Activist, teacher, business owner aims to tackle mass incarceration through fashion; Grand opening set Saturday

Stephen J. Arias

According to a study done by Cornell University, the American criminal justice system currently holds nearly 6.5 million people.

One local activist is hoping to bring awareness to mass incarceration through the fashion industry right here in Philadelphia.

Kimberly McGlonn is the founder and CEO of Grant Blvd. It’s a lifestyle retail shop offering career opportunities in the fashion industry through its workforce program for women who were once incarcerated.

“We settled and hope to set up shop in South Philly in Grays Ferry,” said McGlonn. “And about 18 months of doing pop up circuits getting to know the city, how each neighborhood is different, I knew that our people were in West Philly.”

McGlonn and her team plans for an official grand opening Saturday at their new storefront in University City.

And while the focus surrounds mass incarceration, Kimberly also focuses on clothing that is made with a sense of environmental and social consciousness.

“Think about the millions of pounds of textile waste that’s sent to landfills,” said McGlonn. “There’s so much potential to be able to do that in a way that’s skillful and fresh.”

McGlonn, who has a Ph.D. from LSU, serves as a councilmember and school teacher in Montgomery County.

Through her course work and volunteering for the non-profit Books Through Bars in West Philadelphia, McGlonn says her vision grew wider.

“I think for me, for the very inception of the company, it was about creating an intersectional solution,” said McGlonn. “I’ve been teaching about mass incarceration in a suburban high school and I decided that I wanted to create a business that was purposeful about hiring,” said McGlonn.

McGlonn says her mission is quite simple. “How do we tap into the energy that’s already taking root, in University City, in West Philly specifically, and using fashion as a mechanism for creating opportunities,” said McGlonn.

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