What began as a simple T-shirt design has now sparked a cultural movement for the Eans family of DeSoto. With three simple words, "I luv you," the Eans have globally empowered black youth and families toward self-acceptance, self-love and, most important, love for one another.
For DeSoto ISD educators Marchello and Shannaine Eans, terms of endearment are naturally bestowed upon their family of five. As the original founders of the Facebook page “The Young Black Family," the Eans have sought to redefine the narrative of the black family, into one that is unified and loving — an often rare occurrence in its modern portrayal.
“I always tell my kids that if I don’t have anything else to give [to] you, I have love,” says Shannaine Eans. “This is how we talk to our children.” Unfortunately, as both Marchello and Shannaine have witnessed over the years, many of their students have never heard or will never hear the simple yet powerful “L” word. This, coupled with their experiences of student lives lost to violence, street life and more, compelled the husband and wife duo into action, and in May, the “I Luv You (Blk) Family” T-shirt line was born.
“This cause goes so deep because I’ve lost students that I’ve mentored, I’ve lost athletes in the streets … and for other things as well,” Shannaine says, unable to hide her emotion. “I’ve worked with kids who have been in a lot of devastating situations, and one of the things that always comes up is the lack of love that they receive and the lack of love that they have for themselves. They have negative self-talk of ‘I’m too black’ or ‘I’m too ugly’ or ‘Nobody cares.’ Some don’t want to be light and some don’t want to be dark. We want them to embrace their blackness.”
As community advocates for youth, it was a natural progression for the Eans to launch their T-shirt line, spreading the message of love within the black community.
“We’re working with kids whose parents have put them out for prostituting. They’ve never heard ‘I love you’ before, and we’re telling them they’re valuable,” Shannaine adds. “For me, the [T-shirts] are a walking affirmation and a reminder. I’m letting you know that if no one else told you today that ‘I love you’ — that because I love me, I love you just as much.”
Even though the family's project was met with much positive, and now an even worldwide response, there have been instances of hate, plus claims of racism associated with what was intended to be a positive stance. “When people look at the shirts and say ‘that’s racist,' we’re able to share the story and why it’s important for [us] to wear the shirts,” the Eans said.
What began locally in DeSoto has now become a global movement, with supporters taking to social media to proudly post their “I Luv You (Blk)” tees as a statement. From “I Luv You (Blk) Boy to Girl to Woman to Man, in just four short months, the message has spread nationally from Washington, D.C., California and New York, to overseas in London, Italy, Tanzania and even Abu Dhabi.
“I’ve worked with kids who have been in a lot of devastating situations, and one of the things that always comes up is the lack of love that they receive and the lack of love that they have for themselves." — Shannaine Eans
“We had no idea it would be where it is at the moment … it truly is a movement,” Marchello reflects. “We didn’t know … we just went with the process. It’s a powerful message and brings out much-needed conversation … even amongst the young people.”
As for the future, the “Eans Team,” as they so affectionately have coined themselves, knows that the hard work has only just begun. With plans to scale up, talks with investors and even hopefully Tyler Perry, are thoughtfully on the horizon. Expanding the line to musicians, artists, fashion enthusiasts and millennials is what is presently on the table for the business. As an extra added bonus, the business is now a part of the Eans legacy — teaching entrepreneurship to their five children (ages 18 months, 8, 10, 11 and 14).
“When the black community sees my family and my children, I want them to have hope,” Shannaine says. “I want them to see that this is possible and this is what you’re supposed to have. If no one else has told you — you deserve this too.”