This week I caught up with the very inspirational Rebekah Star of Change The Definition Clothing Company for an exclusive interview about her life, her brand new clothing company, and the meaning behind it.
While working in the Portland Public School System, volunteer teacher Rebekah Star noticed that most of the students falling behind were African-American or Latino. As a black woman she became driven to uplift her community and her people. Following a life-changing trip to Ethiopia, Africa,Rebekah is ready to move forward with a t-shirt design.
She now owns a Philanthropic Urban Apparel Company, Change The Definition LLC, aiming to bring about change in African-American communities one shirt at a time. Rebekah donates 50% of the profits to charities. Her recent projects include providing over 5,000 take home books for at-risk youth falling behind in reading and building a library in Ethiopia for kids who lack access to books.
She believes that by using and giving our ‘power to the people’, we can help at-risk youth embark on a new path to wealth, success, happiness, and most importantly, true freedom.
Phoebe Parke: What inspired you to start up Change The Definition?
Rebekah Star: While volunteering in our school district, I was inspired by seeing bright young children who had full potential, but were falling far behind their classmates for lack of specialized attention. I wanted to help all the children, but regretfully I just didn’t have the resources. After a few years of seeing the public school system continue to go downhill, I decided I needed to come up with the resources to help as many children as I can. I knew of how the Gap Red Campaign was raising funds through selling T-shirts. So I consulted a few of my friends and decided to try the same type of fundraising. Using the power that we have as consumers, we can all help to make a difference in the lives of students worldwide! I wanted to offer that opportunity!
Tell us a bit about your background:
I have always been and independent thinker, driven and creative. And knew at about 12 years old that I wanted to create something that would change the lives of so many individuals and families. The direction I chose to take wouldn’t reveal itself until I was 30 years old. I am the daughter of African-American middle class couple, whom have been married for 35 years and still going strong. The most important things in my life are my family, my business and my dreams! Because I have had access to all of these things that have helped me get ahead, I would like to extend that opportunity to at-risk youth.
Who inspired you when you were growing up?
It was a combination for me. My dad was pretty inspiring as he knows how to build things and taught himself how to get ahead as a black man in a time when it was less accepted. He had no traditional education and still managed to educate himself. He is very intelligent and wise. I also was inspired by some celebrities, Russell Simmons, Oprah Winfrey, and Michael Jackson. They all made a choice to give the world something great that would change the lives of many generations of families and they would do it their own way. I love that! I am committed to that!
Why is it important to change our definition of black?
Black has always been associated with negativity. Black people have been primarily associated with negativity. For me, it is mainly a change in perception and behavior. And getting at the root of the problem which I believe is lack of education. By educating, we allow our people more opportunity to grow and to education others. What ends up happening is that instead of a having largely negative statistics, they will shift in a more positive direction. Higher college enrollment, lower incarceration statistics, more high school graduates, lower unemployment rate, etc. We need to take action now to create a positive change in our community.
What is your definition of black?
My personal definition is to be philanthropic. I have made a choice in my life that that is how I would like to be defined as a person, a woman and an African-American. I also think a great way to define us a people is “Undefined”. Which is the definition a friend gave me. We should not fit into a standard that someone else has put on us. We are just as able to be whomever we want to be as any other human being is. Once people start believing that, change can occur.
How will clothing make a difference in the community?
All of the messages we are putting out are either an inspirational or positively inspired social message. It will inspire a new way of thinking to people who see or read our shirts. It makes people feel great to wear and participate in such a positive movement and the funds from the shirts will help the children in our community get educated. For 2012 & 2013 our goal is to ‘Knock Out Illiteracy!” by partnering with national and international literacy programs. Our company has a goal of impacting the lives of 1, 000, 000 children worldwide.
What other projects are you working on outside of the clothing line?
I am currently working on a book to inspire teenage girls to be strong, intelligent and live life to the fullest through a series of actions. And also looking into adding jewelry to our Change The Definition collection.
What are your hopes for the young ethnic minority community? What do you hope to inspire them to do?
My hope for the our young community is that they will start to build momentum in a positive direction. I hope that they’ll see that value in teaching others positive values and how helping others helps themselves and inspires younger ones to do the same. I hope they will set and outstanding example for the next generation!
What is the most unique element of your brand?
Our most unique element is that we are taking the visions that many civil rights leaders and different socially motivated movements and putting them into a brand that helps gain the results that those leader were trying to achieve. My personal quote is “We will educate our children, by any means necessary.” I take this personally and am wholly committed to seeing great results. You are purchasing with purpose!
How can I get my hands on one of your inspiring T-Shirts?
Please visit www.changethedef.com and purchase a shirt. Be a part of the foreword movement. For a limited time we will have free shipping. I would also encourage all readers to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @changethedef. We offer specials in those communities and also inform our community on educational statistics and other related information.
How would you suggest the T-Shirts be worn?
Our line is created for the hip consumer. I would think jeans or leggings would best suite our products, but style is individual. The most important thing is that you rock one!
What does the future hold for Change The Definition?
Change The Definition will grow to become a nationally and internationally known brand. I would like to be the #1 selling philanthropic apparel line. We will continue to release special edition T-shirts every few months and continue to grow our brand in different areas that benefit our community.