Au Courant

… Shirts of Color – Melanin Tee-Shirt Challenge…

Ooh, melanin, melanin, my drip is skin deep, like
Ooh, motherland, motherland, motherland, motherland drip on me

Being black, maybe that’s the reason why they always mad
Yeah, they always mad, yeah
Beyonce‘ – Black Parade

“Happy Juneteenth Weekend! I hope we continue to share joy and celebrate each other, even in the midst ofstruggle. Please continue to remember our beauty, strength, and power.

“BLACK PARADE” celebrates you, your voice, and your joy and will benefit Black-owned small businesses..”

– Beyoncé, via Instagram

By: DeoVonte “Deo” Means

The year 2020 definitely shook us and changed the game. But in all honesty, the social media “Melanin Challenge” was one of the few highlights that made 2020 bearable. Majority of the challenges to date were fairly shallow in nature and I never participated. But the concept behind the Melanin Challenge was uniquely positioned.  It was fun, niche, inclusive, creative, spoke to the moment in a wider context, and created value. Spring/Summer 2020 we found ourselves isolated and helplessly stuck between a global health pandemic and tense race relations/social unrest. It was a bleak and depressing time period for those that normally felt vital and alive with an important sense of expression. During the month of June, a boutique-ish and burgeoning “Tribe of Melanin” began to appear on my radar. Prelim research concluded that the brand was an impactful and developing grass-roots movement that celebrated blackness, excellence, and individuality within the urban community. The business-line had a clear purpose! Equally impressive was the company’s signature black/white melanin tee-shirts. The shirts were becoming the season must-have item among my circle of friends and the caliber of people I enjoy engaging with. I immediately placed an order for both versions of the shirt (black & white) and began plotting my individual look/vibe for the picture that would subsequentially join the others in the public online community.  

Shirts of Color ( is the official name of this black-owned company. I joined their VIP club ( and FB online community (Shirts of Color | Facebook) to give my support while I awaited for the arrival of my package. New York based, Martin Diah – Owner/CEO was actually born in Cameroon and raised in Philly. When asked about the inspiration behind the company, he stated “I was inspired by so many different cultures. One thing that stood out to me is lack of expression by our black men. I decided to create this company to give young black men a voice through their clothing.”  It is evident that Martin more than accomplished his goal! His product went viral and upon last check, the organizational metrics were roughly Shirts of color- 4033 Likes 4000+ Follows. As leaders, visionaries, creatives, and influencers; our job is to push boundaries and bring a wider, more exciting vision that others can ultimately support but do not initially see. As voices of authority and leadership we are tasked to watch the world, study shifts in culture and listen, so we can make choices that speaks to what is happening in a wider context. This is exactly what Shirts of Color accomplished during the 2020/2021 season. The messaging, optics and core values behind the product line had impact and spoke to the moment. Martin and his team were extraordinarily compelling in their implementation and execution.

I have learned that in a world rife with disruption, and the unknowns sometimes can outweigh the knowns, if you try to maintain the status quo, you are likely going to experience more failure than success. Status quo is always a losing strategy. The Melanin Challenge was simple yet dynamic! Everyone that supported the business and posted their picture appeared authentic and owned who they are without apology! In addition to supporting a b lack owned business, I also felt a sense of pride and honor to be associated with company and wear their product. As the number consistently increased and optimized traction, we felt like wonderful and trusted ambassadors that were passionate about the world we were entering… now that is what I call a product that creates value.

If nothing else, collectively we painted a narrative that takes the audience on a voyage, recording a moment in time…#Dope….I adore…. #Flyy…. Cheers to the team at Shirts of Color!…..Deo

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