Black History and Futures Month Collection Celebrates Unity, Interconnectedness
Illustrator Tyler Mishá Barnett’s designs for ACFC’s 2024 Black History and Futures Month collection, consisting of a scarf, t-shirt, and hat, are both distinctly her own and recognizably Angel City.
“The inspiration behind my designs is the beauty and depth of Black culture. I wanted to create something that symbolizes unity, beauty, creativity, and elevation. The design is meant to feel balanced and unified, beautiful and strong,” says Barnett.
Barnett’s starting point for the scarf design was the silhouette motif of three faces in profile. “I used the silhouettes in this design to represent the beauty in our interconnectedness—really celebrating community and unity and bringing a sense of humanity to the design.”
From there, Barnett added the textile-like elements making up the rest of the design, with Ghanaian kente cloth as a point of reference.
“I was inspired by different kente patterns and I wanted to pull from that conceptually and integrate it using my design style,” she explains. “So looking at how different shapes and symbols can come together to create a unified design. I made a symbol that looks like steps to represent elevation and I incorporated the ananse ntontan symbol which represents creativity.”
The ananse ntontan is an adinkra symbol—a series of symbols from the Akan culture, often used in textiles, that represent sayings and aphorisms that together serve to transmit a body of cultural practices and beliefs. Specifically, the asanse ntontan, an image of a spider web, represents wisdom, creativity, and complexity.
Silhouettes of faces are a recurring theme in Barnett’s work, as are “negative space, bold shapes and rich colors,” she says. In terms of the color palette, she says, “I wanted it to feel earthy and warm and have that vibrance in the yellow and the deep, rustic orange, anchored by the black—and then also have it to be complementary to the Angel City [Sol Rosa].”
Barnett says that for her, Black History and Futures Month has always been about gratitude. “I feel extremely grateful to be able to use my art to pay homage to everyone who came before me,” she says. “You have the opportunity to really honor the past and to celebrate where we are now and look optimistically into our future.”
She adds that it’s a vital opportunity for education. “There are so many incredible innovators, creators, and leaders who are often unsung heroes whose stories don't get the light that they deserve,” she says. “But it's through Black History Month that we’re able to amplify those stories and keep those rich legacies alive.”
Barnett, who grew up in Rancho Cucamonga and has lived in LA since 2011, draws her inspiration as an artist from the city and its vibrant Black culture. “It’s the weather, the sun, the community staples, the style and flair that everyone has,” she says. “It just generates this energy and this feeling that makes me want to create. It makes me feel alive and inspired.”
Living in Inglewood, Barnett says she loves being part of a wider community of Black creatives. “The synergy and the ecosystem that's there is beautiful,” she says. “There are black-owned coffee shops, book stores, galleries and all these spaces to connect and be in community with people. There's a kind of interconnectedness there. It just feels like home.”
In keeping with the club’s pioneering 10% Model, 10% of proceeds from this collection will go to benefit the Niles Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to uplifting and empowering historically disinvested communities in Los Angeles. The organization addresses environmental, health, and socioeconomic inequity using a community-centered, interconnected approach.
The organization’s urban farming initiative, for example, addresses multiple needs: it provides fresh produce in food deserts, gives poor Angelenos access to quality nutrition, and creates green spaces in underserved, often polluted neighborhoods. The foundation partners with schools and other organizations to plant community gardens as well as offering free garden installation and training to individuals and families.
For Barnett, “there's a lot of pride in being in L.A., and I think especially as gentrification happens, there’s a real importance to using your voice to say something,” she says. “For me, art is a statement that's like, ‘I'm here. This is what I have to say. This is what my life looks like.”
You can shop the collection here.