By outfitting the world in sweatshirts bearing the phrase “Humanize My Hoodie,” Jason Sole and Andre Wright hope to spark conversation about the intersection of fashion, prejudice and violence.
That conversation has been furthered by none other than John Legend, after the 10-time Grammy winner and EGOT-holder posted shout-outs to Sole and the Humanize My Hoodie movement on social media Tuesday.
“Meet Jason Sole. He is the co-Founder of @HumanizeMyHoodie, a project that helps in de-stigmatizing clothing trends associated with Black and Indigenous People of Color,” Legend posted on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, along with two photos of Sole and the hashtag #CantJustPreach. The musician also included a link to Humanize My Hoodie’s online sponsor page.
Sole is the first community leader recognized by Legend as part of his #CantJustPreach donation drive, through which he plans to highlight “change-makers” who “practice what they preach.”
Humanize My Hoodie is a collaboration between Sole, a criminal justice educator at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Wright, a University of Iowa alumnus and CEO of the fashion label Born Leaders United, based in Iowa City. The longtime friends combined their skills — Sole’s social justice expertise and Wright’s experience creating art and clothing — to start the Humanize My Hoodie movement in 2017.
“It’s art, it’s training, it’s people representing everyday, you know, seeing people at the Grand Canyon with the hoodie on, seeing people in other countries with the hoodie on and people telling us their stories of what happened when they had the hoodie on,” Sole said in a video interview with Little Village in April. “What started out as a project turned into a movement really quickly when people started seeing those three words, ‘humanize my hoodie,’ they fell in love with it, and people started checking their biases.”
The Humanize My Hoodie mission statement was directly quoted by Legend in his posts:
We need your help in de-stigmatizing clothing trends associated with Black and Indigenous People of Color. The senseless killings of Black people at the hands of police officers have spurred conversations about society’s perception of the hoodie. Simply put: If you are Black and sporting a hoodie, YOU ARE CONSIDERED A THREAT. We seek to create a world in which our fashion isn’t probable cause for us to be slain in the streets!
Sole and Wright sell “Humanize My Hoodie” sweatshirts in a variety of colors and styles, as well as black-and-white art prints featuring photos of people wearing their hoodies alongside inspirational quotes from the likes of Zora Neale Hurston and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Humanize My Hoodie also offers a range of training programs on the subject racial justice and hosts workshops around the country.
This spring, Humanize My Hoodie launched their first national art exhibit, including an opening night event at the University of Iowa’s Old Capitol Museum on April 12.
“For us to be in this space, doing this type of work very deliberately, having a message about who we are as people and telling you to humanize us — I don’t have to give a lot of explanation,” Wright told Little Village ahead of the exhibit’s opening night. “That’s powerful. That work alone is powerful.”
“Maybe we’re pushing the needle, maybe we’re getting a little further, maybe the envelope is getting pushed because these institutions were closed to our ancestors,” Sole added. “You think about black codes, you think about Jim Crow era, you think about voter disenfranchisement right now in Iowa. We’re still being subjugated … Maybe when we come to spaces like this we can have that discussion and say, ‘who’s really being targeted here?'”
Another space has opened to Sole and Wright’s message this year: Humanize My Hoodie secured a show at New York Fashion Week 2019 in the Fashion Activism category. Their NYFW runway show will take place in Chelsea on Saturday, Sept. 14.
In his own Facebook post, Sole called the recognition from Legend “surreal.” Wright congratulated Sole on Facebook as well, adding, “Amazing things do happen if you stay on your grind and keep believing.”