By Sam P.K. Collins
Over the past seven years, an annual birthday celebration has incrementally morphed into an exercise in philanthropy and community organizing — so much so that it recently attracted hundreds of people eager for a good time and solutions to some of the District’s most pressing issues.
During the most recent installment of the event known as Hoodie Season, nearly 400 participants not only donated 90 hoodies and helped raise thousands of dollars for a local nonprofit, but sat front row center as up-and-coming local acts showcased their talents on a stage at the Well at Oxon Run in Southeast.
“Black people have been under attack from every angle. The only way to beat systemic racism and oppression is being systemic and strategic in building up our communities,” said Dwight Lacy, founder of Hoodie Season.
“We have to analyze the system that is put in place to trip us up,” he continued.
“Once we do that, we can use our collective resources and tap into the seven Kwanzaa principles to build from within. That’s the only way that we can get this slice of this American pie,” Lacy added.
For this year’s Hoodie Season event, Lacy collaborated with D.O.L.L.S. (Daughters Overcoming Life’s Lessons) and Dreams and the Hustlers Guild.
D.O.L.L.S. and Dreams, a nonprofit organization providing life skills and educational support to young women, will distribute the donated hoodies to District public school students. Meanwhile, Hustlers Guild will use the funds collected to conduct programming focused on college readiness, professional development and innovation.
During the fall of 2015, the first Hoodie Season was held in conjunction with Lacy’s belated birthday celebration. Weeks after recovering from an illness, Lacy hosted a party at his apartment complex and invited his friends, all of whom he encouraged to wear hoodies in anticipation of the changing weather.
When Donald Trump entered office in early 2017, Lacy made plans to channel Hoodie Season’s positive energy in support of the Hustlers Guild at the time when its founder, Jason Spears, a former Obama administration official, launched the nonprofit.
Two years later, in 2019, Lacy started selling tickets to the event to generate funds for Hustlers Guild.
In the weeks leading up to the most recent Hoodie Season, a flyer circulated online with images encouraging civic engagement and control of one’s affairs, themes Lacy continues to promote.
On Nov. 5, guests who converged on the Well at Oxon Run during an unseasonably warm day enjoyed barbeque from JetSet BBQ and Colby’s BBQ, both Black-owned businesses. Nearly a dozen vendors scattered throughout the venue also sold candles, handcrafted jewelry, original artwork, and other merchandise.
DJ Hamp kept guests grooving well into the evening hours while members of The Arguing Brothers Podcast conducted a livestream.
By nightfall, guest Eryn Murray had set up shop by the bonfire and spent time with a friend who just moved to the District. Throughout most of the Hoodie Season event, Murray perused the different vendor tables and nibbled on barbeque that took her back to her childhood in Kentucky.
For her, the diversity of events and the disposition of the guests reaffirmed what she has thought about D.C. since moving to the area a decade ago.
As a resident of Northern Virginia who frequents the District, Murray not only enjoyed another gathering with young professionals from various walks of life, but she contributed to the well-being of young people.
She said doing the latter in a fun and positive environment counted as the greatest aspect of Hoodie Season, which she learned about in an email weeks prior.
“ I like that Hoodie Season is donating to good causes,” Murray said.
“Next year, I’ll tell people to bring a hoodie, bring a friend and bring a drink to enjoy themselves. There were a lot of elements for people to experience all at once. This event was positive, uplifting and supportive of a good vibe.”