Here’s How This Celebrated Milwaukee Entrepreneur Partnered With Adidas To Empower The Local Community

Pitch Blend

Milwaukee native Eric “Shake” James has partnered with Adidas to give back to his community in celebration of this year’s 414 Day.

The area code for Milwaukee is 414, and out of this was born “Milwaukee Day.” Since 2012, every April 14, this day is celebrated as one for community members to uplift what “makes the city such a rewarding place to call home.”

This year’s 414 Day was extra special for James, who received public acknowledgement from the City of Milwaukee for his efforts in serving the community. The Mayor of Milwaukee Cavalier Johnson “issued a proclamation to James declaring April 12 as J.A.Y. Academy Day and presented James with a plaque at the Clicks sneaker store that he co-owns with Darryl “DMC” Daniels of the legendary rap group RUN DMC.

James hosted a series of events in Milwaukee ahead of April 14 with assistance from Adidas Cornerstone Community, the brand’s retailer-driven initiative to support BIPOC-owned businesses.

These events are a continuation of the philanthropic work James has been doing through his nonprofit, J.A.Y. Academy, along with Adidas Cornerstone Community, which has collaborated to host more than 15 events together since 2020.

This special partnership has been years in the making. It started when James was around 14 or 15. As he told ESSENCE, it all stemmed from a pick-up basketball game where James met the members of Run D.M.C. Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell and James ended up staying in touch, developing a life long-friendship, until Mizell’s murder in 2002 in New York City.

“We used to get a lot of products from Adidas all the time,” James recalled. “We would just leave it in the rooms [after shows], because our bags would be like overfilled. But then one day Jay said we’re going to ship it to New York. Then when we got back, Jay just gave all the stuff away to the people.”

“But when he passed, my world was devastated,” James said. “I was sitting here trying to figure out what my next move and how do I honor him. One day about four years after Jay passed, I just said, ‘Man, you know what, that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna give back like he did to show people, who he really was.”

“I started off with 50 backpacks and 50 hats and stuff like that,” says James. “The responses and gratefulness from the kids and the families made me realize I had to keep going. I just want to make sure that I’m doing the best I can to try to do the most I can.”

Now, almost 20 years after Jam Master Jay’s death, James is looking forward to opening up a physical location for J.A.Y. Academy, which “will provide wellness workshops and professional development programming, develop a community space, and award grant scholarships to participating local youth.”

Here’s How This Celebrated Milwaukee Entrepreneur Partnered With Adidas To Empower The Local Community
Pitch Blend

As a part of this year’s events, James offered a free footwear design workshop, in conjunction with Wood U. Shake gifted students from Siefert Middle School footwear that they were able to customize.

“It’s important for our youth to see Black designers in a way that they feel that they are seen and supported by us,” Kimmiski Adams, Assistant Color and Materials Design, Adidas Basketball told ESSENCE. “In an industry where we as a community dominate in the purchasing of sneakers it’s important that we understand what happens on the other side of the creation process. My favorite part of any session is having kids fully get the idea that they could do this for a living,” she added.

Showing young Black students that this could be a viable career path is especially important considering the prominence of sneaker culture.The research company, Statista, revealed that Black men are the primary “drivers of a market that pulled in $70 billion in 2020.” As NBC News notes, “While Black culture has made sneakers an invaluable element to any wardrobe and Black consumers are at the heart of that financial tide, Black retailers of the coveted items are hard to find.” With Clicks, Shake and Darryl “DMC” Daniels are one of the few Black owners of a retail shoe store.

Here’s How This Celebrated Milwaukee Entrepreneur Partnered With Adidas To Empower The Local Community
Pitch Blend

For 414 Day this year, Adidas released a limited-edition shoe, that pays homage to Shake’s hometown. According to a press release shared with ESSENCE, “Shake imbued the 414 Rivalry Low with Milwaukee DNA, starting with a cream upper as the foundation and a textured ‘Cream City Brick’ tongue. The silhouette’s suede Three Stripes arrive in green with red accents that are reminiscent of the classic Milwaukee Bucks’ colors. Cheese blocks—a Wisconsin delicacy—adorn both heels and the right tongue, while the left tongue features a pint glass decal emblematic of the city’s storied beer heritage.”

Here’s How This Celebrated Milwaukee Entrepreneur Partnered With Adidas To Empower The Local Community
Pitch Blend

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