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Purple kicks off social activism week with a purpose

After a week of tabling and selling T-shirts on the West Campus Plaza, Purple began its “Social Activism Week” Monday.

Purple, a new non-profit student organization that seeks to raise awareness about various social issues, will celebrate the week with events that make students aware of one social problem per day. Each day is devoted to a cause and members from non-profit organizations will be present on campus to encourage volunteers to join their respective groups. Causes include environmental sustainability, race relations, education inequality, cancer research and human rights.

The events will culminate in a Sept. 11 concert featuring singer Mike Posner, a senior, and will also serve as a memorial for 9/11 and for the families and students affected by social issues. The purpose of the concert is to accommodate music into the effort and make activism accessible, said Purple Concert Co-director Joyce Kim, a junior.

“Purple is a way for students to get opportunities to engage in various social causes and to connect with each other,” Kim said. “We use music and fashion to represent our passions as students.”

President and Co-founder Sam Bowler, a senior, named the organization Purple after a shawl his mother wore, which he and his sisters used to comfort themselves when they were sick.

“I consider purple to be a healing color that establishes an emotional connection between people,” Bowler said.

Last Spring, the organization polled students to determine the top five social causes that they think affect the world. Since then, Purple members have partnered with organizations around the Durham area such as the Durham Economic Resource Center, which strives to eliminate poverty in Durham.

The T-shirts come in colors that represent each of the five causes, and the profits from sales will support the respective organizations.

The official Purple Web site is geared to allow students to meet each other based on similar interests and connect with different non-profit organizations in Durham, Kim said.

In partnership with DukeList—the University’s database that helps students find employment and research opportunities—Purple will use its Web site to track the number of hours students give back to Durham. Bowler said one hour of volunteer work will be considered the equivalent of $14 donated to the service organization. Purple’s goal is to have 10 percent of the students at Duke volunteer for two hours a week for one month, which would be the equivalent of $75,000 raised for various causes.

This summer, Purple became an official non-profit organization. Group leaders hope to expand to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and become a larger umbrella organization that, in the future, can engage students on campuses across America, Bowler said.

“My goal is to diversify the Duke campus, to break down the walls that exist and allow people with shared social passions to connect with one another,” he said.

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