By Matthew Piechalak | mpiechalak@francisparker.org 

On the back of one of her hoodies is a quote from American political activist, author, and UCSD alumna Angela Davis that reads: “It is NOT enough to be silently non-racist. We must be VOCALLY anti-racist.” 

Starting the nonprofit Hoodies For Change is Sophia Rodrigues’s way of living out the meaning of Davis’s quote. The clothing company, founded this summer by Sophia, Class of 2021, and her younger sister, Isabella, sells custom-designed hooded sweatshirts featuring social justice slogans like “Color is Not a Crime,” “Justice for All,” “No Freedom Til We Are Equal.” 

All profits are being donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). As of October, the nonprofit has raised more than $1,500. 

“We were really inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd,” says Sophia. “We saw people going out to protest, but protesting for a lot of people is probably not the safest option due to COVID. We wanted to support the effort so we started making hoodies.” 

Along with being a symbol of racial injustice since the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012, hooded sweatshirts–or hoodies–are a durable clothing item that people typically wear for a long time. Trayvon often wore a hoodie, according to reports from his family and friends, and in the subsequent protests of his killing, many wore hoodies to show their support. 

In fact, one of the larger rallies, held in New York, was deemed the “Million Hoodie March” and the hoodie was used to protest racial profiling.   

“We decided to put inspirational quotes by Civil Rights activists and other social justice phrases on our hoodies,” Sophia says. “They have a long-lasting effect–other people seeing those when you wear them is a cool way to spread that message.” 

The sisters use an iPad to hand-design the text on the hoodies and have been mainly dropping purchases off to customers’ doorsteps around San Diego. 

Along with the merchandise, Sophia and Isabella, a Grade 9 student at Westview High School, have populated their website with a list of resources, including movie, book, and podcast recommendations, that they hope will help educate other people about the history of racism and civil liberties in America. 

“We thought it would be a good idea to provide links to eye-opening information we have seen or others have recommended to us,” Sophia says. “We learned a lot, in general, through these resources about the history of racism. I probably wouldn’t have watched or read a lot of these if it weren’t for this movement.” 

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“We saw people going out to protest, but protesting for a lot of people is probably not the safest option due to COVID. We wanted to support the effort so we started making hoodies.” 

“Sophia and young adults like her are helping our society hold itself accountable through their courageous leadership and advocacy,” says Parker Director of Community Engagement Kevin Dunn. “This is yet another example of how our students don’t wait to graduate in order to make a meaningful difference in the world.” 

Sophia is using the creation of her nonprofit as her Community Engagement project at Parker, and along with educating herself about the history of racism, she says she has also learned a lot about what it takes to run a business.

Along with racial justice, the sisters are also passionate about Women’s Rights, LGBTQ Rights, and Immigration, all issues that they plan to incorporate into future hoodie designs. 

“We are really hoping to expand and explore different issues that are also so important to us,” Sophia says.