Jadiel came down with meningitis when he was four months old. I relieved his mom from the NICU so we could sing about stars uninterrupted. We talked about the moon, and said goodnight to everything. I stayed with Jadiel for a week after his release from the hospital.
He had no idea what I was blabbering on about, but I felt an urge to share everything with him. I was eager to extend the moments we shared during that week. An easy way to do this would have been baby bodysuits that reflected our identity, but I couldn’t find any that did so respectfully.
I am the aunt that had traced our ancestry and peeled back the scars left by our history so that the next generation wouldn’t have to. But when I tried to buy him a onesie that would reflect that he is Dominican, American, Taino… my search results included a onesie with “bad hombre” across its chest.
Jadiel’s illness warped time for me. I became obsessed with how he would see himself. How the world would see him. What he would inherit from me. A year later he was wearing our first design. Well, his first design, Folklorico.
Each design is a piece of the mosaic that makes up our identity. Each makes it easier for the next generation to understand how complex and beautiful our history is.
I am sometimes overwhelmed by the trauma that birthed this company. But there is beauty in fear, in uncertainty… in being reminded of what truly matters.
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.
Honor the Ancestors
Defend The Vulnerable
Defend The Land
Ramona is a first generation Dominican American born in New York City. She spent her childhood in the Dominican Republic, with her older brother, being raised by extended family. She returned to NYC when his immigration process was completed.
Ramona managed the first urban Gap Kids and Baby while completing her BA at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Ramona then lived in Hawaii for 10 years. There she completed her Masters at Hawaii Pacific University, and two graduate certificates at HPU.
She tweaked her leadership style at the Kennedy School @Harvard and Center for Creative Leadership. She previously led outreach efforts for the FBI and Department of Defense focused on community engagement and environmental resilience.
She imagined a clothing line that babies like her nephew could wear proudly. Designs that would be reflective of their heritage. The designs would make those who saw them proud. By outfitting children, while reminding parents of the uniqueness of their heritage Ramona knew she would create loyal customers, but more importantly, a stronger sense of community.
Since having this vision Ramona has worked with the Small Business Administration, SCORE, Business Outreach Center Network/ BXL Business Incubator, SOBRO, SIBL, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP (via the Volunteers of Legal Service program), WE NYC and Made in NY C. These partnerships have primed Ojala Threads for a successful launch.
Via innovative money management skills, downsizing, sacrifice, and determination, Ramona has launched numerous designs, conduct a target market study, identified a manufacturing partner in China, and begun sales. She has turned every challenge into an opportunity! and is determined to outfit your baby in pride, literally.