Bringing a new club to campus during a semester where face-to-face collaboration and group events are unsafe is a daunting task. But for the social justice-focused club Stitch It to The Patriarchy, the challenges of this year are also opportunities to work on making activism accessible to students at Boston College.
Stitch It was started in June 2019 by Tulane University graduate Nina Harris. She started out by taking a thrifted or used piece of clothing and stitching the phrase “Voting is Sexy” in thread across the chest. Now, a year later, her team has reached BC. Katherine Thomas, MCAS ’23, and founder of Stitch It’s BC chapter, first heard about the club through a friend who was involved at the club’s flagship campus, Tulane.
In July, Harris and the founding team gave the opportunity for students at other campuses to apply and spearhead Stitch It efforts on their own campus. Thomas jumped at the opportunity. Stitch It’s goals to promote political discourse and conversations related to topics such as fast fashion and consumerism, climate change, and voting appealed to Thomas, a political science major and environmental studies minor. BC’s chapter has the freedom to explore a wide array of activism topics as long as they fall under the broader aim of Stitch It and are approved by Harris.
“There are like-minded people who also want to spread awareness about these issues on campus without it necessarily being political,” Thomas said. “We’re not a ‘Democrat club.’ It’s not so politicized, more just about issues that we care about that we want to make sure the BC community is aware of.”
In New Orleans, Stitch It’s focus is on selling upcycled clothing with custom messages stitched on. These transactions are usually made when Stitch It posts pictures of secondhand clothing on their Instagram story, where customers can swipe up and request what they want stitched. At the end of each month, the organization will choose a charity to donate a portion of their proceeds to. BC’s Stitch It chapter doesn’t create any clothing—all orders are directed back to the Tulane branch. The focus at BC is completely on creating infographics educating students about a variety of injustices, as well as other activism-centered events.
“The representative position isn’t trying to be an influencer, and we’re not trying to sell anything,” Thomas said. “At this point, it’s more advocacy. Representatives get a T-shirt so they can rock that around campus, but that’s not the goal.”
For Thomas, once she was accepted into the nationwide club in July, the greater challenge was gaining attention at BC while not physically on campus and not able to meet in groups once back on campus. She posted about Stitch It on her own social media, reached out to established clubs at BC with overlapping interests, and posted in each grade’s Facebook group, which she said was the most successful tactic. The application for Stitch It representatives got about 30 applicants while it was open from July to August. Thomas and Harris then did individual Zoom interviews with all of the applicants, 10 of whom they were able to bring onboard for the fall semester.
The application asked students to talk about a social justice issue that they’re passionate about. Macy Ryan, MCAS ’23, discussed the achievement gap and how it’s misconstrued to be a result of different work ethics, rather than systemic injustices.
“Where I’m from, there’s a lot of socioeconomic differences, and it ends up affecting how many people and what types of people are in AP classes—just since if you can’t get the resources you need to succeed in that class, you won’t really be able to,” Ryan said. “I think that also translates to BC.”
As the BC chapter founder, Thomas serves as a liaison with the Harris and the Stitch It New Orleans team, making sure that BC members are taking initiative on issues they’re interested in while remaining close to the club’s mission. In addition, members are expected to be active about Stitch It on their own social media accounts and to stay connected to what they’re advocating for.
“They want to make sure you’re living out what you’re preaching,” Thomas said. “For example with social distancing, they want to make sure none of us are going out and partying, meanwhile we’re posting about COVID-19 and all the complications—and making sure we’re voting ourselves if we’re telling everyone else to vote.”
The BC team’s top priority, especially during the pandemic, is producing infographics that can go on the nationwide Stitch It account. Ranging from the topics of systemic racism and mental health to conscious consumption to gentrification in Boston, members are in charge of producing credible research and displaying it in an informative and easily digestible way. Ryan recently worked on an infographic about conscious consumption, where she raised awareness about the benefits of thrifting and other ways to shop sustainably if affordable, in order to prevent thrift stores from lacking necessary items, she said.
Zosia Czerwinski, MCAS ’23, took charge on researching the connections between systemic racism and mental health. Czerwinski said that having the privilege to access mental health resources herself made her realize the detrimental effects faced by so many people who can’t access them. After learning Adobe Illustrator this summer, Czerwinski has been taking charge on creating many of Stitch It’s graphics. She also included links on the mental health infographic to help people experiencing this lack of resources find tangible aid.
“There are so many posts that just create little blurbs about progressive issues these days, so there’s definitely a balance of including relevant information that people will actually use,” Czerwinski said.
The process of brainstorming issues to cover in infographics and making those graphics is definitely collaborative, Czerwinski said. She’s currently researching gentrification in Boston alongside Gabriella Kastrunes, MCAS ’22.
“I texted and said I was going to do something on gentrification and would love help, then Gabby told me she had taken a class that was related to it,” Czerwinski said. “It’s definitely kind of an open, collaborative environment.”
Despite delving into a wide array of topics, Stitch It’s main focus this semester is on voter registration. A study by Tufts University found that 48.3 percent of college students voted in 2016. Stitch It aims to combat voter nonparticipation by making voter registration easily accessible, Thomas said.
With access to education and resources being as plentiful as they are at BC, students need to recognize that privilege and use it to make their voices heard by voting, Thomas said.
Her original plan was to do a voter registration table at busy parts of campus, but with COVID-19, that plan can’t happen. Members have had to get creative with online platforms to spread their message.
The Stitch It team is working to compile a state-by-state list of information about requesting absentee ballots and when ballots need to be mailed by, which will be accessible through QR codes posted around campus.
“Even if we can’t physically help people, we can still lay it out in a very easy, straightforward way,” Ryan said. “College students are a very large demographic and could have a lot of influence in the election, but in the past they haven’t all used their voices. I think having that accessibility makes it easier to make our voices heard.”
In the coming semesters, members also want to use their platform to bring up conversations that are often swept under the rug on BC’s more traditional, Catholic campus, Thomas said. Teaming up with the Students for Sexual Health, a group fighting for sexual health education and resources on campus despite BC not recognizing the group or allowing them to distribute condoms on campus, could be in the works for this initiative, she explained.
The reaction from the broader BC student body to Stitch It has been very positive so far, Thomas said. Over the summer, Stitch It did a donations drive to provide care packages for homeless individuals in and around New Orleans. After posting it on her Instagram story, Thomas raised over $200 from just her own followers.
Stitch It aims to broaden its platform at BC and continue to not only educate the student body, but provide activism opportunities that help work against injustice in tangible ways, Thomas said. The members stretch beyond just political science or environmental studies majors, which Thomas said was intentional to make sure the club contained diverse and nuanced voices. Despite the limitations of this semester, Stitch It has continued to devote needed attention to a variety of issues.
“Stitch It coming to BC is at a really good time just with everything going on,” Ryan said. “I want students to be able to hold administration accountable and have students be really involved in making BC a more accepting place as a whole. … Our main goal is making activism and social justice accessible on campus.”