By: Jaxon Henderson
Activism comes in many shapes and sizes. Violent protests such as the peaceful gathering (—violently disrupted by white supremacists) that occurred in Birmingham have been catalysts for change. However, not all change comes about through street action. Two men exemplify this in the 21st century, one an Indigenous fashion designer and the another, using his influence as a professional athlete to engage the public with an issue.
Consumer racism is evident in the racist mascots still being used in amateur, collegiate, and professional sport. Colin Kaepernick, a Wisconsin native and a quarterback began kneeling during the US anthem to send a message to end police mistreatment of black people in the United States — over-policing, excessive force, and random stop and searches. He is engaged in a lawsuit that alleges that the NFL fands its owners colluded to keep him off the field for these beliefs. Kaepernick and Justin Louis both have a public platform that they’re using to question the intersections of race, business, and branding. Justin Louis and his “SECTION 35” clothing line and Kaepernick’s recently sponsorship deal with Nike extend their abilities to question racism and how it is embedded in the marketplace, so-called consumer racism. For Kaepernick it has literally been ‘worth it’ to take a stand and push through the backlash based on one’s principles and position. Through activism, these men are adding to civil discourse and frameworks that will have a direct benefit and impact the people and communities they care about.
Enter Justin Louis. Justin is an Indigenous artist and co-founder of clothing company SECTION 35. He acknowledges, “It’s more about just giving a voice to people. Using something as simple as a T-shirt to spread or share a message [is powerful].” One campaign called “Kill Mascots Save the People” protests the racial caricatures and stereotypes that are used by various major sports teams, like the Chicago Blackhawks or Cleveland Indians. To see clothes that Justin has made or been involved in creating, check out the Calgary fashion show Otahpiaaki. This show features Indigenous art and Indigenous fashion created by Indigenous designers and artists. This year’s theme is Pride and Protest. It runs from November 5th-10th in Calgary. For your tickets, please visit otahpiaaki.com