When I mention that something is DOPE, I mean it in the most sincere manner. Depending on your generation, you would swear that I'm referencing marijuana or heroin. This DOPE tee is an ode to being amazing, feeling good, confident with who you are, and loving the space that you're in.
Ohio will soon legalize weed...(and marriage equality as well) that's a milestone but is it? Ohio has been a state to reckon with, dating back to the Cotton Club (the original Cotton Club was the only integrated nightclub in Cincinnati that saw hundreds of the greatest black orchestras and celebrities of the era) in the West End, boxing legend Ezzard Charles, basketball legend Oscar Robertson, (one of the first African Americans to play at the University of Cincinnati), controversial baseball legend Pete Rose, former Mayor Jerry Springer, The Black Brigade of Cincinnati, 2001 riots, the West End Theatre (which many of us may call the Regal Theatre), home to Lebron James, Bootsy Colllins and many more.
By any means, tell someone you love that they're dope...or just a complete stranger. It just might bring a smile to their face. What the hell, smoke some dope (marijuana that is) but do so responsibly and with dope people ;)
How does one confide in a government that's built it's principles upon greed and deception? It's no rocket science that our system has divested in education, adequate healthcare and job creation in poor and black communities while money is spent on policing and constant surveillance in these areas. Those who speak up, reach out, and step up are subject to death, harassment and scrutiny by a police force that's so caught up in it's own corruption that they too fail to realize that they are conditioned to into seeing citizens as enemies.
What's frightening about this reality is that people aren't safe in their homes and denied the right to protect it against unlawful intruders...this may hold true for some but hasn't been the case for Marissa Alexander, a woman who exercised her right in her own home to protect herself and children against her estranged husband who presented himself as a threat against them. How does this make sense?
Constant police raids subjecting non-violent drug offenders, wrongly targeted civilians has increased. These raids and unlawful searches has lead terror, injuries, and unnecessary deaths. Police aren't trained adequately of how to do their jobs, provide no justification for the terror they spread in black and poor communities, and have devalued themselves as humans.
Prior to experiencing AfroPunk Fest, I can honestly say that I couldn't visually identify with what a Black hippie was. Many believe we are extinct, I say we are evolving with the times. At age 16, I used to listen to The Village People and many other artists who were apart of Woodstock. I found people who I could identify with. I was at an age where I was exploring who I was, trying to figure out my sexuality, my place on this earth, and what it meant to be Black. I didn't consider myself the average black teen. My thoughts and actions were focused on social issues, walking barefoot, exploring my sexuality and most importantly the Black Power Movement. In my opinion, anyone who expresses love, has an expanded consciousness often extending to how they dress and carry themselves can identify with a hippie.
While I detest being called bougie, I must live up to my bougie tendencies and call others out. You know, the one's who believe that hood Black folk only eat Grippo's but will gladly eat yours. The ones who buy labels only at the grocery store but have no money for toilet paper, the ones who say they don't eat pork but slide in a piece of bacon or 2, the ones who have intellectual books on their shelves at home but never read one, those who believe that light skin is better than dark skin...(I will leave that topic for another discussion), you can't stand Tyler Perry, never drink house liquor at the club, you celebrate Kwanzaa...or you find being called BOUGIE is offensive. I'm sure you can relate to at least one.
Anyways, regardless of how you identify, there is a place for you. Be wild, be free...be you!
As a queer, weird, introverted, out-spoken artist of color, I constantly deal with internal struggles of not knowing where I belong or how I represent myself. In a male dominated society, I have to remain consistent, constant, and focused. I can't tell you how many times I speak to talented artists who have allowed other people's opinions or their own insecurities of their works to force them to change the direction of their art to the point where they loose themselves and in turn, produce art that mirrors their competitors.
Our notions of beauty are constructed by the media and our peers. I would be lying if I said that I haven't been affected or felt insecure about my art, my beauty...and self worth. The media shapes our notions of culture, race, sexuality and identity to the point where people aren't thinking for themselves, looking like others, not feeling pretty enough, hating on others...hating on yourself.
With this being said, this is our ode to POWER. Power from within, internal beauty. When you begin to recognize your self worth, your strengths, natural beauty...you will begin to act as such and others will see this in you and want more of that from you. I always say...when you know better, you do better.
OWN YOUR POWER.
An elephant sporting sneakers...no better way to illustrate who I am. This design is inspired by and dedicated to the loners who choose the road less travelled. My views about the world are constructed by what I see, how it makes me feel...and how people are directly affected by institutional tools to oppress us.
Basquiat holds a large influence over me. Artists work diligently to express their feelings through our art that cannot be expressed in words. Our art has personal and social significance which can't be put into a box.
My path is hard, I can't lie. My activism lives through my art and if it means that I am at times alienated, criticized or misunderstood then I'll take that.
Like the talented Erykah Badu stated, " I think a lot fo people have lost respect for the individual, you know, the person who doesn't conform."
This past July, I travelled to Toronto, Canada with a good friend for good times. We caught the Megabus which allowed us to pay no more than $60 rountrip per person. No bad, eh!
Moving along...some keen observations on my trip. Our bus made a stop in Buffalo, NY at the downtown Greyhound Station. During our 8 hour wait, we noticed that the station had a police station with 2 police on duty. One officer in particular, had a lot of gear holding his body down. Officer ensemble is as follows...gun, check...walkie talkie, check...bulletproof jacket, check...taser gun, check...mace, check...handcuffs, check...baton, check...oppresive presence...check.
In my mind, as I follow this officer walk around the Greyhound Station is that his presence made me a bit uneasy. Now I know there's a lot of drama that unfolds in the Greyhound Station but not sure if it warrants this much attention.
Heading over to Canada, we made a stop at the Canadian border on the Canadian side. I was relieved to find smiling officers who's presence was felt but not in an intimidating manner. Our bags weren't checked and we went by our way. Once in Toronto (one of Canada's busiest cities) we observed no police presence other than a few police during our 3day stay. I asked a few Canadian's where the police were, they simply replied, "they are around, just when you call them." That statement alone changed my perspective of police relations in the United States. In the US, police are so densely spread out that its hard not to approach one on a simple trip to the corner store..."ain't that some shyt?"
On our way back from Canada, we made our stop at the Canadian border on the American side. As soon as I stepped one foot in the door, we were greeted by US's finest. One officer in particular, found it upon himself to yell at me for not walking fast enough. (let me add that at least 80 people were in line waiting to be screened). Dazed and confused, I looked up to a tall officer with a coffee cup in his hand yelling at me telling me to get against the wall. After his 3rd attempt to yell at me, I stared at the officer in confusion only to be yelled at one again. His words echo in my head til this day..."don't you stare at me like that!" Anger and resentment built up in my system. Why was he yelling at us? What triggered his attitude? Why me? Now, a lot of things ran through my mind as the cop and I were eye to eye...disappointment and anger still remain.
So what do I do? I pushed that anger into my art, that's what I did. I want to expose social ills and injustice in the themes of my tees. Wake people up...let them know that the motto, "Protect & Serve" never once crossed my mind as I was harassed. I wasn't being protected, and this officer was not providing a service that my tax dollars paid for.
This tee is dedicated to the truth. It's time to evaluate our relationships with the police and the roles they serve in our communities. We hear of so many "bad cops" which overshadow the good ones. Good cops, bad cops...at the end of the day, they all work for the same system which was created to function off of "crime" as means of survival...financial stability.
So, we can either be blind to the inustices, or become involved in radical change with education and exposurue to these issues. We choose the latter.
Some of my first designs before silkscreening. It was the summer of 2008...it took me literally an hour to make each piece! Using iron in patches to create each design was creative yet time consuming. I received a lot of compliments from these designs...especially the Lunchmeat design. People used to ask..."what does "Lunchmeat" mean? I told them that it was a play on words...qwerky term to describe basically nothing, lol. From that point on, I was on to something, so I began to create more. I remember being so proud of my work, owning something of my own...and claiming Soapbox Tees as a platform to launch qwerky, socially conscious designs.
My interest for designing tees happened back in 1999 (I like to refer to this time as the 1900's) in the South Bronx, to be exact. I was on a trip with a friend in one of the most humble accomodations, I must say. The family that we stayed with, a group of Africans from Ghana ( I believe) made and altered clothing for a living. The living room was filled with bags of clothing and a sewing machine. Nothing but garments, sales receipts and unwelcomed rodents that weren't shy about their appearance. In this environment, I was able to to get a glimpse into custom shirt making and the power behind designing clothing for yourself. That creative freedom has been an essential law that I hold onto today with this business. Creative freedom. Yes.
So I began making my own tees, cutting designs from iron on patches and iron on letters from Walmart and various fabric stores. I made these tees for myself. Not intending to sell...just for fun.
Fast forwarding to 2005. I took a a trip for the first time to Europe. First time out of the country...much to my surprise, Bush was in Europe to meet with former Prime Minister Tony Blair. In my mind I'm thinking "can a sistah at least leave the damn country and not see his ass?" After 5 minutes of frustration (because I refuse to all that man to occupy my thoughts for that long), I made a tee that read, "Impeach Bush" with the "h" in bush falling off. That was one of my most sentimental tees because I made it, I felt the words, I didn't care what people thought, and I felt liberated. I received a lot of stares and distant comments from this tee when I wore it in Europe. There were times when I forgot I had it on but was reminded when wandering eyes occasionally peeled to my chest. I didn't care what people thought, as long as they got the message.