Photo provided by URBAN Stereotype
JeNoah Lee knows how to take adversity and turn it into opportunity.
Lee, 15, of Alliance, founded URBAN Stereotype about two years ago in response to being bullied over his race at school.
The combined clothing brand and social movement is focused on combatting racism and negative stereotypes, said Lee’s father, Ya’Hawkquah.
About five years ago, starting when JeNoah was in fifth grade, he was bullied to such a degree that the family pulled him out of school and pursued legal action against the school district.
But before the family attorney could file paperwork, JeNoah asked his dad to stop.
“I don’t want to go down that route. I want to focus on the positive,” Ya’Hawkquah Lee recalls his son saying.
Ya’Hawkquah Lee had to think about that request for a few days. The family had spent three years trying to get justice for JeNoah.
But Ya’Hawkquah Lee trusted his son, who he knew was extremely talented.
“I was hesitant, but we went along with it, and I’m so grateful we did,” he said.
JeNoah always has been an artist. And he’s had a lifelong love of fashion, encouraged by his mother who always would ensure he was well dressed.
URBAN Stereotype combines those loves with his desire to turn negativity into something positive. That mission became even clearer last year.
“We want change. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to change society and change these negative things into a positive … We want to uplift people,” JeNoah Lee said.
The company’s logo, which spells out “US,” reflects that mission.
URBAN Stereotype isn’t just for those dealing with stereotyping or racial bullying, it’s for all of us, Ya’Hawkquah Lee said.
JeNoah designs apparel with uplifting messages. Tees and sweatshirts are emblazoned with white and red designs reading “Can’t Relate to Hate,” “Love Yourself” and “Feeling Good about US,” each incorporating the company logo.
They sell the clothing online at URBANStereotype.com and, before the coronavirus pandemic, at area shows and events.
JeNoah encourages other younger people to follow his example. To take whatever they’re passionate in—be it art or music or fashion—and do something positive with it.
“Turn negative situations into positive ones,” he said.