When Michael Donnelly rocked REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes,” the Ohio Supreme Court justice and his attorney bandmates might well have been singing about Jam for Justice 2021. The signature summer concert, a major fundraiser for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, switched overnight from an outdoor festival on the Great Lakes Science Center lawn to personal video screens.
And Covid wasn’t the only cause. Poor weather, i.e. torrential rain, gusty winds and a tornado watch in Ashtabula, had organizers whirling from the larger outside event to a repeat of the virtual livestreaming used in 2020.
“Once we knew weather conditions were not in our favor, and public health advice confirmed our choice to move to a 100% virtual livestream, Legal Aid staff, vendors, and the Jam for Justice performers pivoted plans in just 24 hours,” said Melanie Shakarian, director of development and communications at Legal Aid.
Seven local bands, including Justice Donnelly’s group Faith & Whiskey, featured attorneys, judges, law students, and law faculty from across Northeastern Ohio, all raising the rafters to a skeleton crew and computer equipment. Sharing the stage docket: Razing the Bar, the No Name Band, Luke Lindberg & the Hung Jury, SIX sometimes SEVEN, State Road and Out of Order.
“As a community, we learned quite a bit about flexibility and quick pivots over the past year since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” said Shakarian via email. “The last-minute adjustments to Jam for Justice on September 22, 2021 – while inconvenient – were made easy by the kindness and flexibility of our sponsors, ticket holders, participating bands, Levy Catering, NPi Audio Visual and our partners at the Great Lakes Science Center.”
Supporters switched their energy online as well. The exclusive livestream, combined with Facebook, drew an estimated 700 viewers along with a record $110,000 to support Legal Aid’s mission to protect shelter, ensure safety, and promote economic stability in five counties in Northeast Ohio. Paul Harris, retired general counsel for KeyCorp, matched gifts directed through the Jam event, bolstering the agency’s ability to meet the greatly increased demand for legal assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PEGGY TURBETT