Two West Michigan artists have teamed up to create Black History Month t-shirts for Meijer stores.
Jasmine Bruce and high school student Elijah Brown are both artists with the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) and were paired together to create the apparel. Trudy Ngo-Brown, Director of Arts and Tech for WMCAT, said Meijer initally reached out for the project, and the artists were chosen based on their past experience with WMCAT projects.
"I never let my age get to me. Just having this opportunity, I’m happy to have it. I think I was meant to have it because I’m mature enough to have it," said Elijah Brown.
Brown is a junior at Grand Rapids University Prepatory Academy, and Bruce said she was happy to work with someone so young on a project of this magnitude.
"Back when I was that old I wish I had that similar opportunity, so it’s always a great experience to share with the youth," she said, "...Having your t-shirt in Meijer, that’s something you’ve always been going to since you were little, so that's a really cool element of it,” artist Jasmine Bruce said.
Bruce, an artist and instructor at WMCAT, said the two worked collectively on the concept of the design. The shirt is brown and cream and reads, “This isn’t just a month. It’s everyday for us." It also features a bird free from its cage, something Bruce said was a nod to Maya Angelou's poem "Caged Bird" and pays respect to those who have lost their lives to police brutality.
"I would say just especially after the events from this past summer and a lot of heat around police brutality, Elijah and I really connected in the sense that we wanted people to not just look at Black History Month or Black lives as something that are trending, because in reality that’s an everyday thing for us," she said.
Elijah echoed similar sentiments, noting he wanted to make the shirts "unique" and "not traditional," saying Black history is happening in front of us.
"Black History isn’t just a month, and Black history isn’t just our history with slavery and segregation. Our history is now, and in the next 30 years they’re going to talk about what’s happening now. So why not start our history now?” Brown said.
The shirts will be sold in more than 200 stores across the midwest.