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.