Calling it “charity through hip-hop,” a Lynn-based community organization is donating hooded sweatshirts to people in homeless shelters for every sweatshirt they sell to a paying customer.
Ahead of National Homeless Awareness month in November, Wreck Shop founder Justice Born kicked off the “Hoodies For the Homeless” project to help give back to those in need, as the colder weather fast approaches.
The project vows to hand-deliver a hooded sweatshirt to a person who is homeless for every sweatshirt sold either online, or at events hosted by the Wreck Shop Movement. Each hoodie—which come in a multitude of colors—is $45 for any color hoodie with a black or white print, or $50 for any color hoodie with a custom color print, and is made locally with the Wreck Shop logo. “Giving back to the homeless is something I’ve been doing in different ways for years—a lot of which I don’t publicize because it’s a personal thing for me,” said Born, who admits he himself has been forced to live without a place to call home at different points in his life.
Wreck Shop touts itself as a movement that unites, educates, and empowers individuals through a series of hip-hop centric events and programs in cities and towns around Massachusetts. Born, a famed-break dancer who once went by the name Red Mask of the Ground FX Crew, now devotes his time to connecting with urban kids to spread awareness about the importance of community-based projects and initiatives. The name, commonly used in music, is an acronym for “When Raw Elements Combine Kinetically Start Helping Other People.”
This is the first time that Born has headed the “Hoodies for the Homeless” project, specifically, but in the past he has worked to raise money for several different charities. Born said through music events his group has helped both the Red Cross—during calls for donations for tsunami relief—and the Boston First Responders Fund following the Boston Marathon bombing. “We’ve often combined food drive efforts with our showcases and open mic [nights] to give back to local food pantries,” said Born. “Now we’re giving back in a different way.”
Born, a Lynn native, credits friends that have been helping with the Wreck Shop name for coming up with the latest charity effort.
He said the team had a good summer selling their t-shirts, and people suggested they print up the hoodies next. “I wanted to do more than just sell hoodies,” he said. “And through a conversation with friends, that idea was born.”
While Wreck Shop advertises itself as well-versed in the “guerilla marketing” department on their Twitter profile, Born said supplying hoodies to the homeless population isn’t a way to leverage his brand through the exploitation of those in need— in fact, he feels it’s quite the opposite. “I’ve been homeless before, multiple times, so I know what it’s like and I know what exploitation is. It’s not anything close to what we’re doing. Of course assumptions will be made to fill in the void for what’s not understood,” he said, adding that the music genre has long been the voice of the forgotten and voiceless, and that he’s using that voice to encourage change. “Unfortunately there is a lot of exploitation associated with hip-hop, so the culture is perceived as something negative. We aim to balance things out. We do that through music, events, merchandise, and most importantly community building.”
And that community has been building fast.
In just the first week since he launched the project, Born said people have flooded social media with the link to the page explaining what Wreck Shop is trying to accomplish. “Orders have been coming in here and there. Not every day, but some days we’ll get multiple orders. A lot of people are saying they’re going to buy some in the near future. Some people ordered multiple hoodies just to be given away to the homeless,” he said.
As the orders come in, his team will be posting photos of themselves delivering the clothing to shelters, while also posting pictures of the people who purchased the hoodies. But Born doesn’t plan on differentiating between the two, because to him, everyone is on an equal-level playing field. “I’m really not fond of the idea of making it known which people in the photos are homeless, either. They’re part of us so there is really no distinction,” he said. “What makes the movement powerful is that it’s backed by people. In the long run, I hope to be able to help more people who really need it.”
Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2013/10/14/wreck-shop-hoodies-for-the-homeless-lynn/
Copyright ©2019 Boston Magazine unless otherwise noted.