Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Red Ribbons, Universal Access and Human Rights


World AIDS Day 2010, held on December 1st, highlights the HIV and AIDS crisis this year through the mantra that we all have the basic human right of access to information, prevention methods, and treatment of illness.

World AIDS Day reports that according to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.3 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. During 2009 some 2.6 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 1.8 million people died from AIDS. Additionally, Avert.org says that in low and middle income countries, less than half of those in need of antiretroviral therapy are receiving it, and too many do not have access to adequate care services.

In the DRC, the stripping of basic human rights is amplified in the HIV/AIDS struggle. Not only does the lack of political stability decrease citizens' access to care and treatment of disease, civil unrest and crimes against the people, such as rape and kidnapping, increase the instance and likelihood of transmission of disease. Thus, the DRC has one of the largest growing HIV populations in the world, the national average of adult prevalence hitting 450,000 (comparatively, the UK has 90,000 living with HIV).

The epidemic is strongest among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 and women accessing at antenatal clinics, and is on the rise. The driver of the epidemic is concurrent multiple sexual partners. The most severely affected age groups are 20–29 years among women and 30–39 years among men. The epidemic has severely affected children – an estimated 320,000 children younger than 17 years had lost one or both parents to AIDS at the end of 2003. Surveillance data indicates higher prevalence in the eastern part of the country than in the west. ~ From HIV in Humanitarian Situations

One of the most simple yet powerful things you can do is wear a red ribbon this Wednesday, because for us, the people at ground level, it symbolizes public consciousness where the necessity for individual, community and national consciousness is paramount in the effort to increase awareness, and thus achieve universal access. The red ribbon speaks without speaking. It reminds your co-workers, friends, family and fellow citizens that HIV and AIDS are still worldwide epidemics that claim millions of lives, and threaten family structure and country stability. It reminds them that you care, and so should they. That awareness is a crucial step in eliminating HIV and AIDS.

We at DRC ApeParel believe in driving social consciousness at all levels and for causes that offer the promise of saved lives and a more connected, positive global community. One way to do this is to encourage you to respect your body, take responsibility for your sexual health and get tested. Check out some FAQs on getting tested and hear peoples' stories on HIV: Reality from the National AIDS Trust.

Get educated. Get tested. Get involved. It's cool to be conscious!

AIDS history from Compassion International
Recent articles on AIDS rights in the Congo
Raise funds with Avert.org
Order red ribbons through World AIDS Day

Monday, November 22, 2010

SAPE: A beacon of identity for a country in crisis

There is SAPE only when there is peace -- a sentiment expressed by those who understand the nature and importance of the art form known as SAPE: La Société des Ambianceurs et Persons Élégants.

In the 1920s a Congolese man returned from a visit to Paris dressed in French style high fashion. What he didn't know then that we know now is that his bold style of dress would hit a chord with his countrymen and flourish into an art form practiced throughout the country. Sapeurs, as they are referred, express ideas that any meaningful artist might - resistance, individualism and human bonds that connect us all - through simple observation by others in their neighborhoods, at parties and funerals, and are proving to be a powerful catalyst for hope.

Although the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world is ongoing in the Congo, emerging artists and art forms are thought to be a natural extension of  society's reaction to the end of wartimes or other violent, painful and otherwise stressful periods. So, perhaps with the case of SAPE, the Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance, in the Congo, the movement is more like a plea for peace rather than the result of it.

In these wonderfully photographed images of prominent Sapeurs in various neighborhoods across the country these men are a sight for sore eyes for a country ravished by war and political control, and painted to the rest of the world as dark and overwhelmingly hopeless. A beacon of identity for a country in crisis. Because not only do the people need tradition and culture to grasp on to, but they need inspiration to help motivate and spur on the inevitable evolution of a new age. 

At DRC ApeParel, we believe in the creative process and art being a strong influence for change and inspiration in peoples' lives. Our designs are meant to make you feel and we encourage you to express yourself! For more on the history of SAPE, check out this article by author, Eccentric Yoruba.

All pictures are courtesy of www.zonezero.com.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Black Consciousness Movement

South Africa, 1960. Police open fire on a group of black protesters killing 69 people. Events are set into motion that begin with a struggle between the black majority and white minority for social and political justice that is sustained for the next 30 years. Then in 1994, the African National Congress gains control and the instituted system of legal racial segregation is eliminated. Anti-apartheid Africa is born.

In times of change, there is always a catalyst that converts the necessary elements into something altogether new. Without the catalyst the reaction would never occur, ideas would grow vacant and energy would loose momentum. For South Africa to rid itself of the damaging Apartheid system, a consuming catalyst would have to emerge. Enter the Black Consciousness Movement. 

From the Power of Development
As the government tried to act against this organization or that one, people in many organizations shared the general ideas of the Black Consciousness Movement, and these ideas helped to organize action beyond any specific organizational agenda. If the leader of this group or that one was thrown into prison, nonetheless, more and more black South Africans agreed on the importance of black leadership and active resistance. Partly as a result, the difficult goal of unity in struggle became more and more realized through the late nineteen-seventies and nineteen-eighties. 

Today, the effects of the Black Consciousness Movement can be seen in literary works, social and political organizations, and festivities like Black Consciousness Week in Brazil. Each year on November 20th citizens of almost every state in the country celebrate the life of Zumbi dos Palmares, one of the last leaders of a slave resistance community in colonial Brazil in the 1600s. His life exemplifies the idea that if while using your natural talents and abilities to stand up for what you believe to be morally and spiritually true - despite the pain and fight, despite how hard it may be to see the change you want to be - people will be changed, and thus life will be changed.

We at DRC ApeParel also use our natural talents and abilities to draw awareness to social injustices around the world through clever and effective clothing design. Our first designer, Gui Oliveira, was Brazilian born and is described by the DRC ApeParel family as the “Genius”.  By incorporating unorthodox artistic graphical elements into his design, DRC ApeParel was ushered to the forefront of the urban streetwear community. Now, our lifestyle is driven by his inspiration and the phrase - Pe No Chao - which means Put Your Foot Down! Take a Stand! 

It’s Cool 2 B Conscious.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DRCharity 2010

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Congo and is celebrated by DRC ApeParel in more ways than one. But one is especially close to our hearts - giving back via an initiative we call DRCharity. This year our goal was to partner with an organization whose projects have a successful and meaningful impact on the international community, and we have achieved that by building a strong relationship with the Enough Project.

Working with them on their "Raise Hope for Congo" and University campaigns, we help to strengthen the fabric of our culture and communities, here and abroad. In turn we see that we are improving upon ourselves and thus, the very fabrics we offer you, our customers and supporters.

The Creative Director at DRC ApeParel, Eric Ndelo, has learned a lot about walking the talk...

As a youth I was very involved with my local boy scout troop and in my church. We did a lot of mission work all over the U.S., but it wasn't until I went to Mexico in my early 20's that I saw the true vision of helping the international community. Now, as an adult, my driving force is doing what I can to better the lives of the people directly in front of me and in the international community. I encourage anyone who has that gut feeling to help out, to get involved and stay involved. It keeps you energized and it fulfills the soul.

The holidays can be an especially hard time for many people, so this is a great opportunity to jump start your activity in the community. Here are a few charities that DRC ApeParel loves:

Any local Congolese Community Group

Charlotte at the 2010 Literary Festival. Eric talking to youth about meaning behind the shirts and giving a history lesson.

P.S. If you are in SC this week, check out the fashion show hosted by America’s Next Top Model Cycle 4 Winner, Naima Mora, at the Russell House Ballroom on the University of South Carolina campus!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Socially Conscious Fashion Show at USC

Join us next week on November 10th at 8pm for a socially-conscious fashion show!

Fashion for a Cause will be hosted by America’s Next Top Model Cycle 4 Winner, Naima Mora, at the Russell House Ballroom on the University of South Carolina campus. We are honored that Naima's dress for the event has been specially by us at DRC ApeParel!  

The fashion show aims to bring awareness to the importance of socially conscious fashion and is supported by fashion lines such as MAC Cosmetics, GAP Product(RED), TOMS Shoes, us at DRC ApeParel and more!

Carolina Productions presents in conjunction with the following: Fashion Board, Carolina Judicial Council, and Sigma Gamma Rho Incorporated. 

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Next week check out our holiday edition of DRCharity for resources that will keep your heart (and someone elses') warm during this wintry season. We'll also discuss Brazil's Black Consciousness Day on Nov. 11th!