An Extraordinary Q&A With America Hates Us, the Lifestyle Brand Combating Social Injustice

   America Hates Us  - Brandon "Busy" Rivera, Danielle Achong, Tareq Brown (L to R)

America Hates Us - Brandon "Busy" Rivera, Danielle Achong, Tareq Brown (L to R)

1. Who are the founders of America Hates Us and how did you come together to create this vehicle to combat social injustice?
The founders are myself (Tareq Brown) and Brandon “Busy” Rivera. Busy approached me with an idea to start an apparel line in the fall of 2016. He had several successful lines already (Bklyn Stickup, Hustle Bow Tie, etc.) and had a knack for creative design so I was interested. He came to me specifically because he thought he could work with the relevant subject matter I’d present. Our friendship stretches over 27 years, so it was exciting to collaborate with someone I've seen work effortlessly on other projects. America Hates Us also includes another childhood friend of mine, Danielle Achong. She is our event coordinator and handles all the public relations.

Out the gate, we decided that AHUS would be different from other brands. We wanted to make pieces that communicated messages that didn't have expiration dates. We also wanted to touch on issues that were relevant to the marginalized and didn't want to hold any punches. Highlighted in our mission statement, it's noted that we're not out to make the average passerby feel comfortable because most of the issues we address aren't comfortable.

2. What has been the biggest inspiration behind creating the AHUS lifestyle brand?
Getting people to talk about issues that normally would be taboo or only discussed behind closed doors. Speaking about white supremacy or sexual assault isn’t ideal water cooler talk. However, these are the conversations that we should be having because we’re all affected by them in one way or another. Supporters have shared with us that the slogan “white lies matter” is one of the realest three words they’ve ever read. I’ve been in situations where a person’s read "Believe Women" on my tee and shared with me that they’re a survivor. 

The ultimate hope is that these discussions will lead to change. Unfortunately, we misconstrue what change is supposed to be and think that it needs to be something grand to be validated. That is not the case because change can be small and be just as important. Simply telling your homie it's not cool to catcall women and “why”, plays a larger role than most would think.

On top of fostering discussion, we’ve found inspiration in the huge support we’ve received. People fuck with us! We’re proud that Lena Waithe wears our pieces and that Thandie Newton, Trace Lysette, Victor Cruz, and Estelle are supporters. Our designs have shipped all over the country and internationally (England, Jamaica, Mexico, Italy, Germany, etc.). Canadians, for some reason or another, love our brand. Our inbox being full of messages with people thanking us for our efforts, asking us to do pop-ups in their city, and sharing an idea for a design (which happens a lot) is evidence that we're making designs that matter to everyone.

  AHUS Pop-Up

AHUS Pop-Up

3. We noticed that your mission is to spark dialogue "about the current landscape of politics, health, and socioeconomics." What have been some of the challenges associated with these tough conversations?
Some of the challenges have been speaking to groups that we don't necessarily belong to. For instance, Busy is a heterosexual man of Puerto Rican descent, Danielle is a heterosexual woman with very light skin and I am a differently abled man and the son of two immigrant parents from Trinidad. We can confidently speak on our own lives and perhaps on what it's like to be discriminated against in this country. The buck stops there because we cannot give you the experiences of a Black woman that has dark skin, a first generation Palestinian, survivors, or talk about what people in the LGBTQIA communities experience. These people deserve a platform and their perspective and feedback matter. So, we make it a practice to reach out to individuals from communities separate from our own before we design anything that may impact them.

4. There's a tendency for groups in power to accuse organizations that draw attention to their dysfunction, of being hate filled, discriminatory, and even more prejudiced than themselves. We know this is a means of deflection so what does AHUS do to keep the focus on the marginalized groups of people and the reality of what's really going on?
Haters gon’ hate! The best way to keep focus from all deflections is to ignore the noise. 

Twitter and Instagram have block and mute options and we use them. Although most of our inbox is filled with positivity, some hate-filled messages find their way in. Messages like: “Go back to Africa”, “You must hate white people”, and “Whores can’t get raped” all get blocked. We started AHUS to focus on the marginalized. We don’t get bogged down with trying to change everyone’s mind. First, it’s impossible and secondly, it’s exhausting. Instead, we utilize our energy for efforts that would make the most impact for communities that are the most underserved. 

  supplies sent to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico by AHUS

supplies sent to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico by AHUS

In the last year, we’ve headed campaigns to buy supplies for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbuda, raised money for a Bronx organization that shelters sex trafficking victims and in March, hosted a private screening for over 160 black and brown girls to see "A Wrinkle in Time" because representation matters. 

5. How do you see AHUS expanding within the next 5 years?
Wow, 5 years! I pride myself on being an optimist but even so, this country still will have issues with race relations. Black Women still will be the least protected, and gay and trans people still will be discriminated against. We’ll have plenty of material to put a spotlight on and plenty of communities to advocate on behalf of.

Our thoughts of expanding include directing more innovative projects that leave social impact on underserved communities. We’re currently working with a woman business owner, Rainbow, in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn on a speaker series for entrepreneurship for women of color. We hope to encourage more women to go against the grain when it comes to pursuing careers. The series will also give them insight on the sexism and discrimination they’re up against. 

AHUS_Busy and Danielle.jpg

In 5 years, we plan to be doing newer and different projects in multiple cities. Doing this for the last 18 months has taught us that what we thought was impossible, is possible. Like I said, people fuck with us. Our supporters, at this moment, are a good metric to forecast our relevance.

6. How can people support what AHUS is building and keep in touch with you all?
People can support AHUS by shopping on our website. We’ve had orders from Jackson, KY, Galena, IL and Delta, BC. All places we’d likely never have presence in without supporters believing in what we’re doing. We attribute our success and all the support we receive to the fact that we give back. We’ve created a unique shopping experience by allowing our customers to choose what organizations they want the contributions to go to, while offering them autonomy with their choice.

For example, after a shopper chooses the item that they want, an additional option appears that asks them to, “choose where your money goes”. The current selection of non-profits includes: The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. Making this available to our customers was another major factor in why we created AHUS. Designing conscious clothing alone was not enough. We know the power of the dollar and recognize fending for others' rights and liberties isn’t cheap, so we made it a principle to give back. We've been able to raise a lot of money over a short period of time and the majority of the funds raised have come from online purchases.

Support can also come in the form of reading and sharing our blog on our website and emailing us with your thoughts or ideas on collaborating to do good work, and following us on our social media (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook).

To view a clip of AHUS showing how representation matters, by taking 160 Black and Brown girls to see Wrinkle in Time, watch the video below:

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS/PITCHES: 

APRIL
It is Stress Awareness Month and we want to hear your best ways of dealing with stressors, any precautionary tales of how they can affect the body, what your self-care looks like, and/or anything else related to acknowledging that stress is real and necessary to manage.

It is ALSO Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In light of recent events with sexual assault in the entertainment workplace being brought to the forefront and fully addressed, we want to address this issue taking place everywhere. We're accepting personal narratives, essays, poetry, prose, and any other type of writing that gets your point across about sexual assault. Because of the nature of the topic, we are willing to publish Anonymous pieces. We are accepting submissions & pitches from EVERYONE. We mention this because men and non-binary people have just as poignant voices and stories to tell about their own experiences but sometimes shy away from sharing due to toxic perceptions that hand out shame versus compassion. Our platform is a safe space for everyone so feel free to submit/pitch.

MAY
The month of May covers Lupus Awareness. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that's rarely easy to diagnose, extremely challenging to treat and live with, and currently has no cure. We are encouraging people to gain a better understanding of this illness so we're accepting submissions/pitches from people who have it, and those who have family members/friends who've had it or currently living with it. True understanding opens the door for compassion and empathy and with any chronic illness, this is always necessary. This is what we hope to achieve with your stories.

May is also Mental Health Month. We already devote every Monday to mental health so of course we're going to acknowledge and highlight post for this throughout the month.  As a country, we focus a lot on our physical appearance, leaving our mental health to fend for itself. However, there are some people who take it very seriously and maintain their mental health on a daily. We're interested in hearing what your support groups and selfcare look like, what your battles involve, and how we can all be more empathetic towards those living with mental illness. 

Please send all pitches/submissions to submissions@theextraordinarynegroes.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!