Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.
This shirt was given to me by my cousin Sean back in 1995. FREEZE was the hip-hop label he was working for at the time. Somewhere, in my vast collection of material things (which includes waaaay too many t-shirts) I also have a few CDs from FREEZE, but this shirt got more wear than the albums ever got play.
I don’t know if other people ever take the time to think about what a particular article of clothing means to them, but this shirt means a whole hell of a lot to me. Sean gave it to me while I was on a trip visiting family in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. It was the early part of 1995, and I was still dealing with the death of my oldest friend in the world, who had been killed three days before Christmas in 1994. I bought my first video camera right before this trip, and my plan was to make a documentary about my family. Sean and his girlfriend Licia (who would later become his wife) were expecting their first child—the first of the new generation. I was determined to record a bit of our family history, so that when Sean’s daughter grew up, she would be able to know something about the people that came before her.
During that visit to the east coast I also took my grandfather on a road trip from Connecticut to southern Virginia, where he and my grandmother were originally from. It was important to see where they had grown up and met, so even though his health was not the best, it was important that I take him on this journey. I saw the cemeteries where many of my relatives were buried, and even met Miss Dora Hall, my grandfather’s grade school teacher, who at the time I met her was pushing up on 100 years old. On the ride back we spent two days in Washington D.C. with my good friend Bryan and his lady Maria. This time with my grandfather on the road represents some of my greatest memories, and I was wearing this shirt during much of that trip.
Me and my grandfather in Washington D.C. back in 1995.
It is hard to put into words what that trip back home really meant to me. Shortly after, Sean and Licia’s first daughter Nandi was born. In many ways this marked a new beginning for me and the rest of the family. I interviewed quite a few of my relatives during that trip, mostly older folks who have since passed away in the twenty-three years since Sean gave me this shirt. I never finished the documentary…but maybe some day.