Call Darryl Wiley's phone and you get this message: "Please be sure to pick up your original 'Stop Killin'' shirts ... Proceeds from the apparel supports Divine Interventions [Ministries]. Remember, when buying your 'Stop Killin'' shirts, make sure it's Team Neva-certified. Neva buy 'Stop Killin'' unless its Team Neva. Peace."
Wiley has found it difficult to get to his phone because he's "pulling all-nighters," he says, printing up his Team Neva clothing company's "Stop Killin'" T-shirts. It's now the flag apparel for the company, which outfits motorcyclists. Team Neva began printing the T-shirts last year in response to the popularity of shirts emblazoned with the "Stop Snitchin'" slogan inside a huge stop sign.
Those T-shirts were sending the wrong message, says Cornell Jones, Wiley's Team Neva partner and program manager for the local teen-mentoring program, Urban Youth Action. So they started producing T-shirts with a similar stop sign-design, but different message: If people stop killing then they don't have to worry about snitchin'.
Recently, other stores Downtown that sell hip-hop apparel have begun selling "Stop Killin'" T-shirts as well. In the Downtown Mo' Gear store, "Stop Killin'" shirts are sold right next to the "Stop Snitchin'" tees.
The difference is, funds from Team Neva's shirts go to Divine Intervention Ministries, a nonprofit organization that helps the families of murder victims bring killers to justice by advertising for information on billboards, offering financial rewards and linking people to witness-protection programs. The stores that sell other versions of "Stop Killin'" T-shirts don't have this same mission. This is a problem, say Wiley and Jones, especially since they are in the process of copyrighting their T-shirts.
Even if Mo' Gear made it their business to donate money to community programs, that still would not rectify the situation, says Wiley.
"It sets a bad precedent," he contends. "Then anybody can just start reproducing the shirts. If [Mo' Gear] wants to work something out with us and purchase the shirts from us," then Team Neva can ensure that its original purpose in producing the shirts is carried out.
"If we [want] to sell a million of these shirts we will," said Steve Smith, working inside Mo' Gear. He said he owns the store and is from Yugoslavia. (According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, Mo' Gear's president is Morris Gabbay.) Smith said they move "100,000" of both shirts a week and make over "$150,000 a week" off of them. "No one's come in my store to give us any grief or problems about these shirts," he added.
Jones and Wiley began selling their shirts in January and say they have sold 50 so far. They expect to send a check to Divine Interventions this summer, while also providing a commission to teens helping to sell the T-shirts.
Jones and Wiley have begun assembling other community activists to organize a boycott of Mo' Gear if differences aren't reconciled. Jones is a leader in the Disciples of the Village, a community group consisting of men from his Presbyterian church, where he ministers, the Nation of Islam, and the motorcycle clubs with which he works [See City Paper Main Feature, "Rough Ridas" Aug. 4. 2005]. Members of the Disciples of the Village were instrumental in having a member of the Mr. Roboto Project artist collective expelled for posting offensive fliers last November.