Designing Our Freedom: The Oppression Fashion Show
“And I am more than just a number, more than a percent sign, more than a statistic. I am more than what you’ve heard. What you’ve saw and what you’ve learned. I am more than my social status. I’m reaching as far as I can get. Making moves through splits and dips, I’ve yet to commit. I’m better than what you expect. 99% of the wealth is kept by 1% of the world. But I’m still the one although I am the 99%.”
Short powerful narratives like the one you read above, written by 17 year old Keiandré Hall, were written and performed by 15 talented youth from five youth programs throughout the New Orleans community at our Oppression Fashion Show at The George & Leah Mckenna Museum of African American Art on Saturday Nov. 5, 2011 from 6-9pm. Keiandré’ is a youth member of The Institute for Women& Ethnic Studies’ Mapp Program and her story discusses one of our 3 fashion show themes, poverty. Her story accompaniedher self made t-shirt design as she ripped the runway at our Oppression Fashion Show.
The Oppression Fashion Show was organized by The American Friends Service Committee’s Peace Community Activist, Ahmane’ Glover in partnership with A Desire for Change and The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies(IWES). The Oppression Fashion Show was designed as a social justice arts initiative that used fashion design to discuss the connections between poverty, violence and poor education systems locally and globally.Each youth participant was given the task of "redesigning the white tee," a fashion trend that is often associated with negativity, with positive social justice focused messages and creating full outfits that told the stories of our youth on each of the three topics.
We also showcased a variety of youth talent through 9 social justice themed youth performances and 3 digital stories about sexual education created by The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies(IWES) Mapp Program. The youth performances showcased11 youth doing rap and dance combinations about violence, a inspirational liturgical dance routine asking youth to “encourage yourself,” 1 modern dance routine about breaking through violence in relationships, and 1 theatrical monologue from “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” byNtozake Shange.The 3 digital stories presented by IWES were about AIDS education, sexual education in schools, and sexual health.
This program organized participants ages 16-24 from several different programs in "Designing Our Freedom.” Those youth programs were: the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies’ MAPP Program, Ashe’ Cultural Arts Center’s Ujima Project, The American Friends Service Committee Peace by Piece program, NOPLAY GED Program and students from Tulane University.
The idea for The Oppression Fashion Show first came from a discussion with Mireaya Medina in The American Friends Service Committee’s Portland Office. Mireaya participated in a Fashion Resistance to Militarism in Oakland organized by the Women Of Color Resource Center with Sandra Schwartz in 2009 (http://www.fpif.org/articles/fashioning_resistance_to_militarism). The New Orleans office heard of this great idea and decided to host a similar event in our community with a focus on t-shirt design and the top 3 challenges that our youth face locally and globally.