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Thursday, November 1, 2007

UniTee Design

When he was 10 years old in New York City, Lee Gordon’s mother knitted him a red, black and green hat that he would pull snugly over his Angela Davis-sized Afro. The colors symbolized a special and significant time in African-American culture ¾ a time of emerging consciousness of heritage and self-determination. (In fact, the colors red, black and green, in equal horizontal bands, originally represented the Pan-African flag, also referred to as the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) flag, Afro-American flag or Black Liberation Flag.)

Some 40 years later, in a moment of nostalgia, Gordon tried to buy red, black and green clothing online. After hours of searching, however, he could only find a new set of wristbands and a headband that he purchased on eBay. "When I got the order, I was hoping the bands were manufactured in the U.S., only to discover that they were 'Made in China,'" Gordon says.

This experience was disheartening for Gordon because he felt it indicated a deeper cultural loss. "When is the last time you’ve seen the red, black and green?" he asks. "It seems that as our colors disappeared, so did our spirit of unity." Yet Gordon also felt that the experience presented an opportunity to revitalize a symbol of hope. Now living near Detroit, a city that is 85% African-American, he decided to start Unitee Design, Inc., to sell red, black and green designs on t-shirts, and then expand into other clothing and merchandise.

Gordon perceives Unitee Design as more of a cultural mission than a business venture. He donates 10 percent of his net profits to Public Art Workz, a non-profit organization in Detroit that teaches creative arts to inner-city youth. "I hope that in some way by bringing back our colors, we can collectively redefine our purpose, reestablish our power and rebuild our pride," he concludes. "Even after all these years, I still remember how proud I was in that beautiful hat."

To learn more about UniTee Design, visit

(Photo Credits: Provided Courtesy of UniTee Design (Press Kit))