Beloved CommuniTees

The Beloved CommuniTees Project started as an ambitious idea from Union Project and Pittsburgher Michelle King to create a tool for community members to spark dialogue about social change.

The individual voice is critical when it comes to social change - everyone has unique experiences and expertise to bring to the table. By designing and wearing our own individual message about social change, these conversation-sparking t-shirts help all of us have open dialogue that builds understanding and stronger community.

Enter: Union Project, Michelle King and The Beloved CommuniTees Project. In 2017, Union Project hosted our Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. The community gathered and were prompted by Ms. King to consider what they wanted to discuss about social change. Each person crafted a different message that spoke to them – specifically, what they wanted to share with the world. The message could express a social justice view, ask an invigorating question, state a staggering fact – every shirt design was different, but each would ignite conversation when worn out in the world. Adults, teenagers, children – everyone gathered together to create, discuss, and share their shirts.

Community members gathered to create designs for Beloved CommuniTees.

Participants designing their CommuniTees.

All the shirt designs were vastly different, representing many diverse voices. We wanted a way to champion the individual voice in a large, cohesive group project. Using a sketch by Abbie Adams from our Creative Conversation series (a monthly gathering that provides a platform for discussions about social change), the final shirt design shows a diverse group of people with many speech bubbles rising from them - with a single empty speech bubble at the top. At MLK Day 2018, we will hand out the designed "CommuniTees" and ask participants to complete their shirt by adding in a phrase or question that will spark dialogue about social change as they wear it. As a group, we will be coordinated in the overall look of the shirts, but will each have our individual say to complete it.

What would your Beloved CommuniTee say?

The finished design for Beloved CommuniTees.

Guests designing their final CommuniTees.

Jeffrey Dorsey (Executive Director of Union Project) and siblings wearing their Beloved CommuniTees shirts.

In addition to the Beloved CommuniTees project, the 16th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day featured interactive group activities with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Union Project artists.