Obama in 'Chicago-style': Fashionable or Offensive?
The annual African American Holiday Association Marketplace Festival & Health Fair held Saturday at the Reeves Center in Washington, D.C.'s U Street corridor was also a festival of seasonal Obama gear. One T-Shirt, however, stood out among the piles of Inaugural and First Family calendars, sweatshirts, T-shirts, fans and posters. It pictured Obama "Chicago-style," as vendor Marcus Willis described it.
The CEO of SE-based Urban Body Works, Willis said the shirt was designed by local designer Tim Ransom; it imagines the 44th president in a sharp hat, three-piece suit and with a large diamond stud earing, like hip-hop mogul Diddy wears in his latest TV ads for cologne.
Nana Malaya, a festival performer, was not impressed.
"It turns a gentleman into a pimp," she said of the shirt, which irked her so much she came back to the table after a first pass to give Willis an earful. "I'm real upset at this T-shirt of Obama with a pimp hat," she said. The shirt turning "a gentleman and a dignitary" into "a pimp and a gangster" just wasn't fun in her book. "If the negative images weren't so perpetuated in the black community as it is, it would be different," she said.
After she had her say, Willis shrugged. Not all black men who wear earings and hats are pimps or gansters, he said. It's just "a fashion."
Story and photo by Garance Franke-Ruta
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