Culture | May 19th, 2020
Two Rattlers Commemorate the Life of Ahmaud Arbery
By: Nadia Wilson
FAMU alumna Denver Smith and current student Ania Wilson want everyone to commemorate a life that was cut short.
On Feb. 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery went out for a jog unknowing that he would be fatally shot that same day. The death of Arbery flooded social media. When the abrasive footage from the actual shooting was released the two Rattlers creatively put their brains together and curated T-shirts that memorialized him and other victims of police brutality.
Smith decided to launch the t-shirts in retrospect of a disagreement she had with her boyfriend about it being unsafe to run at night in their neighborhood, which they had just moved to.
“I could not understand where my frustration came from, I knew it was about his safety but it got so emotional for me. Literally, a few days later, the Ahmaud Arbery case broke the internet. The video was revealed to us and I burst into tears because my initial thought was that could have been my boyfriend, me, or anyone,” said Smith.
Smiths’ central idea was to let people know that exercising while being Black should never be a criminal activity. After seeing a statement from Kamala Harris, Smith wanted to figure out a way that would effectively increase awareness in hopes to reach those outside of the African American community as well.
Curator Denver Smith showing off the front and the back of the t-shirts designed for Ahmaud. Photo courtesy Denver Smith.
“The purpose of the campaign was to help the family. I have received so much praise and his mother is in full approval of the shirts and she has accepted the donations,” said Smith. “Seeing other people who are not of African descent wanting to stand in solidarity with what happened, that is exactly what I wanted.”
“…every day, I turn on the news or scroll down a timeline, I am faced with the unequivocal blinding hate this world is submerged in.”
The designer of the T-shirts, Ania Wilson, expressed her overwhelming excitement and gratitude towards Smith for allowing her to take part in such an impactful cause for such a pivotal movement.
“I am honored to participate in such a great cause. It seems as though every day, I turn on the news or scroll down a timeline, I am faced with the unequivocal blinding hate this world is submerged in,” said Wilson.
Customers began purchasing T-shirts within the first week. 150 shirts out of the 200 that were produced have recently been sold thus far and they expect to sell hundreds more.
“The goal was to keep it simple. As a designer, when presented with an idea your mind goes crazy with options. We decided that the design itself did not need to be ‘busy’ as the message we wanted to convey is remarkable on its own,” said Wilson.
Visual representation of the reflective version of the t-shirts. Photo courtesy Denver Smith.
For those who like to go running late at night, the duo created reflective t-shirts, but not only for safety precautions. They wanted to incorporate an element to enhance the message without overpowering it.
Smith says the idea of a running shirt was always on the drawing board but the reflective element, suggested by her boyfriend’s mother, truly sealed the design. Through this, she felt like she could definitely “bring the attention to advocating for people who are minorities and the wrongdoings that are happening in the country.”
Curator Denver Smith showing off the front and the back of the reflective t-shirts designed for Ahmaud. Photo courtesy Denver Smith.
“Thank God someone is bringing awareness to this incident and shedding light on such a tragedy.”
One customer, in particular, Breyonna Bryant, saw the design on Instagram and purchased the shirt the same day after reading the positive messages from the curators.
“My first reaction when I saw the shirts was ‘Thank God someone is bringing awareness to this incident and shedding light on such a tragedy.’ It is such a brilliant and affordable way to honor Ahmaud and everyone else who passed considering the fact that the shirts are being purchased and worn by those with positive intentions,” said Bryant.
Their main goal was to make sure that people understand that we live in a broken society and a lot of the indubitable events are reoccurring today — from the social injustices to the racially-charged incidents occurring within the African American community.
“Our country was not founded, and even the laws were not created, to protect people who look like [us]. This country was built on the backs of African Americans, so I want them to understand that even though a lot of the harsh and brutal tactics were meant to enslave us happened in a different time period, we still suffer today,” said Smith.
To learn more about the t-shirts, visit the website https://justice-for-aa.myshopify.com/.