An open letter to the UNION Massive:
This series of tee’s is from the collection that we are calling “THE RETURN” It’s called that because when I first started working at Union back in early 90’s, we made our
nut off of selling political and thought provoking tee’s. It was all about consciousness and fighting the power. This coincided with my music tastes at the time…Native
Tongues, Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, etc. Anyways…those times seem like a far distant memory and I thought it might be cool to harken back to those days with a t-shirt
collaboration release through Union with some of those old brands. I contacted PNB to do a couple of the old styles, “TooBlackGuys” as well as new comer GRQ$.
It’s not a coincidence that this “return” to consciousness, so to speak has been invigorated by what has been happening in and continues to happen in America in regards
to race relations. In fact the idea spawned from the events around Ferguson MO but it took so long to launch that I thought we had missed the opportunity.
I don’t need to tell you…that opportunity keeps on reviving it’s self, seemingly on a weekly basis. Sad to say… As it so happens, Union is collaborating with a huge art
show here in LA this weekend all promoting social and political conciseness. So it seemed to me to be the perfect time to
release this collection both here at UNION and at the “Manifest Justice” art show this weekend. Please know that all proceeds from the sales of these tee’s are going to
charity. I urge you to support these tee’s and I thank all the brands that have contributed to this. I also urge you to please visit the Manifest Justice show this weekend.
A face of the enemy: Former LA Police Chief Daryl Gates
Don’t Shoot GRQ$ X UNION LA
After the Rodney King verdict came down and LA went up in flames; most of the blame was placed on Police Chief Daryl Gates for the now iconic riots. Gates was a known racists
that let several heinous acts by white officers transpire under his watch. The infuriated black community lashed out in several ways. One of my favorites was a poster mocked up to
look like a shooting range target with an image of Chief Gates at the center. I remember seeing them sold on street corners and even in a scene of the infamous and classic film
Menace II Society. For whatever reason I could never get my hands on one. This coveted poster was our initial inspiration for our t-shirt. I was never able to find an image of the Chief
Gates poster but ran into some great images of vintage shooting targets. My partner and head designer Jamie
Benson used these vintage targets as inspiration to create our “Don’t Shoot” graphic. We then were curious as to how many wrongful deaths of Black Americans had been caused by
police officers in recent years. To say the least the numbers were beyond staggering, very sad and painful. We then decided to memorialize as many of the deceased by listing
their names on the back of our t-shirt.
When this tee was conceived, over twenty years ago, Midnight Marauders
was on rotation, LA was rebuilding after the riots, and 80% of the NBA
was made up of black players which was at an all-time high. Conversely
the white player count was at its lowest number. Despite this new era
in pro ball the logo then, and to this day, features the silhouette of
Hall of Famer Jerry West, subconsciously reminding us of an older, whiter league.
Inspired by this irony, as well as the spirit of the culture and
times, PNB Nation chose to “update” the logo. By simply appropriating
the logo silhouette with a Dr J style Afro and changing the colors
from Old Glory to the Black Liberation flag, PNB began building and as
a final touch added the bold black on black Proud Nubian Brothers to
this iconic tee.
History repeats itself.
Just before the close of 2014, tens of thousands of people
rose up to peacefully express outrage against injustices, much like
PNB Nation did almost 25 years ago with this T-shirt. Graphically armed
with the classic Hello-My-Name-is sticker and tagging the 3 Names over it, PNB
looked to bomb the public consciousness in memory of 3 Black
lives that mattered. The mission was simple. To get people asking who
do the 3 Names belong to and why are they connected? Eleanor Bumpurs (age 66) killed by
shotgun blast in a botched eviction, Michael Stewart (age 25) a
graffiti artist choked and beaten at a subway station leading to his
death and Phillip Pannell (age 16) shot in the back while, witnesses
attest, he had his hands up. Today the 3 Names could be
Anthony Baez, Oscar Grant, and Trayvon Martin. They could be Michael Brown,
Akai Gurley, and Eric Garner, or countless other victims of racism and
TBG “IF WE MUST DIE”
The “If We Must Die” tee was originally released in 2008 as part of our Jim Crow Couture Collection. We wanted to recognize the sacrifices that the youth were willing to make to
improve their communities. The image was a perfect representation of their frustration and anger at the injustice that they faced daily and it shows that police have been using the Eric
Garner chokehold from time.
“If we must die” as Claude McKay’s poem says, “Let it not be like hogs”