Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy junior Elijah Brown and artist and West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology Teen Arts + Tech Program instructor Jasmine Bruce partnered through WMCAT to design and print nearly 4,000 Black History Month T-shirts for Meijer.
In honor of February’s Black History Month, the T-shirt reads, “This isn’t just a month, it’s every day for us. #blackhistory,” and features a bird released from a cage. The design and concepts were inspired by the lives of Black people making history.
“When we talk about Black History Month, we tend to talk about the past,” said Brown, who is also a student of the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology’s (WMCAT) Teen Arts + Tech Program. “With this design, I wanted to recognize that what is happening in our world today is a part of our history and it should be remembered.”
“When Elijah and I first met to explore ideas, I was drawn to Maya Angelou’s poem, ‘Caged Bird’ and its themes of captivity and freedom,” said Bruce, a freelance illustrator and visual artist. “I worked this into the concept, and it became the foundation of the design. It resonated strongly with us both to honor black lives and share the importance of black history with others.”
The T-shirts can be purchased at 220 Meijer stores in six states including Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio. The shirts are part of the retailer’s Black History Month collection featuring eight shirts and sweatshirts honoring the month.
“We are proud to support WMCAT with our business and to bring Elijah and Jasmine’s vision to life on our racks,” said Shawn T. Colley, divisional merchandising manager of men’s apparel and team sports for Meijer. “This shirt design is clearly meaningful, and we are excited to offer it to our customers as part of our Black History Month collection.”
Ambrose, WMCAT’s custom design and screen-printing business, was contracted by Meijer to print all the shirts. Each one was hand-printed in Grand Rapids.
“We should recognize Black history every month, not just in February,” Brown said. “I hope this becomes a movement; I’d love to see it go around the world.”