Ferguson. Baltimore. Charleston. The names of these US cities have become synonymous with flashpoints of racial strife in recent months. These explosions of emotion make the front pages of the news, but behind them is a long brewing feeling of frustration for many Americans. New York-based designer, art director and ADC Member Jonathan Key decided to do something with this frustration.
“I am black man born and raised in Alabama,” explains Jonathan. “I encountered discrimination and hate then. Now I live in New York, and I encounter discrimination and hate. A simple routine such as getting dressed in the morning becomes a calculated procedure of what clothes will make me invisible. What will keep me alive? I realized I am living in fear. Fear of walking down the street, fear of being a target, fear of the police. It was necessary for me to do something, something to make the conditions in which I am living in better.”
This has led Jonathan to create We Are Bullet Proof, a project he believes “…would help me and my community feel empowered; a message that says we are not afraid. We are not alone.”
“I wanted to do a project that would help me and my community feel empowered. A message that says we are not afraid. We are not alone.”
The stark, silkscreened design is influenced by the 1968 protest poster ‘I AM A MAN’ used by Memphis Sanitation workers to demand for higher wages, safer working conditions and recognition. The print is available on black hooded sweatshirts and posters. “It was important for the words to be on a black hoodie,” says Jonathan. “As Hilary Clinton mentioned at the United States Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, for a lot of well meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear.”
Jonathan is also one of the co-founders of Artists Against Police Violence, a platform to showcase art that addresses police brutality and injustice. “We’ve done workshops, gallery shows and talks all over the country to inspire and call for artists to create politically engaged work,” he says. “I think it is important for artists and designers to look at the issues affecting our communities and to use our skills to try and make a difference.”
A percentage of the donations and sales from We Are Bullet Proof will be given to Black Lives Matter organizations working to fight for racial equality and injustice.
Tags: Jonathan Key