BLM mask maker

Fourth-year kinesiology major Marielle Gracia hand-crafts face masks to help BLM organizations (Marielle Gracia)

Although the coronavirus pandemic has brought about a slew of health concerns, some people are continually looking out for others and doing what they can to make a difference.

Marielle Gracia, a fourth-year kinesiology student, armed with patterned cloth and a sewing machine, began making masks at the start of the quarantine to help fund the Black Lives Matter movement and other humanitarian organizations.

Gracia’s interest goes hand in hand with another interest of hers, thrifting. Her passion bloomed when she began sewing about two years ago with upcycle thrifted clothing. She wanted to be able to help the environment and was able to do so by thrifting and buying second hand items. In order to adjust her thrift finds to suit her personal style, she learned how to sew and modify the item to her taste.

Sewing has become one of her favorite hobbies. Initially, it was difficult for her to handle the sewing machine and all the settings that applied to the different types of fabrics. One wrong move can send her back to square one and undo all of the work she had put in. It was challenging and time consuming, but Gracia developed patience and enjoyment to continue sewing.

She also looked for outside sources and found YouTube to be a huge resource that helped her learn the techniques. Gracia’s first project was tailoring a pair of denim pants that took her about eight hours to complete.

Not only is it fun for her, Gracia found that it is a great way to help the environment by living sustainably.

When masks were in high demand, Gracia said she began sewing masks for friends, family and local healthcare workers.

She now knew how to sew, the first hurdle was to learn how to make the masks, Gracia said. Once she did, she came up with a plan to sew individual pieces in large quantities and assemble them in batches instead of sewing each individual mask one at a time.

With her bare hands, Gracia was able to aid two largely-controversial issues at once: the coronavirus and multiple humanitarian crises.

It wasn’t until June, when the uproar of the BLM protests dominated the news cycles and Yemen was marked with the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, that Gracia began selling the masks on her Instagram.

“I donated my own money, but I knew I wanted to do more,” Gracia said. “ I wanted to do something to raise funds and spread even more awareness.”

She researched and donated 100% of the proceeds from her masks sales to many different organizations. One of the organizations she donated to was Elijah McClain’s GoFundMe page, which was made for the young Black man who was killed at the hands of police.

Gracia said she also donated to For the Gworls, an assistance program that provides Black transgender individuals with rent and gender-affirming surgeries, and Baitulmaal, a charity that provides life-saving assistance to under-served communitites in Yemen.

By continually promoting her masks on her Instagram and raising awareness within her cyber community about the injustices of the world, Gracia managed to raise and donate $830.

For the time being, she has stopped making and selling masks to focus on the fall semester, but she said she hopes to pick back up when she has more free time.

Protesters continue to flood the streets and chant the names of those who died and fight for justice. Just like protesters haven’t stopped their fight, Gracia said she won’t stop her journey to continue to educate herself on the social injustices of the world and help those in need.

“It is so important to have these talks with others and to raise awareness to the social injustices happening in our country and other issues in the world,” Gracia said. “Until people recognize there’s a problem, they’ll never be part of the solution.”

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