I launched E∙NOUGH , a social activist clothing company, in 2018 because I wanted the ability to protest in my own way. I wanted to feel comfortable engaging in social issues that were important to myself, my family, and my friends. As a Black woman, I’ve always been conscious of saying the right thing, or being loud enough to garner attention, but not to draw too much attention. Everything has always been carefully scripted to make myself non-threatening. The sizing and placement of our slogans weren’t a design flaw; they were created to be bold enough without crossing over that invisible line that would make people “uncomfortable.”I wanted to be bold enough that when someone saw an African American wearing a sweater that said ‘Black Lives Will Always Matter,’ they would engage in a conversation, agree with the sweater’s sentiment, and avoid the ‘All Lives Matter’ dog whistle slogan that has seemed to ingrain itself into the American psyche.
To put it plainly, African Americans have always been viewed and treated as less than. It doesn’t matter what zip code we grew up in, colleges attended, or luxury vacations embarked on. We are still less than. It doesn’t matter that we elected the first African American President in 2008, we are still less than.
To be even more precise, we are viewed as 3/5th’s of a person. The Three- Fifth’s Compromise was drafted in 1787, and for a decade, African Americans were formally considered 3/5th’s of a person, 60% of the value of a free person. We were not fully human, and therefore not entitled to the human rights spoken about in the American Constitution. The compromise was drafted to enhance the voting prospects for southern states, which we would consider modern day gerrymandering. 233 years later, African American’s are collectively still fighting for their lives, for their health, for their education, and still to this day, for their right to vote.
The idea of Black Lives Matter isn’t new. Oppression and being viewed and treated as less than human isn’t new — the enslavement of African American’s is the original sin of America. African American’s are the constant reminder of the ugly truth about the founding and creation of this country. While we are no longer enslaved on plantations in shackles, every system created in America has reinforced the psychology of African American enslavement.
So the concept of Black Lives Matter or #BLM, created by three women in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman who murdered Trayvon Martin, is not new. Black women spearheading a revolutionary movement is not new. African American’s being slaughtered by police officers and vigilantes is not new, and neither are the ‘red lines’ that keep us in our place. What is new is the video evidence and the viral nature of these black deaths. What is new is people actually choosing to listen and to care about black lives, because we do matter. We have always mattered. There would not be an America without the free labor of my ancestors, and there would not be wealth in this nation without the consistent looting of black wealth — the Black Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, OK in 1921 is just one of many examples.
The newest layer of being Black in America, the newest threat to our livelihood is the 45th President of the United States. A man who is many things including a sexist, a rapist, a swindler and a fraud, etc., is also unabashedly racist. And Millions of Americans elected him. A man who is holding his first campaign rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, and is accepting the official Republican endorsement for his re-election in Jacksonville on the 60th Anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday.
I didn’t elect him.
I did everything in my power in 2016 to convince the American people, specifically Coloradans, not to vote for him. I did everything in my power again in 2018, to ensure that Republican closet racists would be voted out of office on every level across the United States. And now, on June 11th, I am again trying to do everything in my power to prevent the re-election of one of the most dangerous presidents in U.S. history (I miss you George W. Bush), but also the most destructive and under-qualified cabinet assembled since the Nixon era.
Black Lives Matter and voting are inextricably linked. The criminal justice system, Black Lives Matter, and voting are inextricably linked. Unequal and inequitable wages, education, public health, and housing are all inextricably linked to voting. The murder of black men and women for just daring to be more than alive, is linked to voting. The pattern is clear and visible if you choose to see it. That’s why the rally for the re-election of the 45th President is a troubling act, a signal to white supremacists everywhere that this is their time. He’s telling them that it is OK to come to Tulsa, OK on Juneteenth — the official date when slaves were set free — and launch an all out race war against African American’s and any other minority that happens to side with them. And he’s doing it nearly 100 years to the day after the atrocious events of the Black Wall Street Massacre.
It is a clear response to the three weeks of Black Lives Matter protests saying, “enough is enough, we are ready to burn all of this ‘-ish’ down.” Think about that — the first official campaign rally for the current President of the United States is a clear response to an international outcry decrying that Black Lives Matter.
The social contract that was forged with the blood of my ancestors that ensured freedom is officially broken. Real unvarnished freedom isn’t something that African Americans have ever felt, nor feel, during my lifetime.
I designed the ‘Black Lives Will Always Matter’ sweater to state what I always knew to be true, but just boldly enough. Bold enough to not cross the line and cause any unwanted attention. But, in this moment, to toe the line, to try to play it safe, to try and have educated well-informed conversations about why you’re in a constant state of grief and experiencing PTSD from just being alive, is over. We are at war.
It’s time to decide whose side you’re on, because I’m on the side of Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. I’m on the side of every man, woman, child (born and unborn), cis, and transgendered, who identifies as African American. Every one of us is a walking target to the police and vigilantes, because the social contract that our freedom was based on was dissolved on November 8, 2016 when Donald J. Trump was elected into office. Now is the time to go boldly and fight for our lives and for future generations, like our grandparents did, and their grandparents before them.
I am fired up and ready to go.