Black History Month Shirts

This year, continuing a tradition at Apex High School, shirts made for Black History Month were made and given out. The design chosen for the 2023 celebration was made by senior Tes Sanni and produced by screen printing. The shirts are free but require students or teachers to bring in their own shirt to have the design printed on. 

The shirts are being made by Mrs. Purtee, and they have been made in her beginning art class. They use a multi-step resist process to print the shirts with a previously carved frame for the screen printing. The design printed, a complex bamboo earring with “Apex ” written in the center was thoughtfully designed and chosen to be featured. “Every year for the past five years we’ve made a shirt to celebrate Black History Month, and I asked Tes to do the design this year.  I had asked if she wanted to because I really like her work, and she works with themes of black culture and identity,” says Mrs. Purtee, the art teacher behind the campaign and process for the shirts. “Tes is amazing and talented, and I’m really proud of her work.”

Tes said that it had taken a while for the idea to fully form, and she couldn’t decide what to do for the project for a while. “The idea was kind of hard because it was kind of scary, but I knew I wanted it to be cute because a lot of the spirit wear is not bad but not something you would wear 24/7.” She originally designed the art digitally, noting that her main idea came from a common source: Pinterest.  “I usually get all my ideas from Pinterest, but this time it took a bit longer. Bamboo earrings came up, and when I realized it was a circle, I figured I could easily write “Apex” in the middle, and that that would be really good for representation of Black HIstory Month.” 

Recently, Tess also had artwork featured in a Durham art show featuring a figure with a bamboo earring. “I gave her that as an example of a work to feature. I thought she would do a figure, but instead she chose just simply the earring.”

Bamboo earrings have deep cultural significance and date back to ancient Nubian culture and were a staple of black culture and women’s rights in the 60’s and 70’s. While Black History Month may be over, the shirt campaign is still on for a little while longer. Mrs. Purtee has said the class has already made “a lot”, and some are still being printed. Look out for people representing the design for this year, and keep an eye out for future Black History Month designs in the future!

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