America is built on makers - from the creators of the latest technologies we hold in our hands to the revolutionists who've imagined and built movements to reverse racism, poverty and gender inequality. We at Rebel Nell, a jewelry brand that employs, educates and empowers disadvantaged women, had the opportunity to join other makers of influence from across the country during the White House's National Week of Making. To support the week of making, we shared behind-the-scenes videos on social media to showcase our unique jewelry making process and shine spotlights on the diverse group of women with powerful stories who design our pieces. Together with other makers, our participation in this momentous event highlighted our collective commitment to dreaming, inventing, inspiring and bringing about change. From a creative movement started in Detroit, to a platform in Washington, DC, we are all makers making makers.
Some may not see themselves as change agents or inventors, but the National Week of Making was an excellent reminder that we all have the ability to join the conversation to create new perspectives. Here are five takeaways from this initiative that strengthened our resolve to be builders of change:
There is a maker in us all
Makers are the risk-takers, the innovators, the conversation starters and the generous beings willing to share their passions with the world. We hear the names of the greatest modern makers (Google, Apple, etc.) and shrink in the shadows of their scale and impact. We often don't recognize our own ability to push boundaries and incite new beginnings in our own communities. To see Rebel Nell featured alongside numerous other makers of different backgrounds, ages and industries was a powerful reminder that being a change agent has no face - it is within us all.
Keep your eyes open to the paths you travel
Too many of us walk around with our eyes shielded, only tuned into what's happening in our network of family and friends. But change can start in your own backyard and have a ripple effect to impact the larger community and beyond. My answer to change lived right beside me. Living next door to a women and family's shelter, the stories of these courageous women who took a risk to see a fresh start for themselves and their children was too difficult to ignore. I kept my eyes open to the opportunity to help these women transform their lives by celebrating courage, creativity and style. Rebel Nell became an outlet for these women to express their unique place in the world and build better futures. We continue to keep our eyes open for the people and places around us we can help to transform, like The Dequindre Cut, a rail-line-turned-community-greenway, where we source some of the materials for our jewelry.
Together, we are stronger
An all hands-on-deck approach will cultivate a generation of problem solvers. Last week we had the pleasure of attending the first United State of Women Summit, and standing in front of the audience with his signature wit and charm, President Obama stood firm in his solidarity as he pointed out, "I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like." His statement truly resonated, driving home the point that regardless of whether you are in the room with these changemakers or at home in your own town, whether you're a woman or a man, the only way to incite sustainable change is if we all come together and align with a greater mission.
Unfortunately, despite the strides forward America has made, today the futures of many of the smartest and most talented are still determined by their zip codes and other structural barriers. At the USOW Summit, Kerry Washington provided a prime example in her discussion of the fact that no one talks about the invisible weapons formed against women through financial abuse. Dependent on husbands/partners to cover their basic needs, these women often stay trapped in abusive relationships. Rebel Nell empowers these women by providing them with a creative outlet to fund their needs as well as putting systems in place to enable them to change their life situation - with access to legal aide, financial literacy classes, housing resources and anything else to help them get back on their feet. We encourage other businesses and makers to rise up to combat these issues as well.
Build things with the end in mind
The greatest cornerstone of making is to use what you have, to create what you need. Fallen graffiti from the streets of Detroit is re-imagined and designed to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. More than beautiful pieces, the items made aid in providing a pivot point for women who are so often forgotten by society. Just like the graffiti pieces turned to jewelry are given a second life, so too are these women who are crafting their futures within their hands. We've learned to look beyond the surface to see that the fallen art and the beautiful women who transform it are rich with layers of potential and work to help others see their value.
What kind of maker are you?