that everything will be there.
Deon: The Uproar Project is an artist-led organization. Tell us more about the members of the Artistry Team.
Jai: Everyone that is a part of the organization is an artist in some form. Artistry includes videography, lyricism, poets, singers, visual artists and more. Since we are an organization that consists of artists, we call ourselves an artist-led organization. As the CEO of the organization, I incorporate the opinions of everyone in the organization. I have a final say in what gets done for the project, but I do not move forward until I have heard from everyone. This organization was made for artists so it’s best to hear from artists what they would want.
Deon: Where would you like the Uproar project to be in the next 5 years?
Jai: Some have compared the Uproar Project to Coachella, Rolling Loud and Sunfest based on the style of our main event. We are different because we particularly highlight steller local talent. In 5 years, I’d like to say that artists from around the United States are traveling to Palm Beach, FL for this event. I’d also like to take this project to other major cities in the United States like Los Angeles, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Chicago and more.
People that have worked with The Uproar Project speak highlight of the organization.
“The uproar project provides one of the most unique experiences while building a bridge between artists and their community all while bringing out YOUR inner artist,” says David “Dee” Rae the Executive Director from Hospitality Helping Hands “Movement, song, dance, pain, poetry, the list can keep going. I have witness transformational experiences because The Uproar holds space for all types of growth and healing through loving acceptance of true expression”