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Young, local artists with WMCAT debut Black History apparel at Meijer stores

WMCAT members donning new  Black History Month apparel
West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology
West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology
Young, local artists with WMCAT debut Black History apparel at Meijer stores

The limited supply of shirts and sweatshirts will be available at 257 Meijer stores across the Midwest all month long.

Meijer shoppers will find more than in-season produce this February. The Midwest retail giant is welcoming another year of Black History Month apparel created by local artists with the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology.

"We are thrilled to be partnering again with Meijer to give young people a platform to amplify their voices and creativity,” said WMCAT President and CEO Jamon Alexander. “By working with students in WMCAT's Teen Arts + Tech Program to design original Black History Month apparel, Meijer is helping to build creative confidence and create a culture of opportunity in West Michigan.”

Grand Rapids Innovation Central High School sophomore Minni Peters and Grand Rapids City High School freshman Anala Millbrooks are students in WMCAT’s Teen Arts + Tech Program.They were asked by WMCAT and Meijer to create two designs in honor of Black History Month alongside Jalexia Stoutmyre, a professional artist and WMCAT instructor.

"It feels really good to have our artwork in such a big area and retail chain. Having this experience will definitely help my artistic career in the future and working with other people,” Peters said.

Stoutmyre brought original ideas to the table, with the students bringing the design to life.

"I used to be a student at WMCAT, and I never did any of the special projects that they had, so being able to organize one and being part of it that way was giving my younger self something she missed out on," Stoutmyre said.

The T-shirt design, features candy hearts with affirmations like “luv ur curls” and “Black is beautiful,” among other sentiments written inside. Stoutmyre said this is a representation of the "softer" characteristics that are often overlooked when looking at Black communities.

“When speaking on blackness, we’re not just talking about what people say it is which is 'Black is resilient, Black is strong.' It very, very well is, but let’s also talk about how Black is soft and Black is pure. The traits that go unnoticed, because it feels like we’re always just fighting to exist," Stoutmyre said.

The second design, a black sweatshirt, features a timeline of Black history achievements down the sleeve.

"The main part was to educate people on the accomplishments that they may not have been taught in school, because Black history isn’t really taught out of February and it definitely should be, because Black History is American History,” Peters said.

More than 6,000 T-shirts and sweatshirts are currently available across all Meijer's 257 stores across the Midwest all month long or until supplies last.

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