Black Lives Matter
Posted by Kenna Covington on
The video of George Floyd's murder was horrifying. He was murdered. He called for his momma and my heart melted into the floor.
The smirk on the police officer's face reflected that he felt nothing - no shame, no horror, no worry that there would be any consequences for his actions - and the complicity of his fellow officers. And the only reason we have this footage is because people with cell phones captured it. Keep those videos rolling! Police brutality,systemic racism, and all racism is evil that needs to end.
Don't punish me with brutality.
Come on talk to me so you can see
What's going on.
So there I was, in my kitchen, crying. Bryan has been here before. Kenna feels the pain of the world, gets overwhelmed and the ugly crying starts - the one where I start coughing and can't stop, where snot starts flying and my eyebrows cramp.
What can I do? What can we do? What can we do?
What do we do? We make wands and altars, we connect with people through art and literature. What can we do to help - to be allies, to support black gals, guys, and otherwise, to get the message to white people that racism is horrible and unacceptable and that mess has got to stop!
And then, in my kitchen, the voice in my head said, "You make decals - make Black Lives Matter decals and give them away".
And we did.
I designed a batch that was really feminine. Bryan created 2 designs and Jack decided which one he thought was the coolest. We then set out to make 100 of these so we would be able to stay on top of orders. We set up a Free Black Lives Matter listing in our shop and shared it on social media. We had about 200 orders over the first couple of days.
This was so exciting! We headed out to the post office and bought stamps 100 at a time (we hadn't done that since we sent out wedding invitations almost 20 years ago!) My part time job is at an amazing metaphysical store called The Bag Lady and the owner wanted to give these out as well. She paid for our time supplies and handed out over 400 of these in June. I'm excited to be part of a business that supports the Black Lives Matter movement!
We kept going back to the post office for more stamps. My mom sent us a wonderfully generous check to encourage us to keep going. We kept making decals. There is something mesmerizing about reading something over and over - almost like... a spell.
Our process was this: we would cut the 12" x 12" sheet of vinyl on our vinyl cutter - we use a Cameo Silhouette (and if that machine broke today, we would save up to buy another one, it is such an integral part of our work). Then we would peel off the vinyl that was negative space, this is called weeding, and is the most tedious part of the process. After the large pieces of negative space are gone, there are the pieces that are inside each letter to be removed. As we kept removing pieces that didn't belong, each decal revealed itself: BLACK LIVES MATTER. Then we would cover the completely weeded sheet with transfer tape and cut each decal out with a rotary cutter.
We were on our 600th round of stamps when we somehow got really popular. We were out of town visiting my sister and her new baby when we realized we had gotten about 500 orders that day - the most in one day. Bryan and I had talked about what our limits were - like how long could we actually do this for free. We'd decided that 1000 decals was our limit, which would still be more than we had ever donated to any cause or political campaign ever! We figured that we would consider crowd funding after that and see where the wind took us.
Well, on the way home, we reached 1200 orders. Like whoa!
Holy shit! How are we going to do this? What the heck? We don't have that many envelopes! We don't have that much vinyl or transfer paper!
We stopped for dinner, caught our breath, and put our phones away. As a family, we discussed the real life impact of large orders, the financial impact on our family (we are out of work artists and so far, unemployment had been fueling this endeavor), and what we would need to even fulfill the 1200 orders we'd received up to that point. Should we pause the ordering? What are we going to do?
When we finished dinner, our order totals had reached 1320. We decided to pause the ordering and let people know that we have been wonderfully overwhelmed and would be getting to work on these.
When we started this, we were offering these only in the US (and we sent one to Guam!), only one per person per address. Let me back up. Originally, I only made a listing for one free decal per person, per address. Then I had people messaging me about ordering more. I had NEVER even thought about charging for these - I had such laser / tunnel vision about getting the message out that it never occurred to me to sell them, why would anyone want to buy one, they can get one for free. I also laugh at myself. A lot. So, we created an another listing on our site for "Additional Black Lives Matter Decals". The listing had a link to the free one and was there for people who wanted more than one. We had a few people purchase them, and that money just went back into making more available for free.
So, on the way home, we ordered more vinyl and transfer tape, called Bryan's mom about her experience with bulk mailing, and headed home feeling the excitement of being part of the movement and dread over not being able to get all of these orders out with the speed and efficiency we'd been doing up to that point.
The next day I went to the Business Office of the Postal Service and met Bismark, who was extremely patient with me and helped me open an account in order to do bulk mailing. Here's what I learned: bulk mailing offers discounts on shipping when you print a bar code that the post office prepares for each address, when you imprint your permit on the envelope, when you sort your mail, and when you drop it off at the Business Office. It's tedious and takes all your focus. Y'all, my little brain was fried and Bryan was at home cutting, weeding, transfer taping, and cutting vinyl decals as fast as he could.
I put together my list and did everything Bismark showed me, but I was missing a few pieces. Production continued. Bryan and I talked about crowd funding for this effort - like a gofundme kind of thing, which we've never done, and this journey was taking us through so much uncharted territory - what's one more thing? We opened an account to start a gofundme campaign. I wrote our story and planned out our page. I wanted to set a goal of $5,000, which, with bulk mailing, would help us get out about 10,000 decals - and if we were going to get over 1,000 orders a day, there were 2 problems. 1: this is only enough to do about 10 more day's worth of orders and we didn't want to keep asking and asking. 2: it takes a lot of time to create this many decals - were we a printing shop with a full staff, it would be no problem, but it's just us. We talked about calling people in to help us, but we're also in the midst of COVID, so we couldn't do that. So, we continued to make the decals for the orders we had. During this time, I contacted Bismark, who joined me in a zoom meeting and filled in the final pieces I was missing. We were able to get everything together and finally get over 1,300 pieces of mail out. Once we got them out, we felt so amazing! We'd done it! Woot! Yay!
Between The Bag Lady and our orders, we had gotten well over 2,000 BLACK LIVES MATTER decals out into the world. It felt good to help be part of getting this message out. We decided against crowd funding and we changed our listing to charge $2 per decal. People can order as many as they want, and we're able to stay on top of it - we never want anyone to wait for something they've ordered from us. We've discussed doing free batches in the future - and setting limits on that.
We learned so much during this campaign. There were so many kindnesses. There were people who wanted to help us financially and sent us money to help with the effort. We thank you so much! There were so many encouraging messages sent our way. I was able to connect with another artist who wants to use vinyl decals in his process and was looking for someone to collaborate with - this is a huge win! We only had two crotchety old white people ask us if we made 'all lives matter decals'. One of them came at me with Jesus and the other blocked me before I could respond. The love outweighed the ignorance. We've always been very open and honest with our kid about everything. This was a huge teaching moment. He got to see that people - individuals can help, that what you do has meaning and purpose, that words matter (that there are so many people, including our current presidential administration who can't or won't say these words because they are antithesis to what they believe, which is kind of the entire point of the movement), and though we will never see the people we are sending these decals to, they will put these words in places where so many people will see it and the message will spread.
We've talked with our kid about how Black Lives Matter is the least we can do. That black lives are amazing, cherished, beloved, complicated, in depth, and worth investing in - and that Black Lives Matter is the call we'll keep making until the people in the back hear the message. I started stepping away from facebook a few years ago after I explained in a few threads that the word 'too' is implied in this statement - that all lives won't matter until black ones do. We've come far since the beginning of the Civil Rights movement and we have so much farther to go. Black Lives Matter is a piece of the puzzle that is our humanity and our culture. We have to educate ourselves, we need to teach our children how to have conversations about race and class so when it's their turn to discuss and shape the world they have an intelligent well of knowledge, strong and compassionate vocabulary, and real life experience to draw from. We need to find compassionate ways to hold space for each other and support each other - to value each other so when you watch the video of George Floyd's murder, we all hold our own husbands a little tighter. We are angry and we should be. The treatment of non white people in our country is appalling.
If you've stuck with me on this blog post, thank you. I wanted to share our experience with our small part of the Black Lives Matter movement to help others know that it can be done - that individuals can make a difference. Please help me once more and make sure you are registered to vote. Take time to research who is running for the school board in your area, for county commissioner, for judges, for governor, for US Senate and House of Representatives, for President. Be prepared for election day, and when it arrives, please, please vote. We have to elect people who speak for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.