Nineteen-year-old Olatiwa Karade, a sophomore at Montclair University in Montclair, New Jersey, was irritated with being silenced all the time. So for Columbus Day, she printed the words “Columbus Was A Murderer” on a sweatshirt and “wore it to school on a whim,” she tells Refinery29. What happened next you could stay birthed a movement.
“I put [the sweatshirt] on Facebook and people [began asking]: When are you going to make more? We love this so much. Though the New Jersey native “didn’t think the demand would be so intense,” she explained, over Thanksgiving (when she finally had some time off from school), Karade opened her own Etsy store — and that's when her collection of pro-Black political sweatshirts really took off. “With all the thoughts that were going on in my head, I was like you know what, I’m just going to put this out there and whoever doesn’t like it, doesn’t like it.”
Billed “clothing for activists,” Splendid Rain Co. offers tops with sayings like “Don't Touch Me, Don’t Touch My Hair, Don't Touch My Culture,” and “Your Founding Fathers Owned Slaves,” that, according to her site, “aim to normalize pro-Blackness by making it attractive and accessible.” They each retail for $25.
One sweatshirt, which reads “Fuck Your Racist Grandma,” is even more personal to Karade; it was inspired by a relationship Karade was in with someone whose family didn’t like her because she was Black. “I was told by their mother, I don’t feel comfortable with you being in my family if I can’t touch your hair,” she said. “[Their mother] told me because they were first generation immigrants, they didn’t know any other word for Black people other than Negroes, so to excuse her behavior because she just doesn’t know any better. It’s 2017 and Google exists. You’re just excusing your own bigotry.”
Though provocative, Karade’s tops accurately reflect how fed up she is (and how so many are) with our country politically, how vital it is that pro-Black activism receives the stage it deserves, and how important it is for people to have more conversations about race.
“I was a heavy Bernie Sanders supporter,” she says. “So we were at odds, completely, with Trump supporters, and everything they said was just so invalidating of my life and experiences as a Black woman. It was frustrating, of course, and it makes you angry. But on the other side, I was dealing with very liberal, white people who loved Bernie, who were all for Democratic socialism, but when he would speak about police brutality, Sandra Bland, or all the things that were going on in the Black community, then all of a sudden they were [saying things like] all lives matter, or that we can’t move forward if we don’t all work together. And I was like, we’re not working together if you’re silencing us.”