If you like to wear progressive politics on your sleeve—or maybe on your coffee/tea/matcha mug or cell phone case—check out HeedtheHum.com, a queer, Jewish, woman-of-color-owned company created and run by Brooklyn activist Rachel Levin.
Heed the Hum’s nearly 2000 products sport a variety of messages, from the word RESIST to Eve & Esther & Miriam & Deborah & Ruth, a celebration of Biblical sheroes. Other products promote world peace or provide a way to declare one’s identity: Black and Brazen; Nasty Woman; Feminist Zionist, among them.
Levin, a professional graphic and web page designer, sat down with reporter Eleanor J. Bader in early September to talk about the challenges of being a feminist entrepreneur.
Eleanor J. Bader: Let’s start with the name of your company, Heed the Hum. What does it mean?
Rachel Levin: I’ve always been an activist and prideful about being queer, Jewish, and of color. But growing up I had deep moments of unhappiness and feelings of loss. I had been adopted at two months old by a straight, white, Jewish couple in Chicago. I was born in Chile, and for a long time kept my shame over being adopted private; it was always on a back burner of my mind though.
I was raised in a very safe, but sheltered, bubble, surrounded primarily by Ashkenazi Jews. They treated me beautifully, but in my gut, I felt like an “other.” I knew I was Chilean, at least by blood, and even though I had food, shelter, and an incredibly loving family — the best parents and a wonderfully supportive and inclusive older brother who was also adopted—there was always this hum that something was a bit off. For many years, I ignored it.
As I got older, I wanted to live fully, out in the open as a queer person, as a feminist, and as a Jewish person of color. To do this, I literally started to heed the hum, to listen to the signs around me. I began to pay attention to what I was feeling both personally and politically. A bit later, when I was in college, I realized that I wanted to help other people become visible and become empowered by what made them an “other.” I also wanted to do something that would start conversations about political issues.
I started Heed the Hum in May of 2017. In the past two years I’ve sold several thousand t-shirts for adults and children, as well as mugs, hats, pillows, posters, pieces of jewelry, flags, totes, and phone cases. The proceeds of The GIVE Collection benefit organizations I support, like the Red Cross and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It’s work that I think makes a difference.