116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
As February marks Black History Month, I've been reflecting on my journey as a Black small business owner and the platform I have been given as a fashion activist. In light of far too many instances of police brutality and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have been moved to fight racial injustice.
My colleague Jason Sole and I founded Humanize My Hoodie to empower people to stand up against racial injustice. As we have sadly seen in the news, Black and Indigenous People of Color have been targeted because of the clothes they wear. Hoodies have been used to amplify the myth of Black criminality and our mission is to debunk that stereotype. Trayvon Martin, who would have turned 26 years old this month, was tragically murdered while wearing a hoodie and buying a pack of Skittles. In the aftermath of this crime, Jason created a Facebook post with the #Humanizemyhoodie hashtag as a way to reach the masses. Out of this tragedy came our movement.
Fashion activism is the art of using clothing to move people into action. It's the simple process of looking through your wardrobe and making a conscious decision to wear an article of clothing that will spark the minds of others. For some, it's a dashiki, or a hijab. For others, it may be a hoodie. As a fashion activist, I make clothes to inspire but also to challenge negative perceptions about who I am. Hall-of-Fame basketball player Allen Iverson was targeted because he used to wear cornrows and sport tattoos. He famously said, 'Just because you put a guy in a tuxedo doesn't mean he's a good guy.” He found a way to use his style to challenge perceptions and attitudes.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, we knew it was critical to find more streams of communication to continue to engage with our supporters and customers. By using the powerful reach of Facebook and Instagram, we have had the ability to continue conversations and organize to fight to end the senseless killings of Black and Indigenous People. One such tool was the Instagram ‘Shops' tool which allowed us to reach even more people across the country and lead to an increase in sales. From blacking out our Facebook cover photo, to social posts, these platforms have been tools to promote our cultural competency trainings to teach anti-racism and allowed us to talk to the masses to show how we really are liberating Black lives in real time. We have seen positive activism on social media this year around the Black Lives Matter movement and I'm thankful we have these platforms for people to contribute their voices.
While many celebrate Black History Month, this month should be used as an opportunity to start a year-round discussion about what each of us can do to normalize Black excellence. Racial injustice is not on pause for the month of February. By continuing conversations, ally trainings, and examining our implicit biases, Iowans can take a step toward equality.
Humanize my Hoodie will continue to educate as we continue to see racial injustice, even here in Iowa. I encourage my fellow Iowans to make conscious decisions about our fashion choices as a tool for spreading our humanity. A person you see wearing a hoodie isn't a criminal - he or she is a father, a mother, a teacher, or possibly even a teenager buying candy. Take a moment to think about this daily and embrace them as your fellow man.
Andre Wright is the owner of Humanize My Hoodie.