Clark Atlanta University Grad Heather Haynes Designs Sneaker for Nike HBCU Yardrunners Collection
Lifestyle Sisters Inc Women

Clark Atlanta University Grad Heather Haynes Designs Sneaker for Nike HBCU Yardrunners Collection

Photo Credit: Nike

Heather Haynes, proud Clark Atlanta University alumna and global video producer and marketer, lives vicariously through her alma mater’s motto — “Find a Way or Make One.”

The award-winning VH1 digital series Growing Up Black creator has recently been honored by Nike as an HBCU Yardrunner. She is effortlessly repping CAU and paying it forward in Nike’s third iteration of its Yardrunners collection.

Photo Credit: Nike

In the partnership, Haynes designed a sneaker, the Nike Dunk Low’ Clark Atlanta University,’ which features the HBCU’s red, black, and grey color scheme. “Find a Way or Make One” – is displayed on the laces, and the Panthers’ logo is adorned on the sneaker’s tongue, outsole, and insole. “1988” is also embroidered on the heel, a nod to when Clark College merged with Atlanta University.

“I want CAU students and alumni to feel proud and inspired,” Haynes told BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“I would like current students to take pride in knowing that their HBCU is important to huge corporations like Nike,  so they should take their education seriously and cherish the time that they are spending on campus. I want alumni to wear their sneakers as a reminder of where they came from and to have pride in showcasing their love for their HBCU out in the world.”

Photo Credit: Nike

CAU also gave Haynes her flowers when they selected her for the inaugural class of the Clark Atlanta University 40 under 40 Young Alumni achievement awards.

Photo Courtesy of Heather Haynes

How did your HBCU experience impact your legacy in the entertainment industry?

CAU is located in the heart of Atlanta, which is also the mecca of Black culture. Attending CAU during the peak of Atlanta’s hip-hop takeover made me fall in love with the entertainment industry and opened my eyes to all of the possibilities there were post-graduation.

Attending CAU also gave me a distinct level of experience and knowledge about the culture that I feel like a Southern hip-hop expert in certain rooms, lol. The biggest takeaway was the network of folks you meet while in school that grow up to become label execs, PR execs, artists, etc. It’s amazing to see and allows me to use my network to help connect the dots while I navigate the industry.

When did your love for sneaker culture begin?

My love for sneaker culture began when I was a kid seeing my older brother collect East Bay magazines and highlight the sneakers he wanted. Naturally, as a little sister, I wanted whatever he wanted, and that included cool sneakers. It wasn’t until middle school that I started to define my personality and personal style and started to want exclusive sneakers that no one else was wearing. I was into uniqueness more so than what was popular at the time.

As a proud HBCU alumna, how does it feel to give back to your alma mater in this way?

It feels amazing to create something that will hopefully live on and be a part of the history and legacy of CAU. CAU instilled so much in me and the person that I am today. I’m grateful that with Nike’s help, I’m able to give back to them this way and inspire the students that no dream is unattainable.

How did the sneaker designs draw on your experiences and inspirations?

My experience designing the CAU dunk lows was really exciting and fun. I met with Nike’s team, and they gave me the lay of the land, and from there, I went to work sketching my design. It wasn’t that difficult to design, my creativity was activated instantaneously because I knew that I wanted to incorporate as much of the school’s colors, logos, mottos, etc., as I could while also being tasteful and representing my own personal style.

How does it feel to be one of the few Black women to officially design a sneaker for Nike?

It feels legendary. 2022 is going down in the history books. Nike’s commitment to HBCUs and amplifying Black voices is game-changing. They are paving the way for more and more opportunities to tell authentic and meaningful diverse stories.

Your award-winning docuseries, Growing Up Black, explores issues directly affecting the Black community. As a Nike HBCU Yardrunner, how do you empower HBCU students with opportunities in television?

I am always down to help connect the dots, my email is open to the public on my IG account. Folks hit me up all the time with just general questions or looking for guidance. I hope to continue to be a resource for HBCU students. While I was in Atlanta for my sneaker drop, I stopped by the Mass Communications building and spoke to a few students and my old professors. I told them that I want to be more involved with the program. So hopefully, I can make that happen really soon.

What advice do you have for HBCU students who want to forge a legacy that will inspire future generations?

My advice is the same advice Spike Lee gave me right after I graduated from CAU.

“Work your ass off.”