The GR Justice Choir welcomes new members


Courtesy / Sara Vruggink

Mary Racette, Arts & Entertainment Editor

With new leadership and a desire to grow, the Grand Rapids Justice Choir chapter invites students and other members of the Grand Rapids community to have their voice heard through the power of song. The Justice Choir will be holding open rehearsals Jan. 6 and 13 from 6-8 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church. 

Grand Rapids is home to one out of the 16 Justice Choir chapters nationwide. The National Justice Choir was formed in January 2017 as activists were gathering for the first Women’s March. The organization was built as an outlet for community members to have their voices heard. 

“Our mission is to amplify local voices fighting systems of oppression and building justice in our community,” said Media Director Ashley Bovin. 

The Grand Rapids chapter of the Justice Choir began when founding director Claire Minnis started the “Social Justice Choir” as a program at Trinity United Methodist Church in 2017. The club, who had already been singing songs from the Justice Choir Songbook, became officially affiliated with the National Justice Choir the week of their first concert, November 2017. 

Part of the Justice Choir’s mission is to support other local organizations. They carry out this mission by singing at rallies and events organized by other groups, as well as holding their own concerts. The Justice Choir partners with other local social justice organizations and invites them on stage to inform the audience about their programming. Space is also offered to local organizations to share their advocacy at the reception following the concert. 

Bovin, a Grand Valley State University alumna, graduated in 2017 with her degree in advertising and public relations before she attended her first open rehearsal and instantly found her place in the organization which she now helps lead. 

“Singing with the choir has given me a meaningful way to show up, channel what I’m feeling, literally use my voice for justice, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others who also want a more just and equitable future,” Bovin said. 

During Bovin’s time with the Justice Choir, she had the opportunity to sing a solo in one of the songs during the Justice Choir’s performance at the March For Our Lives in Grand Rapids. Bovin said this was one of the “most powerful experiences” of her life. 

In the last few years of their influence in the Grand Rapids community, the Justice Choir has covered a range of social justice topics such as mental health and immigration. Similarly, their repertoire of music features a variety of engaging yet diverse styles. Justice Choir sings songs pulled from the Justice Choir songbook as well as civil rights songs and popular music that includes themes of social justice. 

“It is my intention to choose music with powerful text that is also accessible to sing for all musicians, regardless of experience,” said the new music director of Justice Choir Parks Payton. 

Payton is new to the music director role this year, however, he is familiar with the format because he has sung with the Justice Choir prior to raising to leadership.

“We hope to always be growing, so we’re excited about the fresh perspective of a new music director and the new ideas he’s already brought to the table,” Bovin said.