Decks for Change is a skateboard deck design competition aimed at creating awareness of important issues to inspire positive change in the world and give well-deserved exposure to local artists, illustrators and graphic designers. www.decksforchange.com
So naturally, I more than excited for the chance to not only design a board, but bring to light an issue that was/is near and dear to me; how African-Americans and blacks are treated. We experience harm from both outside and inside our community and have yet to truly rise up to the potential we have as a people.
While looking for ways to go about it I stumbled upon an amazing post on tumblr from Austin Kleon about Jay-Z's take on Jean-Michel Basquiat's Charles The First. And on that painting Basquiat writes "MOST YOUNG KINGS GET THEIR HEAD CUT OFF."
This immediately reverberated within me and Jay-Z puts it perfectly:
"….I read it as a statement about what happens when you achieve a certain position. You become a target. People want to take your head, your crown, your title. They want to emasculate you…" "One critic said about Basquiat that the boys in his paintings didn’t grow up to be men, they grew up to be corpses, skeletons, and ghosts. Maybe that’s the curse of being young, black, and gifted in America…"
And that's exactly what I feel has happened to us as a people. We're all gifted, we're all royalty but we are continuously told that we are not, and so we believe that lie instead. That's what kills us more than anything else.
So I decided to draw the decapitated head of a young black man, a victim of his own position, with Basquiat's quote surrounding him, as well as a Basquiat inspired crown.
I realize that Basquiat misspelled their as "thier" but I decided to keep it as such to keep it as authentic as possible.
I then vectored my design in Adobe Illustrator on a 9x33 inch canvas and created a dark red background to represent blood and sacrifice. I also picked a handwritten typeface for Basquiat's quote, to again, make it as authentic as possible.
Here's a mock-up of what the design would look like on an actual board.