*Sometimes the most powerful way to deliver a dramatic message is to deliver it someplace people don’t expect it to be. We expect racism to rear its ugly head in corporate offices, and retail stores. We expect racial profiling to end up with police brutality. But we don’t expect to see a pair of sneakers splattered with red paint resembling blood; and the words ‘I can’t breathe’ strolling down the runway at New York’s Fashion Week.
Oops! Was that a gasp? Yes. It was.
And thanks to African American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond it can’t be denied. Everybody saw it. And that is exactly the response he was going for.
Not only did Jean-Raymond yearn to tell a powerful story. He pulled the content straight from today’s headlines and used his catwalk-time to showcase items such as the blood-splattered sneakers that carry words that still ring in our ears (“I can’t breathe”) and shoes with the names of slain women embedded on them.
His featured clothing was restrained; not unlike the physical and mental bondage that continues to represent life for Black people in America today — whether we know it or not.
“If I’m going to be the Black designer,” Jean-Raymond said to Mic, “I’m going to tell it my way.”
During the powerful presentation, Jean-Raymond also debuted a 10-minute video featuring interviews with the families of Michael Brown and Sean Bell as well as video footage from the killings of Eric Garner and Walter Scott.
Initially, in spite of his own drama around being stopped-and-frisked on numerous occasions, Jean-Raymond only planned on showing video. But following a particular incident last month, when police officers held him at gunpoint because they thought his hand injury was actually a gun, he knew he had to take it a step further and bring the realities of Black Americans to the runway.
And what better platform to reveal it on?
“If you’re going to put me in this ‘Black designer’ category, at least let me tell a story,” he said to Mic. “I feel a little freer after this.
And we thank you, sir.