Although you probably know him best (and miss him most) as the bone-chilling, bone-cracking Chris Partlow from HBO’s hit series The Wire, Nigerian-American actor Gbenga Akinnagbe is proving himself to be an extraordinary renaissance man. When not out getting snatched by the po-po for standing against stop-n-frisk or engaged in a maniacal athletic pursuit, you may just find Gbenga waxing poetic about Liberated People – his new T-shirt line that brings liberation and global justice issues to the foreground. We caught up with him in conjunction with the release of the Liberated People line in the Okayplayer shop, just ahead of the official invite-only Liberated People launch tomorrow at Ms. Lily’s (where we hear The Wire will be nicely represented).
Most of your fans know you from The Wire or the other shows/movies you’ve been apart of, what led you from acting to fashion?
Gbenga Akinnagbe: I’m constantly learning things [and am] addicted to information, actually. But, I kind of underestimated the power of t-shirts… everyone wears them and everyone looks at what’s on a t-shirt. People very much wear them as representations of who they are and what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling and what’s going on in their life — t-shirts have an incredible power. So I was like, let me see if I can do something that is expressive, that is artistic, that is important. Who knows if this line will achieve those things, but that’s the premise and the bones of Liberated People, so hopefully it will resonate with other people the way it has with me.
Tell me about your vision for the website. When we’ve spoken before, you mentioned you guys would be doing some pretty interesting things there.
GA: My vision for weareliberated.com is to be a multimedia platform, where you can buy our shirts [and] you can comment on the shirts — I don’t want to say chat rooms, but there will be chat rooms, I don’t know what the new age term for that is now. We hope to create somewhere where people can talk about anything they want [and] express themselves about anything – what’s going on in the world politically and otherwise. I want it to be an arena where thoughts are discussed, beautiful thoughts, ugly thoughts, disturbing thoughts. Where anyone and everyone can go there, all our brothers and sisters, whoever.
To go there and to have an open forum and speak about who they are. Aside from that were people can go there and talk about there own personal liberation dates and share their stories. One of the biggest elements to the website that I’m most excited about is live streaming from classrooms around the country, where people can watch classrooms and learn from classrooms, on their own, any time of the day. Be inside a classroom at Princeton, be inside a classroom wherever we can build these partnerships, stream this education. To me everyone should have access. A lot of the difference between the haves and the have-nots is access, so I’d like weareliberated.com to be a bridge for access.
I understand that Liberated People is also donating some of the proceeds from the sales of the t-shirts to non-profits. Can you talk about that?
GA: The inaugural non-profit that Liberated People will work with is called “Beat the Streets” which is dear to me because it takes kids off the streets from inner city Baltimore and puts them on the wrestling mat. It teaches them character and what self accomplishment feels like which can be the key to literally saving their lives because of where they are. It’s what saved me -– they beat up their minds and their bodies and what’s left is a much stronger person. So we’re working with them now.
What’s the future for Liberated People?
GA: I’m really excited about this t-shirt line. I’m really excited about the messages. We are evolving. I think what’s different about Liberated People is we’re not coming out as a finished product even though I think the t-shirts are pretty hot.
Dope man. One last question. What are you listening to now?
GA: That Frank Ocean album is hot! I listen to it over and over again.