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Chicago youth spreads city pride one t-shirt at a time

Raven Smith, a Black woman with a medium skin tone, smiles at the camera. She is wearing a long sleeved white shirt and red plaid pants. Her arms are crossed and she has long black hair.

Young Chicagoan Raven Smith created the t-shirt company  Straight From The GO – All Good Things From ChicaGO (Opens in a new tab) to dispel negative perceptions about violence in Chicago. She recently created a signature campaign with well-known Chicago figures to inspire the city’s youth –Mrs. Obama was her latest addition!

Raven says it all began in 2016.

“I was driving to Morgan Park High School and I noticed a Chicago flag on the way,” Raven reflected with a smile. “I guess you can say that’s what sparked the idea for how I imagined the first shirt and logo to look.”

“We’ve got to stand up for positive change, and that’s what Straight From The GO is doing. It’s a movement for positivity. I want to see a better Chicago. That’s why a portion of proceeds go to families of fallen first responders and victims of gun violence,” she said.

It’s a cause Raven champions proudly—so much so, she brought the GO spirit to Columbia, Missouri. She designed and sold “GO COMO” shirts at the University of Missouri bookstore, where a portion of proceeds were donated to the Molly’s Miles Foundation, a Missouri non-profit dedicated to honoring the survivors of fallen law enforcement officers.

This spring, Raven will graduate from the University of Missouri with a second degree in product development, a business minor, and a digital merchandising certificate.

“I will continue to build Straight From The GO after graduation and I want to maintain GO COMO,” she said. “Both are something that I want to last forever because those are the two communities that shaped me into who I am today.”

Raven Smith stands in front of a t-shirt rack. She is smiling and wearing a shirt that reads, “Go COMO.”

During the pandemic, she noticed an uptick in violence in Chicago. So she decided to create a signature campaign on her classic Straight From The GO t-shirt to inspire the city’s youth. To date, Raven has gotten over 39 signatures — including Rahm Emanuel, Arne Duncan, local newscasters, and now Mrs. Obama.

“I just can’t believe this! I admire Michelle Obama. Seeing where she came from and where she is now is so inspiring,” Raven shared. “I chose people for the shirt who embody Chicago. I selected successful people who could empower the youth. It’s important for young people to see individuals they can look up to because you never know what you can be.”

Raven hopes the shirt can be displayed at the Museum of Broadcast and Communications for Chicagoans to admire and appreciate.

Raven Smith stands in front of a construction sign with the Chicago flag that reads, “Building a new Chicago.” She stares at the camera and is wearing a blue shirt that reads, “Straight from the GO.” Her hair is in a bun.

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