Dual BA Alumna Helps Young People Turn Their Dreams into Social Action
Justice Betty ‘18GS, co-founder of Révolutionnaire, talks about her time in the Dual BA Program, collaborating with Roots, and how her dreams are fueling a revolution.
From a young age, Justice Betty ‘18GS understood the importance of young people standing up for the causes they believe in.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Justice already knew in kindergarten that she wanted to be a leader. “I started telling my teachers that I wanted to be Prime Minister of Canada one day,” she said. She recalls that at age nine she put on a pink pant suit (inspired by Hillary Clinton) and made her way down to the legislature building where she listened to elected officials discuss issues that would impact people’s lives. She was inspired.
Justice soon began volunteering on campaigns and would bring her friends with her. She believed that young people had the opportunity to get involved with issues they cared about— and that it was never too early to start. “My parents didn't grow up particularly political, but their friends were, and that exposed me to progressive ideals at a young age,” she said.
When she was just 17, Justice moved to Reims, a small town in Northeastern France, to begin college in the Dual BA Program between Columbia University and Sciences Po. Until then, she had never been to France and the move would prove to play a pivotal role in her educational journey. “I knew that if I stepped outside of my comfort zone it would give me the opportunity to expand that comfort zone drastically,” she said. “I’ve chosen to live my life that way since then.”
“The foundation for so much of my life was being the girl who moved to France at age 17. If I can do this, I can do anything."
In talking about the impact of the Dual BA Program, Justice described it as “beautiful,” in that it gave her a network of friends from around the world and exposed her to “the most interesting people” who all had a transformative experience together. It was an experience she’s forever grateful for. “The foundation for so much of my life was being the girl who moved to France at age 17. If I can do this, I can do anything,” she said.
At Columbia, Justice continued to step out of her comfort zone and get involved on campus, from serving as vice president of the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE) and as a student representative on the Columbia Alumni Association 2023 Task Force, to helping organize Columbia’s first women’s conference She Opened the Door. In 2018, she was named valedictorian of her Columbia GS graduating class.
In front of her peers at Class Day, Justice spoke about following a nontraditional path and dreaming without limits. Under the tents on the Butler Library lawn, she uttered a phrase that, unknown to her at time, would ignite a spark and soon take on a life of its own: “dreams fuel revolutions.” Looking back on that moment, she said, “My quote taps into a childlike optimism that pushes people to imagine a world beyond what your current existence is. It really has taken on a whole new definition post-2020.”
“But with the murder of George Floyd, I found myself in a different headspace—crying every day, really overwhelmed with sadness and anger. I was able to do work around racial equity and social justice in my role, but I felt like I wanted to do more.”
When it comes to what her dreams have fueled her to do, Justice is candid about her experience. After graduating from GS, she was doing exceptionally well as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, doing work that she was passionate about. “But with the murder of George Floyd, I found myself in a different headspace—crying every day, really overwhelmed with sadness and anger. I was able to do work around racial equity and social justice in my role, but I felt like I wanted to do more.”
Justice asked herself what it would look like if young people with a dream of making the world or their communities a better place had access to the network and tools needed to really scale their impact. She was convinced that people needed a centralized hub for information and connections in order to mobilize. “It became a nagging question in my head and I could no longer focus on my work,” she said. “I was constantly researching digital communities, social change, Gen Z—I just knew that this was something I had to do.”
Shortly thereafter, an opportunity close to home presented itself. Justice’s sister Nia had recently launched Révolutionnaire, an apparel and accessories line inspired by her experiences as a Black ballerina. Nia’s dream of every dancer having apparel that celebrated their skin fueled the creation of Révolutionnaire and revolutionized the dance world. “My sister would walk into a dancewear store and be greeted by a sea of beige and pink. She was constantly feeling alienated as she had to go home and dye her accessories, and she wanted to design something so that other people didn’t feel that way that she had,” Justice said.
It was during the unrest of 2020 that Justice asked herself: What if, in addition to clothing and purposeful products, we thought about community and content? Within a week she and her sister gathered 20 friends and had an eight-page deck to present their ideas.
“My sister and I talk a lot about wanting to incubate a generation of changemakers who feel supported and empowered to really make a difference,” she said. Our team has built out a robust library of content for Gen Z by Gen Z to really talk about issues they care about and ultimately inspires them to take action: signing petitions, finding a volunteer opportunity, etc.”
And with that, the Révolutionnaire community was born. Empowering individuals to use their dreams to fuel revolutions, Révolutionnaire is a bustling social platform for digital education, action, and amplification for young changemakers. At its core, the brand celebrates diversity and inclusivity and embraces collaboration, just a few traits that attracted the attention of the Canadian premium outdoor-lifestyle brand Roots.
Earlier this year, Justice and Nia had the opportunity to collaborate on a collection with Roots that, in the spirit of Révolutionnaire, celebrates diversity and empowerment. “They asked us what we would put on a t-shirt and it was Nia’s idea to use the quote from my speech,” Justice said. The Dreams Fuel Revolutions tee hit stores in February and sold out in its first 24-hours.
Their collaboration with Roots has continued to grow and now features fleece, leather, and additional tees. “There’s a line on the back of our shirts that says ‘I am Révolutionnaire’ so you always leave your mark when you’re leaving a room,” she said.
“At the end of the day, when you want to try to make a difference in the world, if there is a chance you can make a difference, I think it’s a risk worth taking. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried.”
Customers have spoken to Justice and Nia about what it means to feel recognized and seen by clothes that celebrate them not only from a diverse perspective, but also with size inclusivity. The Roots collection is gender neutral and uses the company’s One Size format, which focuses on fit, not size—something the sisters are very proud of. “We look at fashion as a medium to bring this message to other people. Individuals who may not identify as a changemaker per say but still resonate with the idea of being empowered,” Justice said. "It’s a matter of using clothing as a vehicle to get our message out to a wider audience and inspire people.”
While it would be difficult for some people to leave a full time job at McKinsey and tread into unknown territory, stepping out of her comfort zone, just as she first did when she was 17, is something Justice has become adept at doing. “I’m forever grateful for my time at McKinsey which gave me confidence and the toolkit I needed to do something like this, but circumstances push you to make hard decisions,” she said. “At the end of the day, when you want to try to make a difference in the world, if there is a chance you can make a difference, I think it’s a risk worth taking. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried.”