Black Lives Matter is more than just a slogan. Black Lives Matter is more than just a phrase shouted out in unison amongst a throng of protestors. Black Lives Matter is more than just a statement thrown around and used like a flashing neon soundbite in the mouths of politicians courting the votes of White nationalists and Republican constituents. Black Lives Matter is not simply the name of a nonproﬁt, sometimes problematic, organization. Black Lives Matter is a movement. Black Lives Matter is a feeling. It is a vibe. Black Lives Matter is a question, a statement, a comment, and a fact that will never be disputed as Black people continue to exist on this planet. And being that scientists have found archaeological evidence that we were the ﬁrst humans to walk the earth, there is no doubt that Black lives will more than likely be the last. We are proliﬁc. We are dynamic. We are destiny personiﬁed. We are rhythm. We are the essential component that life exists through. Black Lives Matter because without Black, nothing else matters. “Black, black, black, my thoughts are so black,” young rapper Buddy enunciated proudly in 2018. Regardless of the peoples working against it, I’d bet Black every time.
Sometimes it seems that it is that very vibe of Blackness that goes awry. Like a four-lane highway that somehow veers off into a narrow, winding road that leads into a dark, dense, foggy forest where visibility is at zero percent. That is the best description of hip-hop producer, artist, designer, and son of the late Donda, Kanye West. It would be foolish to pretend that Kanye, also known as Yeezy and now simply Ye, does not already have several pages of problematic and controversial issues that trail his movements. It can be said that Ye has mental health challenges that have been publicly documented and occasionally exploited for ratings on his soon to be ex-wife’s reality series. But it is safe to also note that Ye is brilliant and calculating and that while his mental health status may be questionable, Ye is crazy like a fox. In his latest publicity stunt, at his Paris Fashion Week runway show, Ye appeared with conservative commentator and renegade against practically everything Black, Candace Owens, in T-shirts that read “White Lives Matter.” Of course, this provocatively not so fashionable statement was another display of Ye’s genius. The “White Lives Matter” tee, which was also featured on models as part of Ye’s 2023 Spring / Summer runway collection, was a brilliant example of excellent marketing and publicity. To get fans of his brand pumped about his new collection, Ye created the ultimate buzz. This provocative buzz has ignited a conversation, but will the conversation translate to the revenue Ye is seeking after ending his partnership with GAP? Will this incitive shirt cause consumers loyal to Ye’s brand to jump ship, at least for the upcoming season? Is this “White Lives Matter” T-shirt simply the musings of a fashion designer, and in turn, wearable art?
The one thing Ye does well is garner publicity. He is an old hat at this game. Married into a family that has mastered the publicity game to the point where a couple of its members have attained billionaire status. Allegedly. So, while this “White Lives Matter” shirt may just be a publicity stunt, in many respects, the statement itself has lived many generations going all the way back to when Christopher Columbus made a wrong turn in 1492 “discovering” what would be known as North America, and the Pilgrims followed 200 years later on that fateful Mayflower voyage from England in 1620. In those key historical moments, White lives mattered. How? The Indigenous Peoples already thriving on the continent were systematically decimated through disease, poverty and war. Tribes were completely wiped out. All to endorse the deadly propaganda that “White Lives Matter” and only “White Lives Matter.” One can flip through Americana and ﬁnd numerous examples on display of the sanctity of White lives, and why the personiﬁcation of whiteness is held as superior and divine in supremacy. The substantiation of ‘White Lives Matter’ is in the distorted postmortem face of 14year-old Emmitt Till, the black-andwhite postcards of burned, lynched Southern bodies that were mailed to White family and friends across the country, the highways designed to flow right through Black neighborhoods, or the buildings dropped smack dead on top of Black cemeteries. America has always enforced and reiterated through its legislative policies that “White Lives Matter.” A former president can literally steal thousands of classiﬁed and top-secret documents, and a federal judge and a “news” network will cape for him. The wife of a Supreme Court justice can be a co-conspirator in the plot to overthrow democracy and not see the inside of a jail cell … ever. A beloved football star can siphon millions of federal funding established to address the plight of predominately Black impoverished Mississippians to construct a volleyball stadium for his daughter, and still be regarded as a sports hero. An angry racist mob can orchestrate a riot, kill and burn down entire Black towns, chase out the remaining residents, and in the end, be honored with marble and alabaster statues. When have “White Lives” not mattered? Do we really need a T-shirt to tell us something that is a well-known established murderous fact?
For someone of Ye’s stature to use such a precarious phrase on the back of a shirt for whatever the purpose, signifies that just because a person may have Black skin, does not mean that they are “Black, Black, Blackity Black,” as the rapper Buddy once spit in a verse from a song called “Black.” Nor does it mean that we should venture to assume their interests are in line with or cohesively in conjunction with causes and movements that are Black. Enter and exit Candace Owens. The statement “Black Lives Matter” is not synonymous with the organization. “Black Lives Matter” is an offshoot of the “Black is Beautiful” movement of the late ’60s and ’70s. “Black Lives Matter” is the spirit and activism of Ida B. Wells-Barnett. “Black Lives Matter” is the religiosity of the magnificent pyramids, Sphynx, and temples in Kemet (Egypt). “Black Lives Matter” is Black Jesus with a crowning Afro in a portrait above my grandmother’s fireplace in Detroit when I was a little Brown girl. To reason differently is insanity. To counter or circumvent that reality is tantamount to assaulting the sensibilities of the Universe. Ye and Candace Owens can taut and promote that “White Lives Matter” energy every day and all day. But for me, I’m Black, Black, Black, Blackity-Black on Black, Black. My thoughts so Black. My skin is so Black, I’m rockin’ all Black, everything is Black.” All day.