Celebrating “Black Boy Brilliance” Through Clothes
A student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently debuted a new fashion line to help “spark conversations on racial discrimination” and “celebrate blackness on campus.”
Eneale Pickett, 23, launched Insert Apparel in 2016 with a single hoodie emblazoned with the phrase “All White People Are Racist.” The hoodie drew immediate attention from media, and Pickett ended up flooded with death threats.
The scrutiny was intense. Even UW-Madison spokesmen distanced the school from his shirts, telling reporters that they were never “endorsed” by the university. But Pickett has been undeterred.
Two years later, Pickett has taken his creative talents in a new direction. While he still sells a shirt emblazoned with “All White People Are Racist,” his Fall 2018 line takes what he calls a “more celebratory approach.”
“My clothing line aims to celebrate Blackness,” said Pickett in a phone interview with YR Media. “I want young black men to know: you’re brilliant. Too often in the media black men are portrayed as thugs… That’s wrong,” said Pickett.
He now sells shirts tagged with “Black Boy Brilliance,” “Black Girl Magic,” and “Black Power.” The aspiring school teacher — who spends 2 days a week shadowing at a local middle-school — heat-presses the logos onto shirts he buys in bulk between classes.
And since he’s the first in his family to attend college and is from a single-parent household, Eneale told Youth Radio that all his profits go towards his housing expenses — as his tuition and fees are covered by scholarships.
UW students that Youth Radio spoke with praised Pickett’s clothing line.
Ekenedilichukwu Ikegwuani, 22, a Nigerian-American student at UW, told Youth Radio that his favorite shirt to wear is “Black Boy Brilliance.”
The shirt sends an “important affirming message to remind black men we can be intelligent, but that shirt gives me something I can wear to be prideful about myself,” he added.
Too often, he lamented, “the media tells black boys that the only routes to success are rapping, being an athlete, or drug dealing. We see that a lot. There are other ways for us to be successful.”
Julia Brunson, 20, a senior at UW, said the shirt line has prompted numerous conversations among her friends over the past two years.
“I had a good friend who reacted really negatively to the line when it first came out. It offended them,” Brunson told Youth Radio.
“But when we actually sat down and talked about the t-shirt’s meaning, we had a really good conversation. We talked about how some students of color experience the University of Wisconsin’s campus very differently than white students do,” said Brunson.
Once Pickett graduates in Fall 2019, he hopes to secure a teaching job in the Chicago public school system. But he doesn’t want to stop making shirts.
“It’s really important for me to continue to create. But first I want to become a teacher first. My dream is to own a storefront where I can sell my clothes in the front and do political and civics education workshops in the back.”
“But first, I have to graduate,” he chuckled.