Today is Juneteenth. Meant to be a time of celebration and elevation, the origins of Juneteenth are centered around the official end of slavery across the U.S. Black folk were finally going to earn those three-fifths worth of freedom they had slaved so long for. Yet we never found our piece of heaven on Earth, and 157 years later we still aren’t truly able to celebrate. But the world that we’ve built is falling apart, and oh, what a sight it is to see. We’re crossing over. We feel powerful. Everybody is motivated to change, yet everybody is suffering. We’re all gasping for air, crying for the favor of God to blast rays of healing from heaven. We’re ready for change, but we’re missing one thing: we don’t know how to just be.
Now this profound piece of knowledge was bestowed upon me by the one-and-only Waka Flocka. Waka is the Chief Marketing Officer for DRO, a bespoke garments brand that’s for drug smugglers, rap artists, and dimes. A few weeks ago, Waka and his business partners Jamar “JB” Brown and Witt Rabon joined me on Zoom to talk about the cool things they have been working on like their newest campaign ‘Just People’, which they plan to donate all of the funds to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention.
What Does ‘Just People’ Mean?
‘Just People’ asks the question: who are we beyond our labels? When I first thought about the idea of ‘Just People’, I wasn’t feeling it because I was ignorant to how layered what they were trying to say actually is. When the constitution was written, Black Folk were only considered three-fifths human. And still in 2020, we are fighting to breathe. We are fighting to live. We are fighting to just be. We just want to be people. Free people who can love and live and breath without chains.
“Let’s just do it for people. I don’t ever hear anybody talk about just being human and the humane thing to do. If you’re human, then you won’t be a racist. If you’re human, then you won’t be a negative person,” said Waka. “We just want to be people. We don’t want to be black people, white people, purple people, poor people, or middle class people. We just want to be people. We just want to be fucking people.”
The mission behind the brand is to encourage us to create community that celebrates our differences. Yet all of the -isms of the world have blocked us from truly connecting. The biggest -ism of them all being racism.
“Look at what is going on today with police brutality, which definitely leads to mental illness. When my niece sees a cop, she literally cries because she is scared. That’s fucked up. As an uncle, I don’t like shit like that. I don’t give a fuck who you are, what you stand for, what you’re pushing or what you’re forcing: if a kid sees a cop, they should be happy and want to put a badge on. I’m just being honest because cops are supposed to be heroes.”
About a week after my conversation with Waka, I got high and went to my first protest in Orlando, FL,. There were thousands of people marching around Downtown Orlando, chanting the names of Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more. People from all walks of life came together to rebuke America’s injustices.
According to the creative brains behind ‘Just People’, we all have a single identity. “We need to be here for each other and remember that at the end-of-the-day—We are all “Just People,”” reads the DRO website. “So when you are out in the world—be kind to the Humans next to you regardless of their age, ethnicity or any indifference that once separated you from them. We are all in this crisis and we will make it—Together.”
Witt Rabon, DRO Co-Founder, COO, and President said that “If you were smoking weed before legalization, then you were intermingling with every type of person there is to intermingle with.” His partner Jamar “JB” Brown added that “Weed is a product of the world.” Cannabis is the ultimate connecter in all of this. If it had not been for cannabis, I wouldn’t have been able to see the power in Waka and DROs ‘Just People’ campaign.
On June 13th, 2020, a few weeks after my interview with Waka Flocka, I was sitting in the grass at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, FL, my hometown and the birth of the modern Civil Rights Movement that was sparked by the killing of Trayvon Martin. We had just finished protesting around Downtown Sanford, and it was time for closing remarks. A nurse named Wendy got up to speak and bring awareness to the unlawful slaying of her nephew, Allan Feliz. Feliz was murdered on October 17th, 2019 by 3 NYPD police officers during a traffic stop. As she spoke about the tragedy that had befallen her family, she said “We’re Just People”, and in that moment everything that Waka, Brown, and Rabon had said during our interview made sense. For so long, too many people across the world have been living as slaves. “Just People” is a very real reminder that none of us are free until we are all free.