In a day and age where everyone and their nan have their own line of mediocre t-shirts, few actually have a deeper conceptual meaning, but many if not all use their produce as a means of raising awareness for their ‘brand’. Contrary to this mediocre movement within the apparel market, a seasoned ‘street’ artist, Alexander Hughes, has decided to launch the first phase of ‘Steady Pushing Dope’, a collection of T-Shirts and screen prints influenced by prominent role models that inspired Alexander’s artistry.
Malcolm X is a hero and role model to me. Never have I heard a greater story of change…
Malcolm X, May 19th 1925 – February 21st 1965, was an African American Muslim minister and a courageous human rights activist for the rights of African Americans at a time when racism, prejudice and segregation against blacks in the United States of America were the ‘norm’. Malcolm’s father and uncle were lynched by a brigade of White Supremacists from an infamous terrorist organisation, the Ku-Klux-Klan, after which he was placed into a string of foster homes after his mother was sectioned at age thirteen. In 1946, whilst serving a prison sentence for ‘breaking and entering’, at age 20 Malcolm embraced Islam, becoming a member of the Nation of Islam -then a controversial group- before departing in 1964. (wiki 2012)
After extensively travelling throughout Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East, he founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity to heighten both spiritual and political consciousness, and promote Pan Africanism -a movement that seeks to unify people living in Africa into one African community- in order to empower African Americans. Leaning more towards a ‘Global Perspective’ by identifying a direct connection between the domestic struggles of African American’s for equal rights and the liberation struggles of Third World Nations, Malcolm X’s beliefs changed over the years from black supremacy and the advocation of the separation of black and white Americans -until the African Americans could return to Africa, which was in direct contrast to the civil rights movement -who he often referred to as stooges for the white establishment, criticising their 1963 march on Washington because it was run by whites in front of a statue of a dead president who didn’t like nor respect the blacks whilst he was alive. Malcolm X soon become a sunni muslim and disavowed racism, expressing a willingness to work with civil rights leaders -previously prevented from doing so in the past at the hands of Elijah Muhammad- but still maintaining black self-determination and using any means necessary to defend themselves. Malcolm’s speeches had a profound affect on his audiences, especially those who were tired of waiting for freedom, justice, equality and respect because he articulated their struggle better than the civil rights leaders. (wiki 2012)
Malcolm was not only an eloquent great orator but a man of great intellect, but inspired many with his passion and determination to make a change ‘By Any Means Necessary‘. These are four words which are applicable to all aspects of our lives, our daily aspirations, these four words ‘By Any Means Necessary’ make our dreams possible once implemented. It’s not quite as catchy or contemporary as ‘YOLO’ -Rapper/Singer Drake’s 2011 remix of ‘You Only Live Once’ had everyone ‘gassed’ by creating the acronym which leads people to do the stupidest things under the guise of a frivolous acronym, it’s not as classic and airy fairy as ‘Carpe Diem’ -seize the day in latin, but these four words are as blunt, powerful, and simple as a direct order can be. By Any Means Necessary, do what it takes to achieve your dreams, do what it takes to defend your position, to fight all injustice, discrimination, segregation. These four words are revolutionary, they’ve always resonated deep within to the point that I say ‘By All Means Necessary‘, why? Because whatever opportunity I spot, I’m taking the chance to roll that dice and advance forward. In February 1965, less than a year after leaving the NOI, he was assassinated by three of it’s members -rumoured to be at the hands of the CIA and every other etcetera type of global elite governmental oppression organisation.
Each T-shirt comes packaged in a limited edition ‘paper toy’ New York subway carriage. The toy is handmade, featuring exclusive artwork, with each print in the series coming with it’s own subway carriage collectible, covered in Alexander Hughes’ illustration and artwork. The significance of the ‘Subway Cart’ dubbed with ‘Tags and Burners’ is a direct reference to New York City Graffiti artistry in the mid to late 70s throughout the 80s when graffiti legends such as Dondi, Seen, Zephyr, Lady Pink, Futura, Duro, Cap, Skeme etc ruled the subway lines and metro network of NYC by employing guerrilla tactics to the NYPD and subway maintenance workers who’d stop at nothing to ensure these artists can’t distract commuters and the general public from their humdrum existences with colourful and vivid artworked snaking it’s way through the poverty stricken crevices of the big rotten apple.
Alexander was born and raised in South East London. I met him briefly whilst doing a stint at 6th Form but whilst I was into Beats, Rhymes, Graffiti and Blunts, I had no idea that Alex was cooking artwork up in the notepad. Fast forward ten years and he’s turnt sketches into a clothing line ‘New Crack City’, a toy manufacturer ‘Hip Hop Toy Shop’ and an active street artist who showcases his work at many exhibitions. Alexander Hughes is a self taught artist, teaching himself how to paint graffiti, tattoo and animate. Drawing inspiration from meditation, philosophy, renegades and the rise of the downtrodden to places of prominence, he has a passion for directing projects creatively as a means to materialise his imagination. I respect what he’s doing creatively because it’s not just an empty logo on a t-shirt, it’s something steeped in depth, it’s conceptual creativity.
- Pan-Africanism and American Blacks Part 2: Pan-Africanism in Action (redsociology101.wordpress.com)
- When Malcolm came to town: He came to air his views. Just weeks later, he was dead. (philly.com)
- Remembering The Legacy Of Malcolm X (bossip.com)
- Malcolm X (socyberty.com)
- “One A Day” Black History Month Series ~ Mr. Malcolm X (theobamacrat.com)
- Malcolm X (socyberty.com)
- Women’s History Program on Health and Wellness in Honor of Dr. Betty Shabazz (harlemworldmag.com)
- Remembering The Legacy Of Malcolm X (hiphopwired.com)
- The Past Is Not Done With Us: Student Uncovers Forgotten Malcolm X Speech (historyisastateofmind.wordpress.com)
- The Foreword: Attallah Shabazz (africanamericanlitcsu.wordpress.com)