An idea Leo Principal Shaka Rawls borrowed from Winston-Salem State University has mushroomed into a movement on Chicago’s South Side. 

While visiting the North Carolina school for a seminar, Mr. Rawls cams across a “T-Shirt Rally” university students had organized to call attention to the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus. Messages deriving from the “no means no” theme and a woman’s right to control her own body had been painted on T-shirts and put on display in a prominent campus location as a stark reminder that sexual misconduct within the school community should not and would not be tolerated.

The strength of the collective message got Mr. Rawls thinking. 

“Gun violence is truly one of the most pervasive problems facing Leo students and other young people in our communities,” he said. “A T-shirt rally like the one I saw at Winston-Salem would give the kids an opportunity to call attention to it, to express their thoughts with their own message, and maybe memorialize a loved one who had been lost to gun violence.”

Mr. Rawls got an enthusiastic response to the project when he introduced it at Leo, as more than 100 students took part. Senior Adam Means’ intricately drawn depiction of the City of Chicago flag with blood and tears dripping from its stars is an especially provocative message.

With a substantial donation of T-shirts from the Big Shoulders Fund, Mr. Rawls took the project to nine other South Side schools, with gratifying results: Nearly 1,000 messaged T-shirts have been created.

While the search is on for a suitable and more spacious venue in which to showcase them, more than 100 shirts are hanging in the Leo Auditorium. The sadly and hauntingly beautiful display caught the eye of Chicago Tribune journalist Heidi Stevens, who described the project and detailed its background in her June 14 Tribune column. CBS-2 Chicago and Fox-32 followed up with broadcast reports.

“What this tells me is we have to do a better job of giving our young people an opportunity to voice their concerns, and then listen to them when they do,” Mr. Rawls said. “Who better to address the problem of gun violence than those who are most directly affected by it?”