They waived the fee for producing the illustrated t-shirts. Kustom Krown Designs in Wilmington, Delaware had seen their fair share of shirts marking the deaths of those busy in the streets. This was different. This was an all-out massacre that saw the lives of twenty-two people killed in the span of three hours.
Their profit would come with the advertising of their wares. The families wanted graffiti writing and images of proms, graduations, and even baby pictures to adorn the t’s.
“It’s up to us to say that we’re selfishly serving this neighborhood. We’re not giving out charitable donations. They’ll be lined up watching the funeral processions go by. And Kustom Krown Designs will be what they think of on those days,” store owner Nobel Sherman said to his business partner and wife.
“I hear you talking. This gun violence wasn’t like this when we were coming up,” Angelita replied.
“Ungh-uh,” her husband responded.
“It’s great for Chad Funeral Home. Everybody goes to Chad, not realizing they’re other institutions in this city.”
“They’re the cheapest and do a decent job. That is of course if the casket is open.”
“Yes, too many of these young people are doing headshots, disregarding vests to the fullest,” Sherman replied.
“We just got an order of so many shirts. I counted twenty seven hundred last night.
Those advertising dollars need to trickle in.”
“That’s a fact, but what about the many too many deaths we’ve seen?” Sherman asked.
“I know. I was just thinking about it and it is something not even reported in the papers. I mean think of the bodies that drop and disappear. People, after a while, want remembrance, too.”
Angelita switched in her seat. She found that she had been discomfited by the discourse, but plowed forward anyhow.
“If something happened to Malik, there is no god but God forbid, I would still make sure our family was fitted with t-shirts to memorialize the fallen.”
Sherman nodded his head in agreement. “Absolutely. I wouldn’t let the tragic death of our son end our worlds. His world would be over but we would have to keep going no matter the circumstances,” Sherman added.
“If we can just get these orders done by Friday, that’s the bulk of the services, we should be in good business. It’s a misconception that we’re profiting off pain. We’re profiting off of comfort. We’re declaring to the world that we must continue to go on with our lives, shattered as they may be,” Angelitta explained.
Sherman picked up a bale of different sized t-shirts and prepared them for the press. A face graced each and every shirt. This was how the families remembered their loved one. A smile and usually some kind of achievement landed on the front of each shirt. Sherman pressed down on the illustration he had devised and lifted it up again. Steam developed like a misty, foggy night.
“Look at this here, Ang’. I actually knew his father who was killed years ago. Only his mother and sister are left in that household. Goddamn shame,” Sherman whispered. He had his palms pressed against the counter as he said this.
“I know. It’s a city of life, yes. Go to a show, go to work, ‘be somebody’! But to overlook the seedy underbelly of the city would be a great injustice. This town has seen far too much death. We see it in news bulletins and only care if it’s someone we know. We know more Wilmingtonians than most ao it’s even rough for us.”
“That’s why we have to be rationally self-interested. It pays in dividends to know just what we’re dealing with here.”