Shop the King of Arts preorder collection
All King of Arts apparel is available in Heathered Grey and a preorder exclusive color option, Black, while the preorder sale is on!
10% of all proceeds from the King of Arts collection benefit the Pathways to Justice initiative seeking justice reform through training and education at the community level to help first responders understand and identify people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“When people look at me they think I look like a local and like a black dude. When people see [me wearing] the King of Arts shirt I want them to know I’m holding a pencil instead of a sword because I’m an artist.” AJ’s bold self portrait speaks to the human desire to be seen as who we feel we are, and to shed the imposed identities based on first impressions. “I like for people to get to know me because then they know I’m an artist..” AJ says, “And I’m a kind and friendly person.”
The Black Lives Matter movement is a call to action to intervene against the violence inflicted on black communities by vigilantes and by the state. Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at more than 5x the rate of white Americans.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are overrepresented in the criminal justice system as victims, suspects, defendants, and incarcerated persons. The autistic community is especially at risk with 75% of adults with autism having had at least one police interaction, and over 50% reporting four or more police interactions. Many characteristics of autism – social anxiety, stimming, trouble with language, or a lack of eye contact – can resemble a police officer’s standard profile of a suspicious person. People with disabilities comprise one-third to one-half of all people killed by law enforcement, highlighting the need for autism specific training not only for police but throughout the criminal justice system.
If you are black and autistic like AJ, the risks of injustice are unacceptably high. More than half of black Americans with a disability have been arrested by the time they turn 28.
Asked what he hopes people will take away from his King of Arts self-portrait, AJ says, “I want them to know I’m an artist. Art makes me feel good, it makes me feel calm. […] I am an important person. Black lives matter and so does autism, so do autistic people.”
AJ is an artist at The Claraty Arts Project in Santa Cruz, California.
Pathways to Justice is a comprehensive and community-based program designed to improve access to justice for people with disabilities. The program works with local key stakeholders and representatives of the disability and criminal justice communities to identify barriers to justice. These identified barriers are then turned into a community-specific training program for law enforcement, victim service providers, and legal professionals. Topics cover items such as how to identify, interact, and accommodate persons with disabilities.
By creating localized and targeted training programs, the Pathways to Justice program is creating change and reform in the justice system from the ground up. Since incorporation of the initiative in 2015, the Pathways to Justice program has reached over 2,000 stakeholders in 14 different states.
The Arc’s mission is to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc has developed and funds various initiatives and programs actively supporting the full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in their communities throughout their lifetimes.
Read more about The Arc’s Position Statement on the Criminal Justice System.