Five years ago this March, we heard the name Trayvon Martin for the first time. When he was shot and killed in a suburb of Sanford, Florida, Trayvon was 17 and unarmed. According to the 9-1-1 recording he was “a suspicious guy” wearing “a dark hoodie.” In other words, Trayvon was singled out because of his appearance. Since that time, the simple hooded sweatshirt (a/k/a the hoodie) has become fraught with deeper meaning, and symbolic of racial inequity.
As the Richmond region’s largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing, the Better Housing Coalition serves a diverse group of 3,000 individuals, many of whom are subject to bias because of their outward appearance. On the surface, we may think we judge people as individuals and without bias, but if we don’t take the time to get to know them personally, we revert to old stereotypes or categories to define them, sometimes without even knowing it.
Why are we addressing this issue now?
We’ve really been addressing it since 1988, when our founders were inspired to start BHC because of a tragedy stemming from social inequity in our city. Their desire to help level the playing field for more residents grew into a nearly 30-year effort to provide people with greater choices in where and how to raise their families. Affordable housing means less stress, and more left over at the end of the month. A better school district increases the chances that a child will graduate high school. A better education means better paying jobs. Each time BHC builds a community, we create opportunities to help break the cycle of poverty.
We need more advocates; and we think everyone, no matter their race or class or age, ought to be able to wear a hoodie without suspicion. By selling these hoodies, we are taking action to reduce the stigma by putting more of them in the public eye. By selling them we are also raising funds to help make Richmond neighborhoods more vibrant, equitable places to live.
Join the conversation
Our hope is that by talking about the reasons why we’re selling hoodies, we are encouraging a dialogue in our city. Wear one as an expression to reject negative stereotypes and show pride for your neighborhood. If you’re not interested in wearing one, that’s okay, too. There are lots of ways to raise awareness and make your community better. Join us in finding a way.
The BHC “Good NeighborHoodie” (pictured above) is selling for $30 through Friday, April 28th. $10 of each sale is tax deductible, and supports our mission of changing lives and transforming communities through high-quality, affordable housing.