As the fall semester of 2017 began, Jason Sole took some criticism for his attire.
Sole, an adjunct criminal justice professor at Hamline University and past president of the Minneapolis NAACP, wore a hoodie to teach his classes — all semester.
He took a portrait of himself at home surrounded by his books while wearing a hoodie and announced his intention.
The effort caught the attention of Sole's friend, Andre Wright, a designer and activist living in Iowa City, Iowa.
Wright said Sole’s effort deserved more attention. He helped boost it on social media and used Sole’s social media hashtag, #humanizemyhoodie, as a slogan, fashion label and eventually, a movement.
Wright and Sole will host a talk-back and screening of a documentaryabout their project at Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse on Feb. 26.
Sole said he wanted to show his students — many of whom plan to pursue careers in law enforcement — that a black man in a hoodie isn’t a ubiquitous threat or criminal.
Sole added that he was called lazy, unprofessional and took other criticism for his effort. However, the consequences for wearing a hoodie on a college campus while teaching were far less severe than young black men experience everyday for their similar attire.
After Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, Martin’s hoodie was entered into evidence by the defense.
"They used that hoodie to make it seem like George Zimmerman had probable cause (to shoot Martin)," Sole said.
The Rochester Diversity Council helped coordinate the screening and talk-back. Heidi Mae-Wilkins, outreach and education coordinator with the diversity council, said she planned the event as a community conversation and fundraiser toward the effort.
She recognized that, as a white woman, wearing a hoodie isn’t something she would think twice about. However, for her black husband and their son, that’s a different situation.
In a meeting over coffee on what would have been Martin’s 25th birthday, Mae-Wilkins talked about her fears for her son if he runs to a nearby store wearing a hoodie.
"This has legitimately gotten people killed," she said.
Sometimes, her concerns are dismissed.
"When it’s coming from his white mother, it’s ‘Whatever,’ " she said. "But from his black dad, he takes it more seriously."
Sole said he wanted to use his position to help people see the humanity in people like Martin or Mae-Wilkins’ son. After students and colleagues see him, he asks them to consider what they would think of him if they didn’t know he was a college professor and father.
"I’m trying to humanize the 15-year-old who doesn’t have the platform that I have," he said.
That’s the kind of discussion Mae-Wilkins and Sole say they hope will happen at the screening event.
"We hear from a lot of folks who say, ‘It changed my perception,’ " Sole said. "It’s great to see people check their biases."
Those biases could be toward other clothing and appearances, such as hijabs.
"You don’t know somebody based on their clothes," he said.
It comes down to two things — equity and comfort.
"I should be able to have my autonomy," he said. "Having on a business suit might keep police from killing me," he said. "But I have a shorter life expectancy — why can’t I wear a hoodie and just enjoy my day?"
What: "Humanize My Hoodie" documentary
screening and workshop When:6 p.m. Feb. 26 Where:Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, 619 6th
Ave. NW Info:Tickets cost $50 and are available at the
What: "Humanize My Hoodie" documentary screening and workshop
When:6 p.m. Feb. 26
Where:Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, 619 6th Ave. NW
Info:Tickets cost $50 and are available at the theater or online here.