Skip to main content

The PrivateBank Norman Bobins Leadership Award

Raven Smith, Straight From The Go

Eric Young Smith

For Raven Smith, violence in Chicago – and the degree to which it’s tarnished the city’s image – is not an abstraction. Growing up in Roseland, she heard the gunfire, knew the victims, felt the helplessness and rage. That did nothing, though, to undermine her admiration for, and faith in, her native city.

So when “Chiraq” became a popular and polarizing code word for Chicago, she figured something had to be done. And she had to do it.

“It was while driving to school (Morgan Park High School) – afraid (of gang crossfire) but determined to be on time, that I came up with a slogan,” said Smith. She saw a City of Chicago flag. And she thought about Chicago’s shorthand monikers – “Chitown,” “Windy City,” and “the GO,” which is what her peers use, and came up with her alternative take on life in the city.

“Straight From The Go!” popped into her head - a movement making visible how people think and feel about Chicago. “It’s not just a slogan,” she said. “It’s a brand that means something. I wanted everyone to understand that everything good can come from here.”

But Smith knew that for “Straight From The Go” to become a slogan, much less a movement, people would have to start using it. So a little more than a year ago she created some

“Straight From The Go” t-shirts that the Morgan Park High School boys basketball team wore to a game at the Proviso West Holiday Basketball Tournament. That was the first step in launching a slogan, a movement, and, well, an apparel company. And before long, the orders started rolling in.

Not that Smith had little else to do other than restore Chicago’s reputation. She was a National Honor Society student at Morgan Park High School, co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad, social committee chair of the senior board, as well as yearbook writer and photographer when she had her epiphany. Still, when opportunity knocks you heed its call.

“Straight From The Go” shirts are now available on her website, StraightFromTheGo.com, and in retail stores all over “the Go,” from Michigan Avenue to O’Hare Airport.

Smith, now 18 and in her freshman year at the University of Missouri, needed to push her boundaries to deliver her message. “I used to be very shy,” Smith said. “But I’m growing out of it. You just have to do it.”