Teen tired of hallway racism starts her own T-shirt brand, ‘Afroqueens’

Story by CBC Kids News • 2020-12-09 07:00

Teen wants to empower others to act

Last year during anti-bullying week, Chloe Ngakosso, 15, was walking down her school’s hallway when she heard an older student’s voice.

She heard that student call her the N-word and tell her she had fleas. 

“You learn to just drop your head and say nothing,” Chloe told CBC Kids News.

“And if you do say something, you’re told you’re taking it too far or it was just a joke. You shouldn’t have to live your life just waiting for the next racial slur to be thrown at you.”

But Chloe isn’t dropping her head any longer.

Last month, she started making T-shirts with her artwork in an effort to empower people to stand up to racism and discrimination.

Empowered to make change

Back when she was in Grade 4, Chloe remembers that some other students would call her by her last name, Ngakosso, except they’d replace the first few letters with the N-word.

Chloe Ngakosso was motivated to empower others after Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year. (Image submitted by Samantha Daniel)

Over the years, Chloe said she’s learned to be silent about these issues because, according to her, school punishments don’t seem productive and don’t do enough to teach kids about why racism is wrong.

But after the death of George Floyd earlier this year and when Black Lives Matter protests started sweeping across the country, Chloe felt empowered.

She went to her school board, Thames Valley District School Board in London, Ontario, to protest the ways schools deal with racism and a lack of education around diversity.

Chloe and a friend stand outside their school board holding anti-Black racism protest signs.

Chloe, right, protested at her school board earlier this year. She doesn’t think school staff go far enough to educate students when they commit a racist act. (Image submitted by Samantha Daniel)

But she wanted to make sure it didn’t stop there.

“I wanted to make sure that fighting against discrimination and racism wasn’t just going to fizzle out,” she said.

“And so I thought that if I do something more permanent and creative, then maybe I could make it stay alive for longer.”

That creative pursuit started last month, when Chloe began making T-shirts with slogans that encourage others to call out racism.

Designing the shirts

Chloe first designed a logo, which is based on paintings she did earlier this year at the height of the BLM protests.

Two graffiti-style paintings of Black women with big hair and golden crowns.

Chloe's Afroqueens logo is based off of paintings she did earlier this year. (Image submitted by Samantha Daniel)

Next, Chloe thought of a name.

“I chose the name Afroqueens because I wanted a name that was empowering, sounded confident. I wanted a name that kind of just represented power.”

Then Chloe drew up that design as a logo using a tablet and pen stylus on her laptop.

To date, Chloe has sketched three designs for her T-shirts, all featuring a Black woman with a crown. (Image submitted by Samantha Daniel)

She then got the logo printed on vinyl and began, with the help of her mom, ironing the design onto T-shirts.

Ontario teen starts clothing line, now celebrities are wearing his stuff

She also included a call-to-action on the shirt, along with one of her favourite quotes: “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

Each of Chloe’s shirts features a call to action to empower others to stand up against racism. (Image submitted by Samantha Daniel)

What's next? 

Chloe has three designs featuring three quotes and calls to action.

She’s working on even more designs and is building up stock to start selling in the Spring.

“I hope anybody who wears this shirt really feels empowered in themselves,” she said. “To me, just by wearing one of these T-shirts, they’re making a difference.”

But for those who won’t get a shirt, Chloe says it’s still important to say something when racism happens.

“Speak up is my advice. Don’t be afraid to say something, don’t just lower your head and say you can’t do something, because you can do something about it.”

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Submitted by Samantha Daniel

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