A Month in Memoriam
As I prepared to move from my grandmother’s house to an apartment, I began to gather, wash and fold my clothes. With each load, one, two, sometimes even three or four And Counting shirts would surface. Since Vol. I of The And Counting Collection debuted in April 2014, I inevitably became a collector of the goods I produced. As GLOSSRAGS grew, I played around with colors and styles, from heather grey & black baseball tees to camouflage tank tops to crewnecks.
As the racist realities of Amerikkka snatched the lives of my black brothers and sisters, the lists grew longer. The fonts grew smaller. Vol. I became Vol. II & III & IV & V & VI & VII & VIII & IX…
In May 2015, while on board the Millennial Trains Project, I wore a different And Counting shirt for each day of the ten day train trip across the country. In New Orleans, I got emotional when Spit Raw, a local rapper, walked into Refresh 223 where we were shooting interviews for GLOSSRAGS Goes There. He was wearing a black Vol. III tee.
Emmett & Amadou & Sean & Oscar & Travyon & Jordan & Eric & Mike & Ezell &…
I was wearing Vol. V.
Emmett & Amadou & Sean & Oscar & Travyon & Jordan & Eric & Mike & Ezell & Akai & Tamir…
Vol. IX hung in the store.
Emmett & Medgar & James & Amadou & Sean & Oscar & Trayvon & Jordan & Eric & Mike & Ezell & Akai & Tamir & Anthony & Walter & Freddie & Brendon &…
One day in October, I lingered in my room before an interview and photoshoot for a online magazine. I’d just found my black Vol. III crewneck. Should I throw it on over my shirt? The mag had a pretty substantial social network. It could mean more eyes on the brand. I decided against it. I wasn’t feeling it.
About a month later, a student at UC Berkeley reached out to interview me for her dissertation, “Cotton Framed Revolutionaries,” which focuses on t-shirt culture and the black protest tradition. In talking and reflecting with her, I realized that I’d subconsciously been avoiding wearing the shirts. It wasn’t as if I’d wake up in the morning and say to myself, “I am NOT wearing an And Counting shirt today,” but something internally kept me from wearing them as frequently as I usually did.
I was grieving.
Mike and Sandra pervaded my dreams. Freddie’s funeral replayed over and over in my head. Afterwards, I saw Kadiatou Diallo, Amadou’s mother leaving the church parking lot. His name weighed heavier on my chest. Their names were heavy. They are heavy.
It’s January 2016. I’m getting settled into my apartment. By the time I gathered and folded all of the shirts, there were over 30. I stared at the drawerful of fallen brothers and sisters. It looked more like a casket than a drawer.
The shirts still make us uncomfortable. The shirts still make us stop and think. The shirts still catch us off-guard. I say us become though I created the shirts, there is still a lingering lack of peace.
I do not know that I will ever be at peace that this shirts exists — that it will continue to exist but I know that for the next 29 days, I will wear and document my sojourn wearing The And Counting Collection in memoriam of:
Emmett & Medgar & James & Eleanor & Amadou & Sean & Tarika & Oscar & Aiyana & Travyon & Renisha & Jordan & Rekia & Miriam & Yvette & Eric & Mike & Ezell & Akai & Tanisha & Tamir & Natasha & Anthony & Walter & Freddie & Brendon & Sandra &…