FSU graduate focuses on mentorship and passion for art

A Fayetteville State University graduate has gone from years in the foster care system to caring for other children in the same group home that housed him.

Prince Pickney said he was 14 when he was sent to Falcon Children’s Home after being abused by a parent with drug addiction and mental health issues.

“There’s been child abuse. Not all the time, but when you’re bipolar and you’re mixing drugs, those kinds of things are going to happen,” he said.

The Falcon Children’s Home offers transitional living for older teens and family services for foster care and adoption.

Pickney, now 28, said he lived there until he was 20. When he graduated from FSU in 2018, he returned to the children’s home to become a mentor for children in the same situation he once was.

“I came back to Falcon as a stay-at-home parent and have worked here ever since,” he said. “I wanted to give back and help some of the kids here.”

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That same year, Pickney also launched her online clothing store, J Heir Designs, which highlighted black culture and nostalgia.

The company name was inspired by Pickney’s first and middle names, transforming Prince James into J Heir, as heir to a throne.

He said he first discovered his talent for designing clothes while living at the group home. He received positive feedback from his peers on the T-shirts he would design on a phone app.

He then studied visual arts and digital design at FSU. While he was there, he says, other drawings started popping up in his head.

“Naturally, I could just look at something and get inspired and come up with a design,” he said.

Pickney said her designs helped add a black voice to her art.

“There have always been different brands, but there aren’t really a lot of brands for us,” he said. “So I wanted to think outside the box.”

Pickney said one of the first products he created for his label featured graphics prompted by police killings. One cartoon depicted a hashtag, crossed out with the ‘anti’ symbol to say there is more to be done in the wake of wrongful killings.

“If I had been killed by the police or something, I wouldn’t want to be a hashtag,” he said. “I know it’s trending and makes people talk about it more and raise more awareness, but I wouldn’t want to be a hashtag because I think there’s so much more we could do than that. “

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As the label progressed, Pickney introduced other collections. Its NBQ (Nubian Black Queen) collection pays homage to black women, its Say Her Name collection pays homage to black women killed in police custody, and its nostalgia collection features fonts and colors reminiscent of shows from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s such as “In Living Color”, “That’s 70s Show”, “Friends”, “Rugrats”, and “Martin”. Pickney has stated that the most popular design in his Glory to God collection is his FAITH design, which is an acronym for Follow and Immensely Trusting Him.

It’s the love in his art that Pickney says fuels his passion.

“I really love nostalgia, I love being Black, I love God too,” he said. “So getting that across is great.”

These collections include t-shirts, hats, socks, hoodies and other accessories. T-shirts start at $22.

Pickney said his faith-based views were partly attributed to his time at the children’s home.

“My trust in God grew stronger while I was (there),” he said.

Pickney said her company’s ultimate goal is to do more than just sell clothes.

“I want to build a legacy, not just for me but for my family and every time I start a family too because I believe in generational wealth,” he said. “It’s a start, I feel.”

Editor Akira Kyles can be reached at [email protected]

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