#blackband: how to, a reflection
i am just over a week into the practice of wearing a black band on my left arm as a statement of grief, and as a statement against white supremacy in all it’s manifestations.
it’s been a beautiful, simple practice so far. people either already know why i am doing it or, when they hear my reason, vigorously agree with my rationale.
i have had people ask me questions about how to participate in #blackband, so here are some answers (with the caveat that i am learning the practice as i go):
1. where do i get a #blackband?
i made mine from old leggings. other friends have made bands from t-shirts and bandanas, or taken black ribbon or hair bands or bracelets and created their bands. my friend sabrina, a detroit artist, drew hers on with permanent marker. my friend adela showed me the black band of one of her sacred tattoos that inspired me to consider that for my next step.
i love the DIY nature of this so far. it was a deeply personal commitment for me to don a black band, and making/finding my band, imbuing it with intention, feels like part of the strength and magic in it.
2. where do i wear it?
left side of body, closest to your heart. i have been wearing mine around my left arm just above or just below my elbow.
you can wear it right on skin or over clothes – visibility is important.
if you don’t have a left arm or wearing it on your arm isn’t possible, wear it on your left leg. if you don’t have a left leg or wearing it on your leg isn’t possible, pin a black circle to your left side, near the heart.
wear it to all of your life, in transit, at work, in sacred spaces. let your resistance be constant.
3. i have my band on. now what?
once i had my band on, i invited conversation around it. i let my friends, family and y’all know what i was doing and why. now i answer strangers who ask about it, pointing them to resources for more information based on their entry point – black folks i point towards ongoing movement for black lives work, non-black people I point towards amazing solidarity work. i invite them to join me if they are tired/devastated by white supremacy and constant grief.
it’s been interesting to hear the responses – a few black folks have said their skin is their black band, and others have said it feels important as a black person in a professional environment to wear the black band to counter the way white supremacy wants to normalize the trauma.
some of my friends indulge me in what they see as my practice, others take it on. i am not pushing it on people, i am inviting us to make visible our resistance in a world that wants to silence us with fear.
i do notice that each time i see someone take it on i feel a bit safer. audre lorde taught us “your silence will not protect you.” the black band feels like a vocalization and harmony.
3. so…can non-black people wear a blackband? can white people wear it?
i wasn’t really thinking about this part when i committed to wearing the black band, but lots of non-black people have been asking me about it and rocking the black band and it feels really important and comforting to see non-black people visibly making a statement against white supremacy and anti-blackness.
it’s an emergent win.
for non-black #blackband-ers i would ask a few things:
– that you pair the wearing of the band with a monthly/sustainer donation to BOLD, blacklivesmatter, byp100, or other groups affiliated with the movement for black lives. support local work led by black people. (donations of any size count – $5 a month from a million nonblack people would really increase what our movements can do and i believe there are more than a million nonblack people who are against white supremacy in this country)
– for white people especially: be ready to be transformed. look to the thorough analytical work of catalyst or the action network of surj for other practices to be in to unlearn white supremacy.
– and if you haven’t yet, bring it up to friends and family explicitly. have the conversations i can’t have with your parents and grandparents, with your kids.
4. how long are you wearing the black band?
i don’t know yet. it may be the rest of my life. i need to see explicit and significant advances of justice and liberation for my people. a lot of people have to wake all the way up to make those advances real. i see the black band as a small daily direct action that helps to turn up the volume on that ‘white supremacy is over’ alarm. i suspect when it is no longer needed, we will all know.
below are images of three people wearing the band – taylor renee aldridge, aurora levins morales, erin ní chonaill, paury flowers, chelsea cleveland, and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha (in black lace!!):