Jai Tahlea Allen-Ible is the founder of The Uproar Project which promotes peaceful co-existence, normalizing peace rallies, and inclusivity through the arts and entertainment.
The Uproar Project is a brainchild of Allen-Ible. It was founded in 2018 after the Parkland massacre. She became agitated as school shooting coverage seemed to become more frequent in the national media. The week following Valentine’s Day in 2018, Allen-Ible began reaching out to local artists in order to collaborate and brainstorm ideas for promoting peace rallies and civil engagement.
“At the beginning of 2018, a few school shootings occurred and I was starting to get agitated at the fact that gun violence was becoming normal,” she said.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, she made a few phone calls to some friends.
“I had asked them how they felt about creating an activist group that focused on promoting peaceful neighborhoods [through the arts],” she said.
Racial tensions came to climax in the summer of 2020, months after a video of Ahmaud Arbery was released after he was lynched while jogging through a primarily white neighborhood in Southern Georgia.
On June 14 of 2020, Allen-Ible shared a personal story at the Hagen Park Protest in Wilton Manors following the release of the video of George Floyd’s murder and Arbery’s video.
She shared a story of losing one of her closest friends, whom she called her brother. He was hit by a train in the summer of 2015.
Allen-Ible was distraught; there was no investigation and it was merely presumed as suicide. His death was announced in a short blip in the obituaries in Lake Worth Beach.
No added security, no barricades, no crosswalks, or signs. Allen-Ible recollects, when she first started her activism, she felt that she was betraying her friend, her brother, but as time progressed, she realized it was a way to honor him and his memory.
“When I started the Uproar Project, I understood that he would’ve wanted this,” she said. “James Dieujuste is the root of my peace project’s foundation, and if he were alive, we’d be doing this together.”
Finding Her Voice
Allen-Ible’s mother moved her and her younger sister to St. Kitts when she was 3 years old to live with her grandparents and uncles.
Her grandmother was a devout Christian and her life revolved around the church. They would attend church every Sunday; Sunday school was mandatory and then sometimes even during the week.
She recalls a conversation that she had with her grandmother that had a profound impact on Allen-Ible’s life.
“When I was in first grade, I told my grandmother that I liked women and she told me I was sinning and needed to pray. I did what I was told because I was young. My grandmother was very strict, and she disciplined me,” she said. “She came down on me really hard when I expressed my emotions, so I toughened up at a really young age.”
It was during those formative years she questioned a lot, including her religious upbringing at the age of 7.
“At age 9, I moved back to New York with my mother. By age 10, I was hit with the realization that my parents were separating,” she said. “As I grew older, I grew thicker skin. I was very defensive and filled with anger, but it was a needed way of surviving.”
Allen-Ible attended high school at G Star School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, a school that is dedicated to the performing arts.
She was amazed at seeing so many different types of people coming together and celebrating their love of the arts. Allen-Ible loved seeing a multicultural cast performing on the stage together where their sexuality, religion, or ethnicity didn’t matter. The arts brought everyone together.
The traumatic experience of trying to come out to her family and then being silenced changed Allen-Ible for a long time. When Allen-Ible got involved in a leadership program that awakened her, she found her voice again.
“Because I was silenced in my youth, my voice grew louder and untamed in my early 20s,” she said. “I use my past and current pains to encourage others to take a stand. Life is too short to worry about what others think.”
The Silver Lining of 2020
At the beginning of last year, before COVID-19, Allen-Ible was working a full-time position at Clive Daniel Home as a Customer Service Specialist; however, she was laid off due to the pandemic.
She recalls life before the shutdown was feeling stuck in an inescapable and never-ending hamster wheel, and it was the same, monotonous, mundane groundhog’s day.
In the fall of 2019, Allen-Ible had a heart procedure done. During a long period of healing, she realized that she needed to rest more and take it easy. Many times, she was too exhausted to work on the Uproar Project and struggled with managing her work, life, and health.
“The combination of completing a heart procedure and losing friends to death got me [to see] that I don’t want to spend my life working for someone who could easily replace me if I passed away,” she said. “I found being furloughed as a blessing because it gave me time to be with myself.”
Like many businesses and nonprofits COVID-19 set the project back. They started hosting meetings and a few segments virtually.
“COVID did affect a lot of us emotionally and caused a set-back for the project’s progress,” she said.
But she refused to let COVID-19 keep her down.
“COVID pushed me to use my creativity to generate abundance in all areas of my life. Through this experience, I am learning to cherish the things I value most, find time for the things I need, and I am using this time to get clear on what I want to create as an entrepreneur,” she said.
“COVID reminded us of our humanity, and it gave a lot of us the ‘human pass’ for being in emotional discovery. I’ve been practicing to be gentle with my emotions ever since, and it’s also helped build my compassion for myself and others.”
Knowing our History, We can Boldly Walk into the Future
Allen-Ible keeps busy during the pandemic by constantly creating and promoting all different types of events. She helped found a Black-owned business Expo where they promote local businesses owned by the BIPOC community members.
Progress for equity and equality has been a constant battle in the U.S., however, she believes that milestones should be celebrated. Events on dates that have had profound and significant effects on social justice issues are largely unknown by the general populace, and they went largely unmentioned in history books.
The organization’s first event was on Sept. 18 in honor of the “Atlanta Compromise Speech” that was given by Booker T. Washington in 1895.
Allen-Ible said she thought of the idea and reached out to some local organizations in West Palm such as Soul Fam, Base of Life, and the Time is Now Florida. The planning started with herself and SoulFam, then it branched out to “Rebuild History.”
Allen-Ible adds that she can’t take all the credit.
“Matt Brown had presented the idea of educating [the community] and I suggested that we use the event as cause for celebration with music, arts and [supporting] local businesses,” she said.
The “Rebuild History” movement centers around educating the community on Black American history. Alle-Ible decided to host an expo specifically on historical milestones to celebrate the progress that has been made.
Social change does not occur in a vacuum — it happens because the people decide to make change happen. Allen-Ible is able to pair activism with art to bring about new perspectives, change ideologies in a subtle way, and then use activism to bring about action.
This is a part of an SFGN series on local BIPOC leaders making a difference in the community. Check out the other stories at sfgn.com/bipoc.