The Third Annual Youth Fashion Show
The New Orleans Peace Building and Conflict Transformation Project recently hosted its Third Annual Transforming Oppression Fashion Show Saturday, November 26, 2013 at Christian Unity Church. This year’s show included twelve models and performances by seven local youth artist acts. Staff and interns chose three themes for this year’s show: Vortex of Violence, Lost Generation and Living Wage.
Traditionally, Peace by Piece has invited youth and young adults to participate in the Fashion Show by issuing them white t-shirts and asking participants to transform the shirt to tell a story about how social issues such as violence, poverty and poor education (to name a few) impact their lives. The white tee, to which it is often referred, is a clothing item that is targeted by authority figures because of its popularity among young African Americans who don the casual apparel as a simple fashion statement.
Designers adorned their shirts with illustrations reflective of this year’s themes. Models wanted to use their designs to demonstrate the connection between poverty, violence and the untimely deaths of their peers. Participants attended a workshop where they got a crash course in the definition of oppression and the manifestations thereof. They also did visioning where they imagined translating their experiences w/violence, loss of young lives and lack of employment opportunities into rhetorical images to be displayed on white tees and hoodies for the show.
This year hoodies were added to the Fashion Show line-up. The same concept applied; transform the hoodies to tell stories of injustice and oppression. The hoody is another wardrobe feature made popular by a certain race, class and age demographic and a symbol of how vulnerable to bigotry one becomes when wearing it. The term “hoody” has been propelled into the American English lexicon as a result of the death of Trayvon Martin. New Orleans, like many major cities, has its own catalog of victims whose young lives have been lost to violence. Hoodies and white tees are emblematic of the profiling and violence consistently encountered by the Black community, particularly Black youth. The show raises audience awareness of such violence and allows young people to creatively frame their stories using fashion and art.
The Fashion Show has become a staple of the New Orleans Peace Building and Conflict Transformation Project. The program is preparing to leverage the event to have an even greater impact on crime in the city. AFSC New Orleans wants to see a reduction in the murder rate and will continue to build programming that addresses the extraordinary levels of crime that consume youth culture. In 2014, Peace by Piece will produce an anecdotal log that chronicles the murders of people ages 0-24. The log will be used as a tool to raise awareness and engage youth, families, activists, school and city officials in solution-based dialogue that addresses and presents alternatives to violence. Peace by Piece will continue to produce its annual fashion show to give young people a platform to design their own freedom one young person at a time.