How To Support Immigrants with a Fantastic T-Shirt
The Modern Church Lady had the great privilege of being interviewed by Edafe Okporo for his The Asylum series of his This is Edafe Okporo podcast. The interview focuses on the launch of my #ChangeTheNarrative T-shirts that have been designed to celebrate the contributions of recent refugees and asylum seekers.
The line was created by Sylvian Hyde Menswear, a business started by a successful Asylum Seeker from Belize. The inaugural T-Shirt line includes a T-shirt that features Edafe Okporo, a successful human rights activist, author and podcaster. Here is an edited excerpt from the podcast which you can listen to in its entirety below.
Edafe Okporo: My name is Edafe Okporo, the founder of The Pont LLC, a media company that helps people to create podcasts, books, articles, and online materials. Dorothy, can you introduce yourself to my audience?
Dorothy Wetzel: Hi, my name is Dorothy Wetzel and I’m the CEO of a small marketing consulting company called Extrovertic. And I’m also a proud investor in Sylvian Hyde, LLC, which is a menswear company that’s up and coming. It was founded by Sylvian Hyde, who was originally from Belize and was granted asylum in the U.S. in 2016.
Edafe Okporo: So, as an investor, what has been the challenge you have seen with an immigrant entrepreneur?
Dorothy Wetzel: Actually, the ingenuity sticks out more than the challenges. For example, the ingenuity of being able to find resources to make clothes and then to find great places to have fashion shows. I think the challenges of being an immigrant is that you don’t have the networks. Sylvian is not plugged into the fashion network. If you were born here, you’d go to fashion school, you would have professors, you would have colleagues, other students, you would have a job.
SYLVIAN HYDE FASHION SHOWS
Edafe Okporo: So you and I met and did a collaboration for a T-shirt. You are currently wearing the T-shirt that features me, with the logo “Refugee in America. Edafe Okporo, Author & activist Do you want to talk about that experience?
Dorothy Wetzel: Sure. One of the things, I do a lot of volunteer work with people who are asylum seekers. I have been constantly amazed at what refugees accomplish with so little, how they leave everything behind and start all over in the US.
My personal experience with refugees stands in sharp contrast to the negative rhetoric. I wanted to help set the record straight about the contributions that refugees make to American.
I said to Sylvian, “Let’s make some T-shirts to change the narrative and sell them on my modernchurchlady.com website. Sylvian designed the shirts and they have a very cutting-edge design.
Edafe Okporo: So the T-shirt can be found on her website, www.themodernchurchlady.com/changethenarrative. Please, please, please, if you want to support an immigrant entrepreneur, please check the website.
Dorothy Wetzel: The person who was featured on the T-shirt, in this case Edafe, will receive a portion of the proceeds from every T-shirt we sell. Plus, money goes to Sylvian Hyde who designed the T-shirt. This is a business that benefits immigrants who are making a difference in our country.
Edafe Okporo: So why did you start working with the refugee and asylum seeker community in the first place? What is the backstory?
Dorothy Wetzel: The back story is that as an American, I’ve always valued hard work and ingenuity. However, as I have gotten older, it’s become more apparent to me that hard work’s not enough. If you are an immigrant and you don’t have the advantages that someone like me—a white, upper middle-class person with a great education and parents who did well—it is going to be very difficult.
I was privileged to be able to know Sylvian, to appreciate his talent, to see how hard he works on his fashion line. I felt that if I can help and be part of it, then I’m a very lucky person. When you’re 60, a lot of doors start closing. I am towards the end of my marketing career, my kids are grown and my parents have died. Being involved in this fashion business is a new exciting door for me to go through and to really look forward to the next, knock on wood, 20, 30 years of my life.