Credit: Cre8 to Don8 | Courtesy

A team of eight Cal Poly students has launched a pop-up shop, “Cre8 to Don8,” to sell custom art with proceeds funneled to nonprofit organizations.  

Cre8 to Don8 has raised over $830 for The Okra Project, an organization that provides home-cooked meals and resources for Black transgender people, since June 2020. 

Comprised of seven graphic communications students and one public health student, Cre8 to Don8’s main presence is on Instagram with over 300 followers.  In its first Instagram post, Cr8 to Don8 said Black Lives Matter is not a “digital bandwagon.”  

“All of us, as allies who believe in equity and dismantling systemic racism in America, must do our part in keeping the conversations and donations following,” the post read.

Founder and graphic communications freshman Elianna Oliver grew up in a predominantly white community in Kansas. Oliver was blocked into an ethnic studies class at Cal Poly and said the course was transformative.

“The class was a big eye-opener and changed my perspective for the better,” Oliver said. “It gave me an awareness and a whisper in the back of my head to use my [graphic communications] skills for the better.”

Oliver noticed Instagram art accounts donating proceeds to Black Lives Matter and related nonprofits. Oliver said she wanted to build a similar platform with friends, while also posting educational resources about Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements.  

“It’s hard to feel like you are doing anything with something that is as hard and challenging to address like racism and structural inequality that is ingrained in our county,” Oliver said.  

Oliver said Cre8 to Don8 is more than a pop-up shop for art, rather a space to educate people on current issues while engaging in challenging dialogue. 

Oliver invited fellow Cal Poly students to join and design earrings, photo prints, stickers and more and Cre8 to Don8 was born. 

Graphic communications freshman Michelle Zhang is a Cre8 to Don8 artist who crafts handmade abstract wire earrings.  Zhang said she was eager to begin this journey alongside fellow graphic communications students.

“I was really excited when Elianna reached out,” Zhang said. “We all have our own hobbies and talents, it was cool to bring it together.” 

Sociology sophomore Nira Amoona recently purchased a pair of earrings from Cre8 to Don8.  Amoona said supporting Cre8 to Don8 was one simple way of expressing her support for nonprofit causes.

“I love that you can show your allyship of Black Lives Matter by purchasing handmade earrings … from up and coming creators,” Amoona said. 

Amoona said she has encouraged her friends, including those who do not attend Cal Poly, to consider purchasing from Cr8 to Don8. 

“Why not buy something that catches your eye ─ The money you are putting towards that goes to The Okra Project.”

Each team member of Cre8 to Don8 pitches in to purchase supplies for the artwork.  Every dollar Cre8 to Don8 makes from sales goes directly to The Okra Project.  

Graphic communications freshman Ayesha Gokhale said Cr8 to Don8 is mindful of the space it occupies on social media and works to express allyship.

“We don’t want to take up space as non-Black people of color with our art,” Gokhale said.  “We are trying to create some change, educate ourselves and post resources, even if it is uncomfortable.”

For example, Gokhale said she designed a sticker with Manny, a character from Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  After the sticker was posted, one follower told Cre8 to Don8 that it was an inappropriate design and not an expression of allyship.  

Gokhale said she learned that this design was offensive because it waters down the trauma Black people face.

“I wanted to create a sticker that was cute and funny, but as a non-Black person of color I definitely overstepped a line,” Gokhale said. “This one instance doesn’t define our shop, we are actively engaging with our customers and learning.”

Gokhale said this product was promptly removed from the shop.  

“The Black Lives Matter Movement shouldn’t be a PR statement or an aesthetic post, it should be bigger,” Gokhale said. 

Oliver said anti-racist education and a subconscious bias unlearning process is a lifelong commitment.

“I need to address my privilege, it’s a learning curve and something I’ll be working on for the rest of my life,” Oliver said. “As an ally, it is not something I can push to the side and say, ‘I’ve done this for a while, I’m a good person.’”

Oliver said Cr8 to Don8 will continue to build its platform into the school year, gaining loyal customers and featuring new artists. 

“Activism doesn’t have to be something daunting or scary, it can be buying a print or buying a sticker,” Oliver said.

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