WE WILL NOT BE SILENT is an artist/activist collaborative language project that has been in existence since 2006. Through the creative use of language embodied on shirts, people are noticed coming and going in their everyday lives, and engage in conversations they otherwise would not have. Through the use of messages emboldened on signs from the collection, One Thousand Signs For Our Times, people respond to social justice crises and concerns.
We have worked with language as our medium, the commons as our center and the art of photography as a vehicle to spread compelling messages in person and through the media.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT invites people to participate as part of the greater collective WE, who have something to say and want to be heard. Thousands have participated in this conceptual and visually engaging, social-art project. By taking these creative, direct public-actions, many people participate and many others are engaged.
The original WE WILL NOT BE SILENT t-shirt was designed by a group of artists and activists called The Critical Voice, a statement conceived at first to be worn by only five people for a single action that took place on March 20, 2006, an action directed against the Bush/Cheney regime.
The declaration, WE WILL NOT BE SILENT, was inspired by the history of another group of activists, The White Rose, who were active in Nazi Germany during the years 1942 to 1943. The White Rose was a non-violent, student-resistance movement that used language written in leaflets, which they mailed to households throughout Germany, in an attempt to instigate an uprising against the Third Reich to defeat fascism. Their fourth leaflet, out of six successfully mailed out before they were caught and beheaded, was signed WE WILL NOT BE SILENT.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT became the unifying statement chosen by the group in 2006, to be worn on t-shirts in a bold font in English, white on black, as they demonstrated throughout that day.
Works In Progress, the non-profit East Village screen-printer, that was chosen to print the original order (and who continues to this day to print our shirts) had required a minimum order of thirty-six shirts be printed. The group decided to print the additional thirty- one shirts. WE WILL NOT BE SILENT resonated with so many people who were eager to wear a bold and evocative statement, to publicly express dissent and to instigate public discourse between those wearing the shirts and those compelled by the message.
Following the action, another phase of design took place and WE WILL NOT BE SILENT was translated into other languages, including Arabic and Spanish, each design including an English translation in a subtitle beneath it. Many people wanted to wear these new designs, to be identified in opposition to countless injustices, in solidarity and with courage.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT SPREAD FAR AND WIDE
In 2006, Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi/Palestinian man who lives and works in the United States, was stopped from boarding a JetBlue flight by Homeland Security officials and JetBlue personnel because he was wearing the Arabic-Language WE WILL NOT BE SILENT t-shirt. He was racially profiled and forced to submit to an illegal order to cover the Arabic language with another shirt that they bought for him. Jarrar courageously went to the media and the story spread world-wide. As a result, so did the demand for the WE WILL NOT BE SILENT t-shirts. Subsequently, tens of thousands of people have spread this rallying message.
Throughout the following years, many messages have been included to create The Language Project. The power of displaying and embodying language has proven, again and again, to raise social awareness and consciousness, forging solidarity and determination among multitudes of people in the ongoing struggle against injustice.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT on the many paths we must take toward liberation, determined to set ourselves and one another free.