Nike released its first Black History Month product, a limited-edition Air Force 1, in 2005. That singular effort has since evolved into a yearly collection, each celebrating African American heritage and a more inclusive world for all athletes.
This year's BHM collection, highlighted by iconic Nike, Jordan and Converse silhouettes, was inspired by an assortment of national African patterns, brought together onto modernized prints in a theme of Afro-futurism in sport.
For Jonathan Johnson Griffin, Senior Creative Director for Nike Basketball, the design reflects how athletes today are fully embracing their backgrounds and are becoming catalysts for change in their local communities. “In sport, there’s a movement happening where athletes are inviting others to discover the full side of who they are, through finding their voices and improving their communities," he says. "We wanted that movement to inspire this year’s design.”
That civic-minded approach also takes shape in the following new and existing opportunities for community leaders.
Beginning Jan. 18 in Atlanta, Nike will launch the Future Varsity program, which provides leadership training to 14 young African Americans who are creating positive change in their communities. The participants will be paired with mentors from within and outside of Nike to help advance their causes (their projects range from organizing charity basketball tournaments in Chicago to providing nutrition education to youth in New York City). Leadership seminars, Q&A sessions with influential African American cultural leaders, a trip to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and more are scheduled for the first weekend. During the six months of the program, the mentors will regularly counsel the participants and give practical advice on ways to grow their projects.
PeacePlayers and MENTOR
Beginning January 2017, Nike partnered with two organizations, PeacePlayers International and MENTOR, to expand opportunities for youth and their communities. Two years later, Nike has helped expand their reach across the United States by linking more communities through sport and by fostering more mentor-mentee relationships in the lives of young people.
With Nike’s help over the last two years, PeacePlayers has established programs in Brooklyn, Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore, using basketball to bridge divides between young people. In 2018 alone, MENTOR expanded its programs in the southeastern and western U.S. with Nike’s support, piloted an initiative in three cities to further Nike employee engagement in mentoring and continues to connect adults to youth mentorship opportunities in their communities through more than 2,000 mentoring programs today across all 50 states.
“Nike’s commitment to using their platform to drive a culture of inclusion has been game-changing for MENTOR and the entire mentoring field,” says David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR. “The results have been record-breaking in recruiting new mentors to quality programs across the country. Simply put, many more youth today have the mentors they need because of Nike’s support.”