For those of you on social media, you might have seen a huge influx of black and white selfies displaying familiar faces or even strangers, but one thing they all had in common was a caption that read “#ChallenegeAccepted”. At first glance you might think this to be a nod to the raising awareness of feminism and equality, or perhaps even a superficial moment to show off a beautiful portrait, but taking a deeper look this movement was actually started to bring attention to something much greater: the femicide happening in Turkey. The rate of female homicide and violence against women in Turkey continues to climb. Protesters and activists decided to highlight this problem by pinning black and white pictures on themselves as a way to mourn these womens’ deaths. Taking this a step further, they then decide to post on social media black and white portraits, as if they were the ones to be mourned, showing the ease that even they could be a victim of femicide. This movement caught on to pay homage to those that were murdered and to stand in solidarity with female empowerment and gender equality. Some even went further to speak for those that could not accept the challenge, like Breonna Taylor, and posted her black and white portrait. At Cece DuPraz, we were nominated, accepted the challenge and then looked within ourselves and knew that, as a small business run by women, we needed to also act on behalf of women’s equality and female empowerment, and thus the during the last week of July, we donated 10% of all of our sales to Planned Parenthood. As a business that supports women entrepreneurs, Black women leaders and wants to give back to neighboring communities, we also took on and accepted our own challenge, which was to reinvent the LOFT at Cece DuPraz: a philanthropic place to house creation, connection and collaboration amongst women and children, partnered with the focus to raise awareness and to actively participate in helping communities outside of our own. And now we are giving you a further look Inside the LOFT at Cece DuPraz.
“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” - Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is a favorite of ours at Cece DuPraz - her wisdom, her words, her cadence - all resonate deep within us, especially this above quote. One of our last pieces spoke about our own personal struggles and growth during this Pandemic and Civil Rights movement currently going on in our country, highlighting the importance to move beyond connecting with just ourselves and go further into connecting with other communities who are hurting right now. In fact, we even feel this to be an extension of the classroom and make it our responsibility to “take the things we have learned and will continue to learn, to show our kids how to live a life to create positive change and influence outside of our little bubbles.”. Earlier this summer we decided to try and take these ideas and make something concrete out of them - cue the old saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. If we wanted to really move forward running philanthropic events at the LOFT, we needed to start somewhere, and so the concept of a small group summer camp came to mind and we immediately hit the ground running. We partnered with My Brother’s Table, the Northshore largest soup kitchen, after learning that they were most definitely in need of donations, especially masks since those who do not have them are turned away from food service. It is important to us to have the kids understand that while they are privileged, there are neighbors down the road who are lacking basic needs like food and clean clothes, so partnering with a local charity was a must. We knew what we wanted to teach, and while we are not teachers in the literal sense, we are: strong women, artistic women, compassionate women and loving mothers. And so, by putting all of this together we came up with the guiding philosophy behind our mission and the basics of what we wanted to teach:
Craft, Entrepreneurship, Connection and Equality.
I don’t think we were prepared for the magic that happened when we gathered in our space to teach a small group of 9-12 year olds about philanthropy and important Black leaders in history. Day 1 included lessons about Congressman John Lewis and the idea of entrepreneurship, where the kids were going to be designing custom tote art bags. Upon hearing that the campers were going to design their own bags to then be donated to a family in need, we were prepared for some small protests and perhaps some audible groans. But we weren’t; instead we saw the kids immediately turn to their colored pencils and papers and start designing. They were so impressed to see their creations then put onto the computer, and embroidered on a bag. Day 2 was learning about Maya Angelou (our fave!) and connection, by making friendship bracelets to be added inside the donated bag. We also highlighted that “giving back” doesn’t just mean donating money or volunteering somewhere; it can encompass many different avenues like donating your time, your things, your ideas, your words and your art. Day 3 was a lesson about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and equality. The campers were able to design their own masks and in turn, we made and donated about 35 adult and kids masks along with the tote bags and bracelets. The final day (sadly!), Day 4 was learning about an amazing Black woman and leader, Mary McLeod Bethune. She believed that “the greatest hope for the development of my race lies in training our women thoroughly and practically.”. We emphasized the importance of education in all forms, whether it is in the classroom or through experiences - like camp, and even had a special guest from The Yoga Loft in Marblehead come in and teach about the importance of mindfulness. The campers packed up all of their creations to donate to My Brother’s Table and left with a smile, feeling ecstatic and very pleased that their art is going to make a difference in someone’s world.
When the pandemic first hit and everything seemed to be “cancelled” it was hard to visualize how we were going to pick ourselves up from this. But we did and we couldn’t be more excited to finally bring the LOFT at Cece DuPraz to life. We have 1 more session of Summer camp and then will be transitioning our curriculum to an afterschool program. And for the adults - do you worry, we have so much in store for us because, let’s face it - we need to get out too! All of our programming will be partnered with a local charity so we all can do our part to give back. And lastly, because we are a consumer based company after all, we have worked really hard at designing something really special, that is not only aesthetically beautiful, but ethically too.
For the parents who participated, or will participate, in our Summer Camp or virtual camp-in-a-box: THANK YOU! It was such an unbelievable joy to share this experience (and will continue to) with your kids. And please stay tuned for more Inside the LOFT so we can bring you behind the scenes and introduce to you future programs we have in the works!