Oakland’s Memorial T-shirts Give New Meaning to Industry Phrase “Urban Fashion” [VIDEO]

By Julianne Hing Jul 15, 2009

Check out the audio slideshow above with photos by Sean Donnelly. Writes Donnelly for the Oakland Tribune:

The R.I.P T-shirts aren’t as prominent for grandfathers passing away from cancer or elderly mothers dying peacefully in their sleep in a rest home. They are made in response to a perceived in justice, turning the grieving process, which in American culture is usually seen as a very private, tightknit family affair, into a public one. Sherri-Lyn Miller owns All In One Shop, which specializes in memorial wear, in San Leandro. Miller makes 10 to 50 memorial shirts a week, including 750 for the Oakland Police Department after the killing of four of its officers this year and 300 for the slain child Sandra Cantu.

The so-called "R.I.P. T-shirts," along with car decals honoring young lives cut short, are a common sight in town, where 51 homicides have been recorded this year alone, and the murder rate is 3.5 times the national average. The portraits are arresting. To see these Black mothers and brothers and nieces tell the stories of their loved ones’ tragic passings feels like a punch in the gut. We see t-shirts used not to advertise our favorite sports teams or alma maters. Collected together, they become everyday reminders of loss, young Black men and women stolen from their communities.