In the 70’s the South Bronx was infamous. It was the poster child for urban decay. For years residents paid for poor development choices, city mismanagement and corrupt land owners.
But the borough has since become the last frontier for development in New York City. However, Mott Haven residents continue to face poverty, food and housing insecurity. Meanwhile, investors have focused on building luxury apartments, excluding existing residents from the growth surrounding them. Gentrification has arrived in Mott Haven.
Our founder, Ramona, spent 10 years living in Hawaii but she came home to the Bronx regularly. During those visits she noticed the changes occurring in her neighborhood. She also noticed how things weren't changing for her family, and neighbors.
The disparity in opportunity and access made her feel uneasy, and eventually guilty. Ramona had created meaningful programming in Hawaii and Indonesia, but she didn't feel she had done enough for the place she called home.
She made the decision to return to the Bronx, and do something. When she began to sell the contents of her apartment, and pack up she didn't have a clear plan. She simply knew she needed to go home.
When asked why she chose to leave paradise she states "The attributes my neighbors’ posses are those I admire and wish to reflect in our brand: resilience, determination, and strength. Growing up in a neighborhood plagued by poverty and crime isn’t easy, for the children that inspire us, and Ojala Threads. But we are all determined to move forward, using our heritage as a foundation to build on".
Before creating our designs we created our corporate responsibility strategy. It focuses on investing in the residents of Mott haven.
Our Vision for the South Bronx
Through an Aggressive Corporate Responsibility Strategy Ojala Threads will launch pilot programs focused on civic education and participation; and farm to table programming.
Eventually Ojala Threads hopes to bring manufacturing and print technology to the South Bronx that would support other small businesses, and tap into the potential of our neighbors. Our ultimate goal is to launch a small "campus" that would include cut and sew machinery, print operations and a storefront. If you'd like to further discuss our corporate responsibility pilot programs and goals please contact us!
As a social entrepreneur our founder is committed to make more than sales. She has dedicated herself to supporting community development endeavors in the areas of:
Working with organizations like Community Voices Heard, Ramona has contributed to the accountability and transparency recently seen within the New York City Housing Authority.
Finding herself below the poverty level, and priced out of the communities in which she was raised, Washington Heights and Mott Haven, led her to fight for public housing. In NYC public housing is the only option for many families. As development and gentrification limit affordable housing, there simply aren't any other options.
With other advocates she negotiates for better basic services, daily trash pick up, basic upgrades, tenant participation in decision making. Her efforts have led to the inclusion of four sites including Mitchell Projects in a pilot program aimed at creating transparency and encouraging tenant participation.
Our founder got involved in the fight for just public transportation because her illness affects her mobility. Living on public assistance also made it difficult to afford public transportation. She turned the frustration into action by aligning herself with Riders Alliance.
Over three years she supported the Fair Fares, and Bus Turnaround campaigns. As a Bronx based leadership team member she's worked to ensure that stakeholders support NYC's most vulnerable my making the transit system just and equitable.
Criminal Justice Reform
Over the last three years New York City has taken on criminal justice reform hoping to create a more just NYC. The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform has put forth a set of recommendations for improving New York City’s criminal justice system, including closing the dysfunctional jail complex on Rikers Island, significantly reducing the number of people in jail, and shifting to a modern system of smaller facilities located near the borough criminal courts. This is now referred to as the Lippman report.
In order to execute the recommendations made by Lippman report Neighborhood Advisory Councils (NAC) have been formed throughout NYC. Ramona sits on the Mott Haven Close Rikers NAC.
As part of this body she negotiates with stakeholders and community members to ensure that a new jail in the Mott Haven neighborhood will be accompanied by the significant community investments.
The demands from the NAC currently focus on sustainable housing, public transportation, and youth investments. Over the next two years the NAC will continue to negotiate for community investments that address the disinvestment that Mott Haven has seen for the last 30 years.
Social entrepreneurship is an approach by start-up companies and entrepreneurs, in which they develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. This concept may be applied to a wide range of organizations, which vary in size, aims, and beliefs.
At Ojala Threads we see our designs as a parenting tool that addresses the challenges our children face in undeserved communities by developing within them cultural pride. We help parents and children to reconnect with, and to, their cultural heritage.
When we speak of cultural heritage we focus on indigenous roots. “Heritage” is defined as something that is inherited, passed down from previous generations. "In the case of “cultural heritage,” the heritage doesn’t consist of money or property, but of culture, values and traditions. Cultural heritage implies a shared bond, our belonging to a community. It represents our history and our identity; our bond to the past, to our present, and the future".
A keen sense of your heritage will help you to understand, in part, just who you are. "The yearning by many adolescents to “discover who they are” and their importance or role in this world can be answered in the study of their heritage". We strongly believe that children that have not properly received their cultural inheritance don't blossom.
While our Founder supports numerous causes on a pro-bono basis, she is also available for consulting.
Ramona partners with leaders, organizations, and stakeholders committed to change, action, and social justice by:
- Amplifying the priorities set by community-based partners/ clients and ensuring that deliverables lead to long lasting solutions.
- Providing strategic guidance to non profits focused on sustainable development, community resilience and indigenous knowledge preservation and advancement.
- Facilitating conversations that honor mission, and magnify assets.
- Executing special events.
- Developing community engagement campaigns.
- Maximize participation
- Neutralize negative dynamics
- Transform conflict into creative problem solving
- Utilize the most appropriate decision-making process
- Secure the support of key stakeholders
- Develop a process of post-meeting follow through