FRJ Volunteer Highlight - Ahmari Benton

FRJ’s newest addition is Milwaukee native Ahmari Benton!  Ahmari is a Junior interdisciplinary art major at Howard University where her interdisciplinary studies combine fashion design and painting.  In addition to being the only honors student in the fashion design department and one of two honors students in the painting department, this fabulous young lady is actively involved on campus.  This is how much:  

  • In the fall of 2016, Ahmari was inducted into Howard University’s section of the esteemed National Council of Negro Women

  • After a highly competitive application process, Ahmari accepted a volunteer position with the Howard University Homecoming Committee, during which she primarily served as a Fashion Show Volunteer

  • Later in the school year, Ahmari served the community of Newark, New Jersey, as a Team Leader during Howard’s Alternative Spring Break program. This program had the purpose of increasing socio-economic awareness, socio-political awareness, and high school retention in the city.

  • Ahmari is excited to serve as the 2017 Education Project Coordinator for Howard University’s Annual Day of Service program this coming fall

Ahmari is passionate about education reform and arts education in urban communities, and she plans to study education policy abroad upon the completion of her undergraduate studies.  FRJ is fortunate and excited to have Ahmari share this passion as our summer volunteer, where she will be focusing on curriculum writing for our pilot program.  Therefore, we just had to highlight her, while welcoming her to the FRJ family! WELCOME to the family Ahmari!

Written by:

Chanell Hasty


FRJ Board Member Highlight - Erika Hardaway

The operative word that describes FRJ Board member Erika Hardaway is reliable.  FRJ has relied on Erika’s support, passion, and expertise since the organization’s inception, and we are honored to shine the spotlight on her!   

Erika’s story personifies FRJ.  When asked to tell her story and how she came to be in her field, she eloquently stated, “I grew up in a low-income, yet loving and supportive family.  My parents struggled financially, and they made sure that education was a central focus for me, as they were certain that it would create opportunities for me that they could not.  I went to great public schools and the summer between my junior and senior year of high-school, I served as a volunteer with a program called Amigos de las Americas.  I went to Uruguay for five weeks and led a community improvement project, as well as educational initiatives.  That sparked a desire to travel and, more importantly, change the world by increasing educational opportunities for all. I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature from Hunter College and a Master of Arts in International Education from New York University.  After leading several youth development projects in Latin America, I decided to invest into our education system in New York City.”  

Erika continued taking us along her journey and said, “It is crucial to invest in our youth so that they have the opportunity to go out and be the change they want to see in the world.  I have devoted my professional career to achieving great educational outcomes in my hometown while still working with organizations to promote educational initiatives abroad.  I am grateful to be able to pursue my passion in many ways.  

On a softer side, Erika shared some fun facts about herself with us!  Her favorite thing to do is to read!  Erika said, “Reading has done so much for me, allowed me to escape mentally when I needed to, helped me learn more about my history and myself, opened up my mind to new people and places, and keeps me endlessly entertained.”  She even shared some of her favorite books, like “Men we Reaped”, “The Poisonwood Bible”, and one of my favorites, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”  Erika’s favorite food is baked macaroni and cheese, her favorite place in the world is her hometown of New York City, and her favorite people in the world are her parents because they have been such an integral part of shaping her into the woman that she is.  In the most admirable tone in regards to her parents, Erika stated that no one will ever share that “favorite spot.”  

In connecting Erika’s story to her volunteer work as a Board member with FRJ, she told us, “FRJ focuses on empowering disenfranchised youth, and its mission could not be closer to my heart.  I have been fortunate enough to encounter people in my life who have invested in me, and I have always wanted to do the same for others.  Education is a powerful force in my life, and FRJ allows me to harness my passion and help students around the world embark on educational journeys that will change their lives and the world at large.  Erika elaborated, and explained that she is interested in supporting African youth and the region through FRJ because throughout history, Africa and its people have been stripped of their time, talent, and treasure (mental and financial).  She continued on this note and said, “Other people and countries have grown exponentially because of what they obtained from the continent and its people.  FRJ provides space, time, and opportunity for African youth to explore their potential and empowers them to invest in their friends, family, and the economy!  Erika concluded with the poignant statement, “A lack of resources has left millions of brilliant minds untapped and fortunately, FRJ is going to change that.”

One of Erika’s many hats as a Board Member for FRJ is helping to write its pilot program curriculum - which we found out, is her highlight in volunteering as a Board member for the organization!  She excitingly told us, “I am thrilled to write the activities that will spark program participants’ creativity and lead them to create exciting and sustainable businesses.”

When Erika was asked about the message she would like to spread to the world about FRJ, she told us, “I  want the world to understand that by investing in FRJ, they are taking a huge step toward stopping the cycle of conditional loans and grants, which only increase poverty and dependency.  Being a part of FRJ in any capacity means that you believe in the power of all youth, regardless of the hand that life has dealt them, to create opportunities for themselves and for generations to come.”  It touched us to hear her last powerful statement that, “FRJ is not a charity, it is an empowerment cultivator.”

How will FRJ’s reliable Board Member, and passionate youth advocate continue to invest in them and the education system in the next five years?  But, of course, on a school leadership team as a Dean of School Culture or Assistant Principal where she will focus on character development and culture.  Erika told us that outside of being on a school leadership team, she would like to be a consultant for organizations that lead educational initiatives abroad, specifically as they pertain to at-risk youth.  Erika, we are positive that these aspirations will come true, and we THANK YOU for investing your time for the youth that FRJ will impact for years to come.  

Affectionately by,

Chanell Hasty - FRJ Founder and Director 

FRJ Board Member Highlight - Gabriel Rivera

Gabriel Rivera is FRJ’s official “finance guru”! He has helped to guide the organization’s financial health since it became operational in February 2016, and we are honored to shine the spotlight on him!

Gabriel hails from East Harlem, and is a meticulous, technologically proficient, bilingual professional who can adapt to the many changing demands in business.  He aims to be recognized as a Management Accountant who integrates accounting expertise with advanced technological and management skills with the goal of influencing an organization’s business performance.  

When asked how he came to be in the accounting field, he stated, “I was fortunate to have had good mentors throughout my life who helped me to recognize that I was good with numbers.  I then wanted to use that skill in business - which led me to accounting.”  

Gabriel also shared some fun facts about himself with us!

- His favorite food is rice & beans with pernil

- His favorite place in the world is his home

- His favorite person is his mom

We had to find out how Gabriel’s story led him to volunteer his time as a Board member with FRJ.  He told us, “I worked at Global Kids with our Founder and President, Chanell Hasty.  When she moved on from Global Kids, she told me that she would be starting her own organization.  Chanell and I maintained contact, and when she went to form FRJ, I admired her entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to play a part in building the organization.”  Gabriel elaborated, and explained that he is interested in supporting African youth and the region through FRJ because the youth in the region can benefit from programs that help them develop life-skills to better equip them to deal with life’s challenges.   

It was interesting to hear Gabriel’s response to the question of his highlight volunteering as a Board member with FRJ.  Gabriel excitingly told us, “FRJ’s event Fashion Monday at TreeHouseBK!  It gave us the opportunity to promote FRJ to new and existing supporters while having a good time.”  The highlight cover picture demonstrates the good time that Gabriel (and Chanell) had!  

When asked about the message he would like to spread to the world about himself, he quoted to listen to others, and to speak with your actions.  The message that he would like to spread to the world about FRJ is that the organization is here to help youth in the African region learn life-skills using fashion to help them be self-sufficient and empowered.  

Lastly, when FRJ’s finance guru was asked where he sees himself in the next five years, he told us, “I see myself overseeing the operations of my youth-focused sports company.”  Gabriel, we are positive that those operations will be run in great financial health, and we THANK YOU for overseeing FRJ’s financial health over the past year and a half!

Affectionately by,

Chanell Hasty - FRJ Founder and President

Fashion Redefining Justice Donor Highlight - Nicolette Regis

Donors are vital to a non-profit organization’s health and success.  In the spirit of charity, they donate money, goods, and their time to help organizations fulfill their missions and visions. As a young non-profit organization, FRJ’s donors are the backbone to its existence, and we want to always show our appreciation to them.  This is why we are excited to begin to highlight different donors in the new “FRJ Donor Highlight” installment!  The first FRJ donor to be highlighted is Nicolette Regis.  

Nicolette has worked in the International Development field for many years, working for organizations such as Management Sciences for Health (MSH), a global health organization, and THIS for Diplomats, a non-profit that promotes mutual understanding and citizen diplomacy through educational and cultural exchanges.  Ms. Regis recently completed her Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Communication from American University’s School of International Service.

I found it interesting for someone to get such a unique and specialized graduate degree.  When asked about this graduate degree choice, Nicolette took me on her amazing career journey that led her to it.  Ms. Regis’ interest was sparked while working at MSH, where she observed the cultural differences between staff that moved from other countries to work at MSH’s United States (U.S.) offices.  Nicolette noticed that they were technically prepared to start their jobs at MSH, but were not prepared to navigate the U.S. office culture.  One example that stuck out to her was the inability of an international colleague to say no.  She stated, “It would be considered impolite for him to say no to a task in his country even if he were too busy. Therefore, he took on too many projects and responsibilities in his new U.S. position, which led him to become overwhelmed.” Ms. Regis went on to explain that another major challenge for  international staff was that their kids and spouses struggled to adapt to the new American culture; and we all know that unhappiness in one’s home life can transfer to one’s work life.  

As we continued down our career journey conversation, Nicolette shared that she has been a volunteer since 2002 for AFS Intercultural Program USA, where she acts as a Liaison/Orientation Coordinator to high school exchange students.  It is clear that she has been on her way for many years to work in the specialized field of Intercultural and International Communication!  

Nicolette’s passion for intercultural and international communication, as well as her interest in the African region, is what led her to become an FRJ donor.  She stated that, “I became interested in the African region through my work in international development, where I became more aware of the issues on the continent.  When I saw one of FRJ’s blog postings on LinkedIn, I went to the website to learn more.  I found the organization intriguing because it provides an important opportunity for African youth to contribute to the workforce and thus, to Africa’s economic development.  FRJ will have a critical impact on the continent’s future.”  

Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Nicolette if she will continue to support FRJ in the future, and I am happy to say that I got an astounding YES! She stressed again the importance of FRJ’s work with African youth that will in her opinion, give them skills that will empower them to take control of their lives, which will have long-lasting effects.  Nicolette ended our conversation with, “I am part of the FRJ donor family, and am excited to see how the organization grows.”

Nicolette, from me and FRJ’s Board members and staff, THANK YOU for being part of FRJ’s donor family; and we are ecstatic to have you along with us on our journey!


By: Chanell Hasty - Founder and President

An Ankara Bazaar in the Middle of Brooklyn

This past Saturday, February 18th, I had an amazing time at “An Ankara Bazaar” at 26 Bridge in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, NY.  I was  instantly transported to West Africa as I walked through the doors of the Bazaar: absorbing the amazing aroma of jollof rice, feeling the deep bass of an Afrobeats song pulsate through my body, and being captivated by stunning Ankara print dresses, jackets, hand-bags, and jewelry.  My senses were immediately activated and I was hooked!  

Now, you may ask, what is this ankara print that captivated me so, and that has an entire Bazaar dedicated to it? Let me tell you! Ankara is commonly known as “African prints,” “African wax prints,” “Holland wax,” and “Dutch wax.”  It is a 100% cotton fabric with vibrant patterns - usually a colorful cloth that is primarily associated with Africa because of its tribal-like patterns and motifs.  The Indonesian wax-resist dyeing technique called batik is how ankara print fabrics are made - methods are used to “resist” the dye from reaching all the cloth, thus, creating a pattern.  

Although ankara fabrics are associated with African culture, its origins are actually Dutch.  Dutch wax prints started out as mass-produced imitations of Indonesian batik fabric, primarily by the Dutch company Vlisco, and were originally intended for the Indonesian market.  However, a more enthusiastic market was found in West Africa, where ankara has become symbols of traditional and high quality fashion.  

Ankara print spread from West Africa to other parts of Africa, and now, globally … including the DUMBO section of Brooklyn!  The Ankara Bazaar, a day event highlighting African and Afrocentric creativity featuring vendors with unique and extraordinary designs in style and detail, mostly African inspired, is helping to spread ankara print throughout the United States.  Ankara Bazaars will be taking place in Washington, D.C.  on March 18th and in Philadelphia on April 22nd.  So, if you missed the Bazaar in New York, be sure to check it out in one of the other cities so you, too, can experience traditional African food, pop-up fashion shows that showcase beautiful ankara print designs, and the live DJ spinning Afrobeat after Afrobeat!  FRJ will be there soaking up ankara techniques for its pilot programming in July!  


By: Chanell Hasty

Fashion’s Academic"Esque"Side: The Fashion Studies Journal

WHO: A group of former Master of Arts Fashion Studies program students - Co-founding Editors: Kim Jenkins, Social Programming and Partnership Lead; Lauren Downing Peters, Editor-in-Chief; and Laura Snelgrove, Editor & Editor-at-Large


WHAT: Founded the Fashion Studies Journal


WHEN: The year 2012


WHERE: The Parsons School of Design in New York City


WHY: Through critical, thoughtful writing, the journal seeks to carve a space to address current issues facing the contemporary fashion landscape, while simultaneously examining these issues through the lenses of history and theory.  The editors seek to make connections: between ideas and objects, and between themselves and the fashion-literate population at-large


HOW: As a quarterly online journal - in its 2nd issue post relaunch


Check out the issue HERE!


By: Chanell Hasty 

The Gambia’s Political Crisis - What You Need to Know

The Situation

On December 1st of last year, the Gambian people went to the polls and voted for a new president, Adama Barrow., unseating their leader of the past 22 years, Yahya Jammeh.  However, Mr. Jammeh has refused to concede power and to accept the 2016 election results one week after he originally agreed to concede power.  Jammeh even challenged the election results with the Gambian Supreme Court, citing that there was an, “unprecedented and extraordinary amount of foreign interference” with the elections, according to CNN.  The Court now, will not hear the case until May.  

Tuesday, January 17th: In continued efforts to retain power, on Tuesday, January 17th, two days before his deadline to cede power, Incumbent President Jameh declared a “state of emergency”.

Wednesday, January 18th: On Wednesday, January 18th, a delegation of West African leaders such as, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, arrived in the country’s capital, Banjul, to discuss with Mr. Jammeh the importance of respecting the Gambian constitution.  Unfortunately, the delegation talks failed as of last evening.  

Thursday, January 19th: On today, January 19th, President-elect Adama Barrow is scheduled to be inaugurated at 4:00pm local time at The Gambian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, where he has been waiting for safety reasons, until his inauguration.

What’s Next?

If Jammeh refuses to step down by midnight, the Economic Community of West African States troops will enter The Gambia to remove him by force.  A move that will  send the smallest country on the continent, into further political instability and violence.  

Want to learn more about and keep on top of this developing political situation in The Gambia, read these latest news articles:   CNN article or ITV article.


By: Abby Cordaro & Chanell Hasty

FRJ, You, and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. As aptly put by the United Nations Population Fund, gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security, and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence.  

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, is working towards ending this culture of silence in respect to gender-based violence by inviting governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations, and individuals globally, to raise their voices against it.  From November 25 - December 10, all these partners will work together to raise resources for initiatives that aim to prevent and end violence against women and girls … including FRJ.

The theme for this year’s campaign is, “ORANGE THE WORLD: RAISE MONEY TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.” FRJ is EXCITED to join this campaign and make the world orange over the next 16 Days - calling for political commitments to be matched with specific ACTION of adequate FUNDING to prevent and end violence against women and girls worldwide over social media.  

You too can participate over the next 16 Days! Check out this tool kit to see how you can work to bring attention to this well deserving cause that affects a little more than half of the world’s population.

Help FRJ Orange the World!


By:  Margaret Strauss, FRJ Apprentice & Chanell Hasty, FRJ Founder and President


Is African Design NOT Mainstream?

The amazing Africa Fashion Week Los Angeles (AFWLA), produced  by Continent Creative, Los Angeles’ leading producer and marketer of upscale African fashion, art, and lifestyle events, took place this past Thursday, October 20th through Saturday, October 22nd at the Playhouse Studios in Los Angeles, California.  The fashions were spectacular, the talent was tremendous, and the messages were resounding!  The message that resounded most during my AFWLA experience was: the lack of African designers and styles within the mainstream market.  

Watching the spectacular creations of Seju Mike’s Osengwa collection, Maryanne Enanga Mokoko’s Koko Nanga line, Ngozika O’keke’s collection, Josefa Da Silva’s designs, and Corey Harris and Linda Omeni’s MIDGETgiraffe line float down the runway during AFWLA’s runway shows,  I could not fathom this mainstream market lack.

According to Ayanna James, celebrity stylist and costume designer, the solution to the lack of African designers and styles within the mainstream market lies within the many African creatives within the diaspora.  She eloquently stated during a TED-style talk on the first night of AFWLA that, “Africa produced top tier fashion designers and are being ripped off and cut out of the conversation.  How do we fix this - we are the ones we have been waiting for, and no one else can save us.  We have to carve out market opportunities for ourselves.”  

All of the amazing fashion designers listed above are indeed carving out mainstream market opportunities for themselves!  Ngozika O’keke’s designs can be bought on Etsy, Josefa Da Silva has opened her own boutique and showroom in Boston, Massachusetts, and you can purchase both MIDGETgiraffe and Koko Nanga’s designs directly from their websites.  

We still, however, have a long way to go in creating markets for African designers and creatives in the United States, Europe, etc. to make greater Africa known.  Tina Tangalakis, founder of the Della fashion line, a socially responsible line handcrafted by a community in Ghana, suggests that African designers and creatives have good branding, so that people have faith in what they are selling, and the ability to, “fake it until you make it,” to help create a presence within mainstream markets.  I agree with both Tina and Ayanna, and elements of their advice and suggestions will be woven into FRJ’s programming.  After all, FRJ will be contributing to the training and education of many future African designers and creatives!  

Do YOU want to help usher more African designers and creatives into the mainstream market?  If so, please support the African designers and creatives of AFWLA and support FRJ!  


By: Chanell Hasty, Founder and President


FRJ is Celebrating Girls Worldwide for International Day of the Girl!

Today, October 11th, marks the International Day of the Girl. In 2011, the United Nations voted to set aside this day in order to properly recognize and honor girls, and work to improve their lives. The mission of the International Day of the Girl is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” The day is meant to inspire girls globally and spread awareness for their struggle toward gender and economic equality in many parts of the world through activism and awareness.

According to the International Business Times, 31 million school-aged girls do not have the opportunity to attend elementary school, 35% of women globally have encountered physical and sexual violence, and only 4% of companies in the United States have women as chief executive officers.[1] It is absolutely imperative to stand up and start a conversation about the opportunities we give our girls and create a society in which they can thrive. Such a society needs to be full of female role models and leaders in all industries, not just those which have been labeled as appropriate for women. Too often, young girls are steered away from what have traditionally been viewed as more masculine subjects in school, leading them to choose careers in more traditionally female roles such as nursing and teaching.  “In elementary school and middle school, I wanted to be a meteorologist,” said Chanell Hasty, Founder and President of FRJ. “I was discouraged from doing this by my male teachers, and was told that I was a girl, so I should focus on social studies and language arts focused studies.” But, perhaps serendipitously, Chanell listened to their advice and went on to found this organization working to empower orphaned and vulnerable children, a large portion of which consists of girls and young women But, it is not the case for everyone that their ambitions are so rudely squandered.  For instance, my mother graduated in 1985 with degrees in marketing and computer science at a time when there were barely any women in the technology industry. She joined AT&T fresh out of college, and moved on to manage many projects in the information technology section of United Parcel Services (UPS), with whom she has spent the past 25 years. Now, years later, she sits in a position where she can hire young women in the sciences, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field, and has made a push to recruit more young female computer engineers and scientists in her company’s internship program.

“By encouraging the media to depict more examples of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields -- and by working to expand access to STEM classes and careers, particularly computer science -- we are striving to address inequalities in education,” President Barak Obama declared in a proclamation on the White House’s website last week.[2] Through innovative vocational programing, we at FRJ are striving to address inequalities in education for vulnerable girls in the Gambia … just like President Obama’s vision as well as my mother’s (something like that). And we are not alone! Our partner organizations, like Women Deliver and The Girl’s Agenda, are also pursuing educational and gender equality. Other amazing organizations such as United Nations Women, Girl Rising, and Girls Not Brides, have also made remarkable strides in this endeavor. By supporting these organizations, you are supporting the millions of girls facing grave inequalities.  So, please visit their websites to find out how you can support girls worldwide on this International Day of the Girl.

Together, we can strive towards addressing inequalities for girls and women – particularly, within education.

-By Margaret Strauss, FRJ Apprentice


[1] Glum, Julia. “International Day Of The Girl 2016: Quotes And Facts To Celebrate, Empower Young Women”. International Business Times, 11 October 2016.

[2] “Presidential Proclamation -- International Day of the Girl, 2016.” The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 7 October 2016.




Fresh Faces and Spaces: Fashion Week Brooklyn Promotes Young Designers and Equality in the Fashion Industry

Fashion Week Brooklyn is in full swing this week with a new and exciting energy! Founded by the BK Style Foundation (BK|SF), Fashion Week Brooklyn has become one of the leading fashion events to showcase both the work of aspiring fashion designers and supporting fashion-oriented charitable organizations. “It's fresh, it supports emerging designers from all social, economic, race/ethnic backgrounds, etc., and talks about the good AND bad of the fashion industry,” Chanell Hasty, Founder of FRJ, said of her overall impression of the week’s events.

Some of the events this week have been light and fun, like the “Meet the Designers” showcase FRJ attended on the evening of October 5th which featured up-and-coming designers like Elias Gurrola and Lissa Koo, a relaxed atmosphere, and a hype(-eractive) DJ setting the mood! Others, like the panel presented by BK|SF, "Diversity in Fashion--From Concept to Runway", took on a more academic perspective. During the panel discussion, there was an emphasis on the role of image, brand responsibility, youth, and how it all blends together in the industry. Kim Jenkins, Professor of Fashion History & Theory at the Pratt Institute & Editor-in-Chief of the Fashion Studies Journal, tackled image when she stated "the image is powerful". Connie Wang, Fashion Features Director at Refinery 29 honed in on brand responsibility when she said that brands have taken strides to influence greater diversity within the fashion industry.  These strides help to show images of beauty that are representative of more than one section of the population. The panel also discussed how important it is to encourage young people to become interested and involved in the industry, stating: “Young people need creative outlets to be successful.” The ultimate highlight of the panel discussion was an amazing comment made by a fiery audience member.  This woman passionately stated that we cannot talk about the importance of diversity in the fashion industry without talking about Africa and the Caribbean, where the bourgeoning fashion industries in the two markets are creating ample investment opportunities that will only promote the economic development of the regions - especially for the younger populations.  How amazing that FRJ, through its unique programming and vocational training, will bring a creative outlet that will set orphans and vulnerable children on the road to success in the Gambia, perfectly situated as an emerging bourgeoning fashion market! “Fashion is a business ... there is a science to it,” said panel participant Randy Bowdoin Jr., an up and coming model; summing up the future of the fashion industry and the enormous positive impacts it can have in developing regions across the globe.

So, how can you support the fashionable push for diversity, youth engagement, and economic development? Make a donation to FRJ, BK|SF, and the other charitable organizations affiliated with Fashion Week Brooklyn!

Follow these links for more information about how you can get involved:

·         Fashion Redefining Justice

·         BK|SF

·         Soles4Souls Foundation

·         Art in Motion Show

·         Denim Day NYC

·         Colel Chabad


By: Margaret Strauss, FRJ Apprentice

FRJ Video Blog: Standing in Solidarity to Reduce the Spaces of Vulnerability for Youth on World Day against Trafficking Persons with ECPAT-USA

Human trafficking and vulnerability go hand in hand.  According to the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime, the more vulnerable you are, the more at risk you are to fall victim to both forced labor and sexual human trafficking related crimes.[1] Therefore, it is important to highlight that human trafficking is a crime, but being vulnerable is not. That is what international holidays like the UN’s World Day against Human Trafficking Persons strives to highlight, as well as organizations like End Child Prostitution and Trafficking – USA (ECPAT-USA).  With millions of trafficking person victims worldwide, ECPAT-USA concentrates their efforts in fighting against Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth. 

Through the work of ECPAT-USA, child prostitution has gained attention as a global phenomenon that affects over two million children every year, vulnerability being a crucial independent variable.  It is urgent to act against human trafficking and to protect children and youth from labor-related and sexual exploitation.  This is why FRJ, an organization that itself acts to protect vulnerable youth through the channels of social and economic self-sufficiency, is honored to acknowledge the amazing work of ECPAT-USA and stand in solidarity with their cause on this World Day against Human Trafficking Persons.   

Reducing the spaces of vulnerability within our society is the first step to overthrow the structural barriers of inequality and extreme forms of violence – like prostitution and human trafficking. There is no one way to assess this problem, as both the work of ECPAT-USA and FRJ exemplifies. Thus, the more original and creative solutions we can come up with to combat issues that face vulnerable youth, the faster we will be able to change narratives and discourses, and consequently, a whole culture of injustice. 

If you want to help assess the problem of human trafficking and child prostitution, on this World Day against Human Trafficking Persons, ACT NOW by watching this video about ECPAT-USA and the extraordinary work they do! But, you don’t have to stop there, you can also visit their website and make a donation to support freedom. 

By Maria Ignacia Castellon





Step into the World of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation - Annual Legislative Conference

From September 14th – 18th, FRJ stepped into the world of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 46th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), aptly titled, “Defining the Moment: Building the Movement”.  The ALC is the leading policy conference on issues impacting African Americans and the global black community.  Every year during the ALC, thought leaders, legislators, and concerned citizens engage on economic development, civil and social justice, public health, and education issues.  This year, FRJ participated and engaged as a thought leader around youth development in Africa, and how THEY define the moment and build the movement within the diaspora.   

On Friday, September 16th, I attended the Africa Brain Trust, hosted by Representative Karen Bass (Democrat – California 37th District), and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.  This year, the Brain Trust explored the themes, the “Future Economic Progress & Challenges on the Continent”; “Building African Health and Education Infrastructure”; and “Examining African Security and Democracy” – and the common denominator amongst each theme was youth

Linda Thomas –Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau for African Affairs at the State Department, went through the top policy challenges for the next United States Administration in relation to Africa - and at the top of this list was a focus on the youth bulge and proper education & healthcare for youth.  Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield eloquently stated, “The next Administration must take care of, feed, shelter, educate, and provide jobs to give hope to youth in Africa.”  She went on to say that, “The classroom is the breeding ground where young minds are developed, and where there is a lack of opportunity and options, extremism can lead.  Therefore, we must find solutions for the youth bulge because young people need to have a stake in their country and be able to lead.” 

FRJ is ecstatic to be policy relevant, offering its creative solution to the youth bulge through providing livelihood and life skills within the global fashion industry to adolescent orphans and vulnerable children.  Through FRJ, youth in the Gambia will have an opportunity to have a stake in their country. 

With the next United States presidential elections and a new Administration around the corner, please JOIN with FRJ to ensure that the continent of Africa, its global economic vitality, and its young people are a priority by:

·         Placing government officials in office that will prioritize African policy

·         Holding government officials accountable for African policy

·         Supporting the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

·         Considering an online donation to help FRJ build and deliver programming that will serve as a solution to the youth bulge in Africa

The solution starts with YOU!


By: Chanell Hasty, Founder and President, FRJ

Spotlight on Adolescents at the United Nations 71st General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is in the midst of their 71st session, and has taken a special approach to tackling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In order to maintain the commitment to combating some of the most important problems of our time, world leaders are emphasizing the important role of adolescents in achieving the SDGs by 2030. Many events have focused specifically on adolescents.  To name a few, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) held a day-long session on September 21st entitled “Adolescents and Youth: The Driving Force for the Sustainable Development Goals”; Population Council hosted, “Retooling Adolescent Girl Programming: Resources for Intentional Program Design” on September 19th; Every Woman Every Child put on “Together for the 2030 Agenda: Partnering for Women, Children and Adolescents, to Thrive and Transform the World”; and dozens of other events concerning the international community’s need to support adolescents and their leadership in order to ensure a more sustainable future.

Mr. Thoai Ngo, Deputy Director of Poverty, Gender and Youth at Population Council, stated at their “Retooling” event in regards to programming that, “We have to be intentional on how we reach adolescents and the content we deliver to that group.” Accordingly, to ensure adolescents have a role in achieving the SDGs, effective programs must support and nurture them in both local and international communities through education, empowerment, and employment – precisely how FRJ’s programming endeavors to do in offering valuable fashion-related livelihood and life-skills to adolescent orphans and vulnerable children.  With these vocational skills, FRJ’s program participants will grow into socially and economically independent adults who contribute to the development of their own communities.

You don’t have to be in New York City attending UNGA sessions and events to support adolescents globally through effective adolescent programming!  Here are some key ways that YOU can contribute:

·         Get out and VOTE: on a local and national level, elect officials who are concerned with creating a more equal and equitable society both here and globally to enable adolescent leaders and their contribution to the international community

·         SUPPORT organizations that contribute to the development and empowerment of youth in your local and global communities. Remember, they are the long run economic solution (as well as the future creators of the next iPhone!).

·         VISIT the websites of the highlighted organizations linked above to find out more ways that you too, can contribute to #2030Now and their adolescent programming!

 Here’s to our future potential, and the foundation we are committed to building.

 By:  Margaret Strauss - FRJ Apprentice

The Social Justice & Activism in New York Fashion Week S/S 2017

It’s September, and another New York Fashion Week is upon us.  In the flurry of fashion shows, mixers, and after parties this time brings, you will find sprinkles of social justice, activism, and the protection of children’s rights … and that sprinkle is The Set NYC.  The mission of The Set NYC is to bring together artists, people for showcasing, networking, and helping make New York City better.  In fulfilling this mission during New York Fashion Week, over two nights, they are presenting: Fashion Week New York S/S 2017 in collaboration with the organization Freedom Ladder.  To create a safer world for children, this global non-profit is dedicated to making the world safe for children by educating them about the issues that are important to their lives using popular entertainment and inspiring them to live lives of courage, inspiration, and joy. 

If you want to contribute to creating a safer world for children and help end child trafficking, come out TONIGHT to the Holy Apostles Gallery from 6:00pm – 9:00pm, to see amazing fashion designer and artist exhibitions, as well as a fantastic runway show featuring designer Isabella Spataro and Song Ryoo.  FRJ will be there proudly supporting!


FRJ Video Blog: Commemorating International Youth Day with BUILD - NYC

Today, August 12th, marks International Youth Day.  As an international youth development organization, Fashion Redefining Justice is proud to commemorate this day along with the United Nations and the many amazing youth-centered organizations globally.  

The theme for 2016’s International Youth Day is centered around the leading role that young people can play in “green consumption.”  As we strive to achieve sustainable equity by 2030, we must factor in how increasing green consumption to minimize waste and pollution will contribute to achieving universal equitable socio-economic development.  Youth MUST play vital leadership roles in this area, and entrepreneurship is a method to get them to the forefront of green consumption.

Accordingly, Fashion Redefining Justice would like to highlight the youth development organization, BUILD.  Through entrepreneurship-based, experiential learning, BUILD ignites the potential of youth in under-resourced communities and equips them for high school, college, and career success.  BUILD does this amazing work around the United States in the Bay and Greater Boston areas, Metro District of Columbia, New York City, and Los Angeles.  

To hear first-hand how BUILD ignites the potential of youth and their entrepreneurial spirits on this International Youth Day, check out this video of Erika Hardaway, Curriculum & Instruction Program Manager and Miranda Bellizia, Community Engagement Manager, of BUILD-New York City.  

For those of you who live in areas where BUILD works and want to be part of their movement, go to their website and sign up to be a volunteer TODAY!

BUILD - NYC Video - International Youth Day 2016 Commemoration

FRJ Board Member Highlight - Janai Smith

Today, July 29th, is a very special day.  July 29th is so special because it is the birthday of one of Fashion Redefining Justice’s (FRJ) amazing Board members, Janai Smith.  Therefore, it is only befitting to dedicate this posting to her - highlighting her wonderful contributions not only to FRJ, but to her community and the world.

Janai Smith is passionate about gender equity, youth activism, and human rights.  These passions have been evident throughout her journey thus far - from her earning a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with minors in Gender Studies, Community & International Development, and French - to working with various youth development non-profit organizations, educating youth about various human rights issues and how they can fight for social justice - to serving with the Public Allies AmeriCorps program - to spending five months in Cameroon volunteering at an orphanage for an HIV/AIDS non-governmental organization.  

Today, in conjunction with pursuing her Masters in Global Gender Studies at New York University and running the Youth Against Child Trafficking (Y-ACT) program to educate teens about child sex trafficking in the United States at ECPAT-USA, Janai is serving as a Founding Board Member for FRJ.  Not only is she serving as a Board member, but as the Board Secretary!   

There is nothing this fantastic and dedicated woman will not do in the name of service to youth and other vulnerable populations. This is why on her birthday, I, as the Founder and President of FRJ, and her other fellow Board members, want to acknowledge Janai Smith for her passionate contributions to FRJ, her community, and the world.  

Happy Birthday Janai!  


Designer for Good Highlight - Angela Luna & ADIFF

As FRJ uses fashion to innovatively transform the lives of orphans and vulnerable children – ultimately contributing to the global goal of ending extreme poverty – fashion designer Angela Luna uses it to help alleviate the global refugee crisis.  Through her apparel company ADIFF, a humanitarian and philanthropic outerwear and sport brand dedicated to addressing global issues through design and providing customers with unique and innovative products, Ms. Luna designs multi-purpose garments that can be worn for recreation, and then modified as survival gear for refugees.

The outerwear collection, Crossing the Boundary, is a unisex, one-size collection, with garments that serve multiple, transformable purposes – like jackets designed to transform into tents and sleeping bags.

Angela hopes that the Crossing the Boundary collection will be able to help migrants on their journey, while spreading awareness and starting a conversation about the tragedies they face.  She eloquently states in terms of her company and line, “the goal is to spur others thinking about the possibility of their impact, and inspire them to act similarly.” 

If you are spurred and inspired to join ADIFF’s cause to alleviate the global refugee crisis, check out the Boundary Outerwear collection at, and purchase an amazing piece or two.  I know that I will!

To read even more about Angela Luna and ADIFF, click here.

Photo and citation credits:



The Power of Storytelling

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.”  This Native American proverb has rung true throughout history from the writers of the holy books – to prominent news anchors - to celebrities on social media.  The proverb also rings true in my life, as I have learned over time that YOU are the only one that can tell YOUR story.  I have also learned how healing, cathartic, and empowering telling your story is. 

Accordingly, at Fashion Redefining Justice (FRJ), we truly believe in the healing power of storytelling.  In particular, we believe that telling YOUR own story allows you and only you to define who you are.  In telling your story, you become the ruler of your world!

In true FRJ fashion, our Board members, staff, partners, and youth that we will serve through our program, will have the opportunity and space to tell their stories on FRJ’s blog with “Storytelling with Chanell”.  Every month, I will sit down to hear an individual’s story, and share it with the world.  I cannot wait to hear everyone’s individual journey and see how each one led to FRJ.  Most importantly, I cannot wait to witness the healing within the individuals telling their stories.

I challenge each and every one of you reading this to tell YOUR story – in whatever area of your life that it must be heard. 

To get “Storytelling with Chanell” started, we will begin with my story.  

The Democratic Dictatorship Trend

It is an election year in The Gambia … and protest is in the air.  Protest has been in the air since last month, when leaders of the main opposition to the government of President Yahya Jammeh, the United Democratic Party (UDP), were jailed at the Westfield Junction in the Kanifing Municipality region of the country.  I work at an office five minutes away from Westfield Junction where yesterday afternoon, the UDP staged another protest demanding that their leaders are released from prison.  The protest unfortunately, turned violent.  The police used aggressive force, and a number of protesters were killed. 

My colleagues’ phones all rang at once with calls informing us of the protest and advising us not to leave the office until the situation had calmed.  During my wait, a flurry of thoughts and questions came to my mind like: why are opposition leaders in danger and people dying for peacefully protesting in a democratic nation?

After some thought, I concluded that the aforementioned is the case because The Gambia is on brand or on trend with other African nations like Rwanda, that have started their own brand of democracy … democratic dictatorships. 

Let us take a look at Rwanda.  President Paul Kagame has been Rwanda’s de facto ruler since 1994, after his forces quelled the Rwandan genocide; but was elected into the presidency in 2000.  Originally, Kagame was limited to two presidential terms, but Rwanda changed the constitution to effectively allow him to stay in power until 2034.  Kagame plans to run for another seven-year term in 2017, and according to the constitutional changes, he can run for two more five-year terms.  Are these consecutive terms a true democratic electoral process?  

Now, let us take a look at The Gambia.  President Jammeh was elected in 1996, and subsequently re-elected in 2001, 2006, and 2011.  However, when you have elections that take place amidst a political environment where opposition leaders are threatened and jailed, and where Gambians in the country and within the diaspora are disenfranchised, has a true democratic electoral process occurred?  

A democracy is defined as a system of government by the WHOLE population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives … and this entails conducting fair and transparent elections to choose political leaders.  As Andrew Mendy of the Jollof Media Network so aptly put it, “The lack of confidence in the electoral process in most African countries is undermining democracy in Africa.” [1]

Mendy further aptly states that, “As elections approach in The Gambia, it is the duty of the government to ensure that transparent, free and fair elections are conducted where coercion is absent; all adults have the right to vote; the Gambian citizens possess civil and political rights; there is easy access to information not monopolized by the state or the ruling party.  This is the political accountability the government of The Gambia owes to the citizens.”[2] 

I hope that political accountability becomes the new trend for these democratic dictatorships in Africa.   If you agree with the political accountability trend, let’s spread the #politicalaccountability or #nodemocraticdictatorships hashtags within our social media networks and beyond! 



[2] ibi