New Orleans anti-violence activist and mayoral candidate Charles O. Anderson can't walk down the street without getting compliments shouted at him left and right. "I like your blazer man." "That blazer is on!" "I love that jacket dude."
Anderson is easy to spot, always donning his colorful jackets that he hand makes and sells at the Frenchman Art Market.
It's all part of his brand and he wouldn't have it any other way. He's an artist in more ways than one and is using his artistic talents to get his message out there in the political realm he's now entering.
Last month Anderson put out a rap video announcing his run for Mayor of New Orleans.
It was a bold move that he knew would get everyone's attention.
"I decided to do the rap video because I've been an activist for 10 years and sometimes it's very hard to call attention to something as serious as gun violence. So, I wanted something that would really call for people's attention."
Anderson moved to New Orleans after college even though he had never visited before. He told us he just always felt like he belonged there.
He became passionate about helping stop the violence in one of the most dangerous cities in the country. His activism lead him to help start Cease Fire, an anti-violence initiative that looks at gun violence as a public health approach. He believes that it should be approached as a disease to cure, rather than looking at it as unlawful behavior that needs to be punished.
"(Cease Fire) uses violence interrupters to go out in the street to interrupt violence before it happens."
The public health approach is working according to Anderson and his goal is to make sure that the progress and success of Cease Fire doesn't come to a halt if a new mayor gets elected.
"Because it's run by the city, whoever is next in turn might decide to cancel out the entire program. I started running for mayor because I wanted to be at the table when these people were putting their crime plans together. So I can critique them as as a peer as opposed to just someone like an activist outside of the realm that they deal with," Anderson said.
Anderson talks about the current regime and how "we can't police our way to peace, we gotta mediate the beefs."
"Once I started doing activism it called up so much courage that I didn't know I had. You get to see the world through a mission. As an activist you're going out to try to change the world."
Anderson's passion for activism was a direct result of the people he's met in New Orleans' toughest neighborhoods. He fell in love with the city and the residents who he knew he needed to fight for.
He was particularly impacted by the kids he met along the way. Along with organizing rallies and events, he volunteered as a youth baseball coach. He began drawing the kids that he saw everyday.
"As I got more involved with the peace movement in New Orleans, I used art as a way to bring people in. I started drawing the people that were around me. I saw that the youth- they felt like they didn't matter. So I started drawing them to show that someone cared enough to look at their picture. All my art came from my activism," Anderson said as he showed us around his home studio where his beautiful drawings are up for display.
In 2008 Anderson helped organize the very first Peace Fest, a march for peace event in New Orleans. He had the daunting task of making 700 signs of all the people that had been lost to violence in New Orleans over those last few years.
While painting the signs, he ended up getting paint on his blazer but wore it to the event anyway. The paint smeared jacket was such a hit that people kept offering to buy it right off his back. Anderson decided to make a few more and the requests kept coming.
The flashy blazers became his signature look and he eventually made a business out if it.
Founder & CEO of 1 of 1 Blazers, Charles O Anderson (@charlesoart ) " I want to make art that is electric, that shows the type of all-consuming passion I hold for my mission to end gun violence in New Orleans. Hanging art on a wall didn't quite get that effect across so I started painting on my clothes all the joy and frustration that came along with my mission. In the end, I want people to feel the passion of being a creator." #artiststatement #artblog #fashionblog #mensfashion #menfashion #mensfashionreview #menstyle #punkrock #urbanfashion #ceasefire #rocknroll #rockstar #fineart #selfportrait #color #neworleans #artist #streetart #streetphotography #streetfashion #modernart #abstractart #streetarteverywhere #peaceinthestreets #mural #airguitar #guitarhero #legkick #blog #artcurator
For now, his 1 of 1 Blazer line is how he makes a living. But if all goes as planned, he will become New Orleans' top public servant after the mayoral election in October.
Anderson has a lot of work to do before the October election. The multifaceted blazer designer and visual artist is honing his rap skills for a second video he plans on releasing in the coming weeks.
His second song is called "The Platform" and he told us it will dive deeper into his plans for the city he loves.
"I hope I'm getting in people's ear. I think the first (video) caught people's attention and I think the second one speaks more to the issues at hand. I really just want to get my platform accepted by them (politicians). Cease Fire works, it's effective and that's what I'm hoping is to get in those conversations."