Julia continued to be active in the LGBTQ+ community, volunteering for AIDS Walk Detroit and serving on the Ferndale Community Foundation, while teaching middle school for 19 years.
When Motor City Pride, the annual pride street festival in Ferndale, moved to Detroit in 2011, Julia and other local LGBTQ+ activists realized there would be a void left in Ferndale.
“We kind of thought, ‘Well what about us?’” Julia said. “There were four of us who were riled up.”
One of those four was Craig Covey, the first openly-gay mayor elected in the state of Michigan. Julia, along with Craig, Monica Mills, and Councilman Greg Pawlica, started Ferndale Pride.
“We decided to do a pride festival,” Julia said. “We planned a series of marches the first year, and we found a lot of success. We knew we had to grow the organization.”
Covey led that growth for over three years when Julia got a sense that change was in the wind.
“I had a feeling that he was going to retire,” Julia said. “And I was going to call him that night to ask him what he thought about me taking over. I was about to call him when my phone rang and it was Craig. He said, ‘I think it’s time for me to retire, what do you think about taking over?’”
Since that moment of kismet seven years ago, Julia has been the Executive Director of Ferndale Pride helping it grow exponentially. Up until last year, she was still teaching middle school while running Pride.
“I’m fortunate enough to have Pride as my main job now,” Julia said. “It’s not really 9-5. It ends up being more than a job. It’s my life. And for me it’s pretty amazing. It’s really incredible to have something that I value so much about myself also be my career.”
Julia has dedicated that career to serving others, from her work for the LGBTQ+ community, to her years as a teacher, plus her current part-time job helping those who have lost loved ones through their grief by sorting through the loved one’s belongings and organizing their houses.
“I just love seeing other people happy,” Julia said. “I love seeing other people have a good time and I love seeing people out. My joy is so overflowing when I see a queer couple holding hands in public. We don’t live in an easy time to be an LGBTQ person, but we live in the easiest time so far. Whatever I can do to help that is just gold.”
Greg Pawlica, a Ferndale city councilman, said of the Ferndale Pride event, “I believe we’re not just celebrating the LGBT community that day, we’re celebrating all of the diversity of Ferndale at Ferndale Pride.”
In the years that Pride has been in existence, they have given over $200,000 to LGBTQ+ organizations and charities, including – and especially – organizations that represent the trans community.
“Making sure that the trans community has a voice at pride festivals is very important to me,” Julia said. “That has been a really big focus to me.
“We want to keep Ferndale as funky as we can. We’re this funky little Ferndale area, and I love it.”