Activist uses hoodies to put spotlight on racial profiling

Claudine Zap
Daniel Maree at the original Million Hoodie March on March 21, 2012 in New York City
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If anyone is giving the hoodie a good name, it’s Daniel Maree. He is the founder of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, an organization that is shedding light on the issue of racial profiling.

“We’re building an organization, we’re building a movement, we‘re going to have tons of ways to get involved,”  Maree told Yahoo News.

Maree, who lived for a time in Gainsville, Fla., and says he experienced racial profiling firsthand, was spurred to action after the shooting death of the unarmed 17-year-old, hoodie-wearing Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Fla., last year.

The 25-year-old, one of five finalists for the Do Something award, organized the original Million Hoodies March where 50,000 people rallied  across the country. His volunteer group also collected 2 million signatures calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman.

The movement has continued to grow ever since. After the not-guilty verdict in the case, the organizers got the word out on social media for Trayvon Martin supporters to “put their hoodies on and come out and rally.” As a result, thousands turned up and “took over Times Square,” with rallies mobilized across the country as well.

Since designing his own major at American University, where he graduated in 2008, the digital strategist has been studying how to “leverage media to create social change,” as he puts it. (#Millionhoodies trending on Twitter? That was him.)

If he wins the $100,000 grand prize, he wants to double the membership of the organization, to 100,000, launch a conflict management boot camp for 5,000 youth, and create a virtual version online.

Maree says the organization wants to mobilize a million people to call for a national plan of action on “racial discrimination and gun violence” for the president to sign. "I'm incredibly hopeful," he said.

The Do Something awards celebrate world changers aged 25 and younger. The grand prize winner will be announced on July 31 during a live-stream event on VH1 and will receive $100,000 toward his or her organization. This is the first of five profiles of the finalists. Vote for the the grand prize winner by text.