I’m so sick of writing about all of the bad things that happen to children.
So, I’ve dedicated this column to a youngster doing all the right things for a change. That’s where 13-year-old India Alston comes in. She’s a budding entrepreneur selling two different T-shirts with racially conscious quotations.
- Gun violence is claiming too many of our children. What’s it going to take to stop it? | Jenice Armstrong
- Teens from these elite Philly schools were trading sexist, racist texts. Their parents need to do better. | Jenice Armstrong
- Where do we go from here? That’s what we need to ask in the wake of George Floyd protests. | Jenice Armstrong
I happened to come across one of her designs on social media and was intrigued by the message and its tie-in to Black Lives Matter protests as well as the national conversation about social justice taking place in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic killing by Minneapolis police in May.
I messaged India and learned that she happens to be the daughter of Charlie Mack Alston, Will Smith’s former longtime bodyguard and personal assistant. Alston and Smith have been friends for decades. Smith’s 1988 rap song ”First Out the Limo” is about Alston and how he used to protect Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff. To India, Smith is “Uncle Will.”
She’s so much wiser than I was at 13. The summer I was her age, I cleaned and babysat for pocket money. Granted, those were different times. In Washington, D.C., where I attended school, a now-defunct police program called Officer Friendly sent uniformed cops into our classrooms to foster trusting relationships between the police and community residents. We naively bought into it. My friends and I didn’t discuss issues such as racial profiling the way so many young people do now.
These days, they are leading conversations and also educating adults about the need for equity and social justice. They are getting teargassed for standing up and saying, “No that’s unacceptable and we’re not taking it.”
India’s barely into her teens but in her own way is helping people get woke, as they say. And she’s doing it one T-shirt at a time.
It all started last month when India and her dad were discussing demonstrations taking place around the nation decrying police brutality. At one point, she remarked: “You can take off your uniform, but I can’t take off the color of my skin.” Her statement left Alston momentarily speechless. (If you’ve ever been around him, you know that’s really hard to do.)
“That blew me away‚” Alston recalled when we spoke on Monday. “You never know what she’s going to say. She’s always giving you jewels. When I heard it, I was like, hey, ‘That’s powerful.' It actually pulled a tear out of my eye when she said it.”
A lot of folks would have left it at that. But if you know anything at all about Alston, that’s not his style. He’s a promoter from way back even before Smith hired him for his security detail.
Alston gave India the seed money and soon she had a side hustle. She now not only sells a T-shirt with her own thoughts on it but she also sells one quoting Smith, who famously remarked in 2016: “Racism is not getting worse. It’s getting filmed.” He was referring to racially charged incidents in which police were seen killing Black men such as Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
On an Instagram video posted on her account, India shows off one of the shirts to Smith, who blows her kisses.
“I love that! That was your quote? Charlie, send me that. I love that. Out there in the struggle. I love what you’re doing,” he tells her. “Let me know what you need. I deeply and desperately want to support you in all the things that you want to do. So let me know what you need.”
She hasn’t sold that many T-shirts yet, but that’s OK. She’s well taken care of by Alston as well as her mother and second dad, Maria and Kyle Horton. Available on quotesforjustice.com, the T-shirts sell for $28. India plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to an organization fighting systemic racism.