(image provided by Adam S. Juratovac)
San Jose, CA - Most people need to be led, organized, and motivated – even the best of us for the sake of the worst of us.
With the wave of Asian hate and violence heightened by the previous administration’s incendiary rhetoric, one champion of Asian American civil rights is coming to light in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Adam Juratovac, 33, is a California employment lawyer and former offensive lineman for the San Jose SaberCats and Spokane Shock from the Arena Football League. His mother is Korean.
At the behest of his mother, Juratovac and his brother Aaron attended Korean school and church for years as kids. At Gunn High School in Palo Alto, he was a star-athlete earning a scholarship at the University of Idaho and was a standout offensive lineman.
“Being a mixed person living in the Bay Area, I never saw myself painted negatively as Asian or white – my father's Polish,” said Juratovac. “But just in the first week in college, I was called a chink. I corrected that person and said ‘No! I’m a gook - get that shit right!’”
Juratovac’s disarming and welcoming personality allowed him to further embrace his Korean side to share his culture with teammates, classmates, and the local Idahoan community.
“There are always bad apples and we have to remember it doesn’t mean all are bad,” continued Juratovac. “It was a very good experience at the university.”
On Sunday, March 21, 2021, Juratovac brought together a large rally of over 2000 community members at San Jose City Hall (reported crowd size ranged from well over 1,000 to 2,000+ attendees). It was proclaimed to be the largest “Stop Asian Hate” rally in the United States that weekend which took only 72 hours to organize.
Juratovac's over 430,000 TikTok followers had a lot to do with the success of the rally (@adamjthelawyer).
"The Tuesday before the rally, I was having my weekly lunch with my mom when she expressed concerns with the attacks. She was afraid to go shop for her essentials,” shared Juratovac. “It ended up being a three-hour lunch discussing violence against Asians and accompanying her to Safeway.”
That same day on March 16th, the Atlanta shootings happened where eight people, six of them Asian women, were gunned-down mercilessly by a 21-year-old white man. The rationalization of the murderer’s state-of-mind by authorities still skirts the underlying motive obvious to most.
“I was already reflecting so heavily, then Atlanta happened,” expressed Juratovac. “I was compelled to create these series of videos on TikTok to share my mom’s experience, talk about Atlanta and what absolutely needs to happen next.”
Juratovac's activist heart flipped into overdrive.
“That next day I went to work and all these emotions were still pouring through me and I knew I needed to do something significant,” reflected Juratovac. “That's when I reached out to my friend Eric Chang to plan this rally.”
32-year-old Chang’s credentials also carry weight as deputy attorney general for the California Department of Justice.
Juratovac's qualifications are noteworthy as well - ranging from starting the first Asian Pacific Law Association in college to Pacific regional director for the National Asian Pacific Law Student Association to lecturer to Santa Clara Bar Association trustee and barrister.
Together, Chang and Juratovac’s Stop the Asian Hate team created a formidable core that attracted contributors quickly.
“People from my TikTok community were awesome,” said Juratovac. “In that 72 hours, I had people help with PR, event logistics, graphics, video editing, and helping us get former U.S. congressman Mike Honda as a speaker.”
At the rally, Juratovac also garnered some laughs at Honda’s expense by calling him the O.G. Honda mistakenly thought it meant “old guy.” To the crowd, O.G. - the original gangsta - was clearly a term of endearment.
Juratovac was just as quick to get into game day mode at the rally describing the on-going discrimination and exclusion in their lives alongside other people of color. One poignant example of this systemic Asian discrimination roots back well over 100 years in U.S. law. In contrast, most Europeans came through freely and undocumented through Ellis Island.
“This all didn’t start during COVID,” stated Juratovac. “It’s been boiling every single day of our lives. We don’t ignore it. We choose not to react because our ultimate goal is to make better lives for ourselves and our family members, but a line needs to be drawn now.”
Juratovac continued, “We need to come together to become a bigger, louder unified voice to let them know how much power we have. That’s what’s happening at these rallies. We signup, showup, roll deep and we’ll certainly be voting.”
Also, no stranger to speaking on societal issues growing up, Juratovac’s civil penchant took on its first set of heights with his 2016 Huffington Post article on Trump’s very public misogynistic display. Since then, people have naturally looked to him to take the lead.
Juratovac’s physical presence is everything you’d expect as a former offensive lineman. But just as gifted mentally and spiritually as a lawyer and devoted son, he has the unique ability and perspective to sustain awareness and cross more boundaries.
“I’m trying to unite and not be exclusive,” Juratovac describes. “I know I can communicate to many different people in different ways. I’m not white. I’m not Asian. I’m the intersection to bring more people together.”
While he readies for his next big rally later in April in San Jose, support for Juratovac’s efforts also continues to ramp up to an even bigger rally in San Francisco this May.
“The movement we’re having is not as much political as it is a civil rights issue for us,” explained Juratovac. “At the same time, we want to show that our younger generation is ready to take action. We respect our elders and listen to them and their wisdom. Now, we want our elders to use our energy and our activism.”
According to acl.gov, Asian Americans over age 65 account for about 5% of the current overall U.S. senior population - over 2.5 million elderly Asian Americans in all.
For all the values and graciousness that make the older Asian generation unique and endearing, these same traits are making them vulnerable.
Expect Juratovac and other young leaders like him to lead this convergence and reckoning for equality, civility, and basic human compassion for the entire Asian spectrum.