By Faith Jackson
Elijah Rutland was the featured presenter at the State of Minnesota’s 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Youth Rally. The Youth Rally, which was held at St. Paul’s Ordway Music Theatre on Monday, January 21, 2019, is a statewide event that has been hosted by The Governor’s Council on the Martin Luther King Holiday since 1986.
Rutland, a native of Macon and a Central High School graduate, is currently a sophomore Graphic Design major at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.
Rutland is a talented artist and entrepreneur. He is the founder of the Fix My Sole brand (www.fixmysole.com) that specializes in the artistic customization of sneakers and other clothing items. His work has been featured in numerous media outlets, most notably GQ.com and solecollector.com. Rutland has done custom work for customers from as far away as Japan, and his clients include celebrities such as KevOnStage, AllDefDigital and Chance the Rapper.
Rutland, who started his business while still in high school, began sketching shoe designs on paper because his parents would not buy him the high priced sneakers that he wanted. Rutland recounts the story of how his father told him to “buy shares of NIKE stock rather than buying NIKE sneakers.”
Eventually, when Rutland reached high school, he convinced his father to buy him a pair of used sneakers for $3 from Goodwill and $10 worth of paint from WalMart. Rutland customized those sneakers and posted them on social media, and his business took off from there.
According to Rutland, he has been drawing his whole life, and he uses his art “to say things I wouldn’t want to say out loud, so I create a visual representation of my thoughts.”
Rutland has also enjoyed renown as a digital illustrator. In September 2018 he created the Black Rolf meme, loosely based on the cartoon character from Ed, Edd, and Eddy. Rutland’s illustration went viral around the globe and was prominently featured in an article on Buzzfeed, a popular online media site.
Rutland’s remarks at the Youth Rally focused on the importance of young people finding their passion and staying focused on that passion until they achieve success, no matter the odds. He also discussed the importance of making effective use of social media to build a brand in today’s marketplace.
In addition to Rutland, other speakers at the MLK Celebration were Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Mr. Mike Roman, CEO of 3M Corporation and keynoter, famed astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison.