Updated: Apr 2
"With these last couple of years, I have learned that it is beyond me and I had to start being for the community. In order for me to be better, I have to have my surroundings be better."
By Kierra “Kie” Claiborne
April 1, 2021
The Kickback with pHriends is a pHriends Empower series where we talk candidly to real friends about how they navigate through life’s most challenging situations using the power of friendship to keep them motivated, encouraged and inspired.
Voted “Best Sense of Style” by his senior class at Champaign Central High School (‘07!), it was very clear that he would go on to do great things in the world, and look good while doing it! More than 10 years later pHriends got a chance to sit down with Justin Michael Hendrix or “The People’s Mayor”, as he is lovingly called by those that have fallen under the sound of his voice over a megaphone. Justin came to The Kickback to share with us his journey to activism following the 2014 shooting of unarmed, black teen Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and how he has brought that passion back home to ignite change in his own community.
Fashion, music, and volunteerism are just a few of Justin’s passions. However, it was his love for children that landed him in a teaching program at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Justin expressed how important it is for him to represent himself as a Black, male educator to address concerns to schools and boards that affect children that look like him.
“I make sure children have fun in school but also learn to be themselves. Have fun in learning and know that it's okay to have a concern, or mess up, or have a hard time and struggle. It’s life. I don't shield them from life but I filter it to a way that they understand it. And they know that they can take control of life whenever they choose to and keep going...”.
Eight years later Justin found himself in the heart of the unrest and protests following the shooting of Mike Brown by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. While participating in protests against police brutality, Justin saw the need for additional support within the community. He founded HITNHOMEBOY, which he describes as “Awareness with an attitude. Hip-Hop. A movement with a message to the masses, media, and markets: It's a new wave of new rules to no hate!”. He began establishing food pantries in the area to provide food and other resources to the members of the local neighborhoods. After addressing food shortages, Justin began expanding his efforts to include health disparities within LGBTQ and other minority demographics.
Returning to Champaign as an adult, he immediately recognized a lack of resources and support for families that he once had as a youth in the community. Justin and HITNHOMEBOY have used the experience in Ferguson to continue to address disparities in housing, education, and health resources in communities with predominantly minority populations in Champaign-Urbana, IL. Justin has partnered with several organizations including the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club, Paign to Peace, First Followers, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC), and the Champaign County Anti-Racist Coalition(CCARC) to push the voting initiative to ensure minority voices are heard in the community and at the polls. When asked how he manages to keep himself motivated with all of his advocacy efforts, Justin stated, “With these last couple of years in advocacy, I have learned that it is beyond me and I had to start being for the community. In order for me to be better, I have to have my surroundings be better. It's a reflection.” As a result, Justin is currently running as a write-in candidate in the Champaign City Council District 3 elections.
While navigating through the unfamiliar territory of the political realm, which he described: “the process was terrific; the trial was treacherous”, Justin continues to canvas areas in black and brown communities in Champaign. His sense of style continues to impress, now proudly wearing District 3 across his back as he continues to campaign for the upcoming election. Check out the clip below when pHriends got the first-look at the new campaign material!
When asked, about his pHriendspiration, friends that inspire you to be a better person, Justin had this to say:
“The community itself are the pHriends that inspire me to be better... at creating a community culture of humanity, educating others and myself in areas that I am unaware of, and continue to be apart of a time when new leaders are a necessity to build.”
Election day is April 6th, 2021. Be sure to check your registration status here! You can also use the link below to stream the episode of The Kickback with HITNHOMEBOY!
To contribute to the cause via Venmo or Cash App, etc. HITNHOMEBOY88. All donations are appreciated!