My daughter was about 6 months old.
We walked into a Babies R Us to take some milestone pictures.
On the way in her dad and I met another young, black couple who were also new parents.
They walked out of the store and toward their car, swinging & barely holding onto that heavy car seat all new parents struggle & suffer through.
But even with all these apparent commonalities, that wasn’t what stood out.
What stood out was the young father’s shirt.
It was a heavy cotton red shirt with a peculiar image on the front.
And while I wasn’t familiar with the picture, my kid’s father was.
“Is that so & so…”, he asked, naming a basketball player that my sports deficient-self was unfamiliar with.
The gentleman said, “Yes” and just like that, the two strangers dapped it up and started a conversation.
They, for what seemed like an 10 to 15 minutes, would stand there in that Babies R Us parking lot and talk about that particular sports scene imprinted on the shirt – how they remember that game, how tense it was because the score was tied and saying things like, “I’ll never forget when so & so hit that alley-oop and…”
It was amazing to me that these two people that didn’t know each other 10 minutes ago, now shared a common experience that never would have occurred had he not been wearing this shirt.
The two men exchanged numbers, dapped it up again and went their separate ways.
I would later find out that the gentleman made the shirt and it was one of the first in his new collection of Court Classics – a T-shirt business centered around notable scenes that had taken place on the basketball court throughout the history of the NBA.
Not only was it the first time I’d seen a black entrepreneur that was my age but this was the first time I’d ever really noticed a product that had a story; an immediate emotional attachment and something that spoke for itself. It was a niche, it was authentic, and it was a personal interest in which he now made a living off. It was a t-shirt. A seemingly simplistic product that bought him joy & others joy.
It inspired me. It inspired me so much that I’d go down to Bang-On, a custom T-shirt store in Little Five Points and began to make my own for fun. The first one I made was, ‘I ♡ Dope Boys” – an ode to my (old) love of niggas that sold drugs. The next one was a picture of Fredrick Douglas with his name written in bold quotations that read, “Dougie” — a tongue in cheek play on the then-popular song, “Teach Me How to Dougie”.
Ironically, I’d walk into a Toys R Us one Christmas, 7 years after meeting the “Court Classics” guy and someone would ask me about my shirt. “Hey, that’s funny. Where can I get one?” I stuttered. While flattered that someone took an interest in something that I made, I was not confident enough to stand by my work as an artist and certainly did not see myself as an entrepreneur. I sheepishly said, “I made it”, took his information, never called and never made him a shirt.
That was in 2011 – meaning from the time I’d met the Court Classics dude (2004) to the time, someone said, “Hey make one for me” (2011) to now, (2019) this has just been an idea. Can you imagine having an idea for 15 years and never acting on it? Allowing fear, daily distractions and procrastination to hold you back? Fif-teen fucking years?! How far I could’ve been had I acted on my initial hunch? Made mistakes, learned from them and thereby perfected my product?!
I’m not sure which one but I’m convinced this is a mental illness and I wonder if anyone else has suffered from this self-inflicted torment; from a sheer unwillingness to embark upon your destiny. Doing anything else that seemed easy or more attainable and ultimately avoiding your calling.
But the fact of the matter is, I had to do a lot of self-discovery to first convince myself that these instructions came directly from God and He wasn’t going to move unless I moved which only happened after I got tired of being stuck; tired of the setbacks that came as a result of not fulfilling my purpose.
While on that road of self-discovery I started to get more serious about my writing and through that picked up on all the nuances that make me. After that, I was like, “Wow. I’m a pretty interesting person with semi-cool stories to tell”. And just like that, I became a big proponent of self-discovery because I was now a witness to how simply knowing who you are can magically transform your life.
And that is why this decade, this year, this week I am taking my first steps to get out of my head and into the business of making shirts.
I have taken this last year to seriously build a business model that is reflective of me and even though resistance is in my ear at this very moment shouting, “Nooooo. We’re not ready!”, I’m going to ignore her and make you a shirt instead.
Now introducing Yo Destiny, Make Me a Shirt, a T-shirt company centered on the art of storytelling & self-discovery. Follow me on Instagram @yoyo.destiny where I’ll be enacting a series called #30daysofyodestiny using short stories, blog post, witty captions, and expressive shirts that aimed at sharing #mydestiny in hopes that it reminds you of #yodestiny – all in anticipation for the December 13th launch of Yo Destiny, Make Me a Shirt.