handpainted jackets featuring cultural icons who defied systems of oppression.
Strength from the past empowers the future.
Hedy Lamarr (1914 - 2000)
Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood legend in the 1940’s, known as “the most beautiful woman in the world”. She was also a brilliant inventor, creating a secret weapons communication system intended to defeat the Nazis in WW2. Her technology was later used in the Cuban missile crisis, and eventually became the basis for WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth technology.
Fela Kuti (1938 - 1997)
MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, POLITICAL ACTIVIST
Revolutionary Nigerian musician and human rights activist Fela Kuti is a giant in Africa and around the world. Throughout his life he was arrested over 200 times, defiantly challenging government corruption in his performances. Fela combined musical forms to create a new genre called Afrobeat, writing subversive lyrics that directly attacked the military dictatorship of his time. Despite constant intimidation and a number of assassination attempts, Fela Kuti never stopped his fearless criticism of colonialism and greed.
“I am Fela Anikulapo Kuti. I hold death in my pouch. I cannot die.”
Marcus Garvey (1887 - 1940)
CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER
Jamaican civil rights leader and African nationalist Marcus Garvey was the first person to advance the political consciousness of the African diaspora. His philosophy emphasized black empowerment through economic, political, and social freedom. Garvey’s doctrine of self-sufficiency and call to ‘Stand tall!” and “Unite!” helped to psychologically liberate black people from the constraints of racial inferiority. Garveyism has heavily influenced many subsequent spiritual and cultural movements, including the Black Panthers, Rastafarianism, and the American civil rights movement.
“Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.”
At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can. - Frida Kahlo
Richard Pryor (1940 - 2005)
COMEDIAN, WRITER, ACTOR
The son of a pimp and a prostitute, Richard Pryor grew up in a brothel surrounded by crime. He rose from poverty to become one of the top entertainers of his time, speaking in an unfiltered and honest way that white America had never heard before. Pryor used language as a weapon to draw attention to social issues, creating comedy from stories of pain and tragedy. His performances confronted uncomfortable realities in subjects such as racism, drug addiction and mass incarceration. Groundbreaking and controversial, Richard Pryor is widely considered the greatest comedian of all time.
"A lie is profanity. A lie is the worst thing in the world. Art is the ability to tell the truth."
I'll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.
Take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say "fuck the government".
- Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce (1925 - 1966)
COMEDIAN, SOCIAL CRITIC
Jewish-American comic Lenny Bruce became a symbol of the first amendment as he fought for the right to free speech throughout his life. His groundbreaking free-form comedy style included critical observations on religion, racism and sex. Denounced for his obscene language, Lenny said he used vulgar words in order to remove the poison from them. He was blacklisted for his ‘sick humor’ and was harassed and arrested often. Ultimately convicted of obscenity, Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose before his appeal. His trial and eventual pardon is seen as a landmark for freedom of speech in the U.S.
“I’m not sick. The world is sick, and I'm the doctor. I'm a surgeon with a scalpel for false values.”
Bayard Rustin (1912 - 1987)
ORGANIZER, POLIICAL ACTIVIST
Civil Rights organizer and LGBTQ activist Bayard Rustin was Dr. Martin Luther King’s mentor and chief organizer of the March on Washington. The danger of his open sexuality in his era kept his involvement in the movement hidden for many years. Rustin was influential in many social movements, including civil rights, the fight against antisemitism, and LGBTQ rights.
“Every indifference to prejudice is suicide because if I don’t fight all bigotry, it will be strengthened and will return on me.”
Lyudmilla Pavlichenko (1916 - 1974)
RED ARMY SNIPER
The deadliest female sniper in history, ‘Lady Death’ Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Soviet soldier during WWII. She terrorized Nazis, recording over 300 confirmed kills. Pavlichenko, the first Soviet citizen invited to the White House, toured America and gave speeches about the war. She advocated women’s rights, touting the independence and gender equality of women in Soviet society. Throughout her US tour, the decorated war hero had to constantly answer reporter’s questions about wearing makeup and the fit of her uniform. Fed up, she famously responded:
“Gentlemen. I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”
I don't want no peace. I want equal rights, and justice. -Peter Tosh
I am not a black artist. I am an artist.