We Need Leaders: Gordon Parks x Public School



The We Need Leaders collection compromises unisex t-shirt designs that each feature one of three images by Gordon Parks, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. The images include a self-portrait of Parks, and rarely seen photographs of Malcolm X and Black Panther activists. One of the designs will feature Parks’ own words, taken from a 1968 Life magazine story about a Harlem family: “What I want, what I am, what you force me to be is what you are.” We Need Leaders is a call to action for the restructuring of systemic issues in law enforcement and criminal justice. The issues raised by Gordon Parks in the 1960s are uncanny to the major conversations surrounding race today.


The images chosen, echo Gordon Parks’ own belief in the communicative power of images, and the collection reflects Gordon Parks’ interdisciplinary career. 100% of the net proceeds will be donated to The Gordon Parks Arts and Social Justice Fund, which supports students and artists through annual scholarships, prizes, and fellowships. “This project extends our collaborations with artists who advance Parks’ legacy,” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., Executive Director of The Gordon Parks Foundation, “which dates back to 2016 when Public School designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne were honored with the Gordon Parks Foundation Award.”

This capsule is made with Version Tomorrow, a sustainable basics program that uses a certified blend of 60% recycled and 40% organic cotton making the tees 100% biodegradable and recyclable. Tees will include both black and white colorways and will be available exclusively on publicschoolnyc.com.

“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with a foundation representing one of the most important photographers and humanitarians of our lifetime,” said Public School co-designer Dao-Yi Chow. “The fact that his documentation of Black life, the racial divide, poverty, and social inequality in the US is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago is a sad one, and it shouldn't be lost on anyone that the struggle continues to haunt the legacy of this country. We selected Parks’ photographs of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers specifically because this history mirrors our current situation where leadership in the Black community understands that you have to fight for any and all justice, and without justice there can be no peace.”