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Browder Foundation gets help from Kahnawake

Local designer Carla Monson took the initiative and got invoved with a global human rights campaign because it was the right thing to do. (Tehosterihens Deer The Eastern Door)

Carla Monson is a local woman willing to help others, and make a change.

Monson got her foot in the door through collaboration with the Kalief Browder Foundation, an organization that helps troubled youth and commemorates the late Kalief Browder.

The late Kalief Browder is one of the main faces of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Browder was only 16 years old when he was accused of stealing a backpack in New York City. He was held on $3,000 bail, which his family could not afford. He was imprisoned for three years in one of the world’s roughest prisons, Rikers Island, as he awaited a trial that never came to be.

Eventually, years after his release, he took his own life. He had attempted suicide many times.

“Somebody tagged me in a Facebook post, asking for an artist to help with the foundation,” said Monson. “A representative of Mackenzie & Park named Vanessa Mahon, came to my store and we discussed a possible collaboration,” said Monson.

“I created demos for them and they liked it overall. They ended up choosing me to help create the clothing for the foundation,” she said.

“We supplied the designs, her job is to print it onto vinyl paper and use the heat press for the clothing,” said Mahon.

Mackenzie & Park sells men’s underwear, and soon will sell men’s and women’s sportswear. The company is based out in Montreal.

“I’d heard about Kalief Browder before, he’s one of the top names whenever you search ‘Black Men Killed’ or ‘Black men wrongfully convicted’ or ‘youth in crisis,’ or anything about the injustice,” said Mahon.

“I’ve always had a passion for the Black Lives Matter movement, the All Lives Matter movement and the Native Lives Matter movement. I think the world has become ridiculous thinking that one race or one religion overpowers everyone else. Everyone pays their food bill, rent or mortgage, holds a job, lives and breathes the same air, has the same red blood going through their veins, so why aren’t we all treated equally?” she added.

Mahon and Monson collaborated to help aid the KBF through the distribution of clothing.

“The clothing projects began in July, and I started with the scanning cut. I’ve used YouTube to help me create designs for clothing and other products,” said Monson.

“I didn’t know about the story or the situation behind it; we discussed the story and the history behind it. I watched the documentary on Netflix (Time: The Kalief Browder Story) I’ve read multiple articles and footage, and I wanted to take action. I’m a strong human rights activist when incidents like this occur,” she added.

The new project collaboration helps create T-shirts, hats, sweaters, and other clothing, all for the foundation. Monson explained that she has been making hundreds and hundreds of pieces clothing, to be shipped out to the United States.

“The importance of the KBF Collection was so that the family didn’t feel alone, as if their son/brother/friend was shot and that was it. It’s important to keep a movement like this alive because eventually, it’ll only be memories,” said Mahon.

As of now, the products are only sold in the US, but will eventually be sold worldwide.

With two years of solitary confinement and over 30 court dates, Browder was later set free.

“I watched the Netflix documentary and cried from the first episode straight to the last. I decided that I wanted to buy a t-shirt because surely there was a t-shirt out there that would benefit their foundation,” said Mahon. “The only t-shirt I could find was from a Chinese wholesaler, and with the conversion rates and shipping, a simple t-shirt with only one design would’ve cost me $79.86 Canadian,” said Mahon.

“I drafted a proposal, had my graphic artist design six different images or wording, approached my colleagues, and everyone was emotional about this story and the fact that I wanted Mackenzie & Park to help. I then contacted the foundation and the president of the foundation, who is Kalief’s brother Akeem Browder, and within days he was really interested and beyond humble about us wanting to help,” she added.

“We recently sent 60 t-shirts as a donation to the KBF Backpack Cause, which donates backpacks filled with living essentials and schools essentials (towels, face cloths, soap, deodorant, notebooks, pencils) to youth who are either homeless, leaving the foster care system, or wrongfully convicted youth offenders,” said Mahon.

“I’m a big advocate for helping one another,” said Monson. “If you make a difference in someone’s life, they’ll remember it. I don’t do this for the money; I do it because it helps other people out there who need a boost.”

All of the proceeds from the clothing will go to the foundation in New York.

Mahon and Monson have only met over two months ago, but are already set to create more products to help the youth and the foundation. Monson explained that this is the first step of the project, and hopes that this will bring attention to the hate crimes that occur against people of colour.

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