Sean Rayland knows the feeling of getting out of jail and walking right back into the life that put him there in the first place.
Rayland says that’s the situation for far too many Indigenous people getting out of jail.
“When you understand [that person is] getting out with the criminal record. He’s getting out to the same community. The same environment that existed. So those conditions that eventually sent him to jail, or that he was thriving in that sent them to jail, are still there,” he says.
Rayland is a former gang member and tells APTN he’s seen far too many people struggle outside of jail only to end up back in the life.
“Whether that’s, ‘hey, somebody needs a beating or they need a slap, we’ll give you $100’ or whatever it is, it’s so easy to get out and find that. But to go get a job, you already got your criminal record on you. You need IDs to get IDs (identification). You’re facing addictions,” he says.
That’s why he started Red Rebel Armour, an Indigenous clothing company.
“Red Rebel Armor is an Indigenous-led street wear brand on a social mission to reduce recidivism by creating employment opportunities for our relatives getting out of the criminal justice system,” says Rayland. “So, we provide on-the-job paid training in a culturally safe work environment.”
He says the company is creating “some crazy-ass street wear” and is printing, marketing and selling it themselves.
“We’re in local retailers. We’re at the Hudson’s Bay. We got our own e-commerce and we’re just really growing this business, so we can create more employment opportunities.”
It’s about giving people a chance by showing them a different type of hustle.
“It’s a good hustle, too. I can’t snort my T-shirts and I can’t smoke them up,” says Rayland.
“I was working with an individual and he said, ‘so I can sell this T-shirt and I don’t have to worry about the cops or any enemies and it’s the same price as a piece of crack?’ And I said, ‘yeah, exactly. You got it already. It’s just applying your hustle to something positive.'”
APTN Investigates reported last week there’s approximately 40 street gangs in Winnipeg and they’re largely Indigenous-led.
That’s mainly due to living in extreme poverty and government policies that trapped them there.
It’s led to a spike in youth getting into gangs at younger ages.
Mitch Bourbonniere sees this over and over in Winnipeg as a community outreach worker.
“We have a lot of young people that are born into wounded families and wounded situations. I’m not assigning blame at all, because it’s you know, there’s a history in this country of colonialism and suffering and there’s a consequence of that. And the consequence of that is generationally wounded people,” says Bourbonniere. “We have young people being born into some pretty wounded, chaotic situations and they’re off and running there. They find each other or they’re out at night. They feed off each other and things get crazy.”
That’s why more than ever there needs to be more opportunities.
A chance for a different path
Rayland says it’s just a matter of showing people the way.
“I don’t hate on the hustle. I don’t hate on the drug game, because I know some people [and] that’s their survival. It’s helping them. It’s just there’s a better way. You got the skills to use them in a healthy way. We just need more opportunities like that, especially for entrepreneurship,” he says.
That’s something Rayland is trying to do one T-shirt at a time.