Cryptid Apparel, a student-run printing collective, and Whitman’s Black Student Union (BSU) are organizing a day of action on police violence and modern racism to take place on Sunday, April 12. By using art to draw attention to issues of race, Cryptid and BSU hope to encourage conversation and provide an outlet of political expression.
The day of action will consist of two projects: the distribution of hooded sweatshirts, also known as “hoodies,” designed by Cryptid to draw attention to issues of racism and stereotyping, and the installation of a community art project using origami boats folded by community members.
“Issues of race are really difficult to discuss on Whitman College’s campus. I think it’s a subject a lot of students here are scared to broach and really get into with each other,” said sophomore Cryptid member Lily Monsey, who has helped organize the day of action. “We’re hoping for this to be a way for student to talk about that … lack of [racial] equality through art.”
Senior Cryptid member Audrey Kelly* has led efforts to organize the day of action, and she initiated the organization of the day of action when she discussed the topic of racial injustice at a Cryptid meeting last December. Though Cryptid normally sells its products for a profit, it has heavily subsidized the hoodies for the day of action. They are currently for sale online through an indiegogo campaign and will also be available Sunday afternoon in front of Penrose Library. Any profits beyond expenses will be donated to Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a grassroots think tank founded by Whitman alumnus Lawrence Grandpre in Baltimore, Md.
“Having a fundraising component allows for more conversation beyond buying a shirt and moving on from the topic. By giving the proceeds to an organization that helps black youth enables us to continue our efforts to fight back against racial profiling and support others who are doing the same,” said senior BSU member Alisha Agard in an email to The Pioneer.
According to Kelly, Cryptid views this sponsorship as a means of giving back to the Whitman community by promoting social justice.
“They’re really nice American Apparel sweatshirts … so [people will] keep wearing them and they’ll be a presence on campus, even after the day of activism,” said Kelly.
Each hoodie has a list of names of African American men and women whose killers have either not faced trial or been found guilty, with a blank space at the top of the list to represent future victims. When the hood is put up, a crosshairs is revealed on the wearer’s back, which symbolizes how wearing hoodies leads to stereotyping which can make people a target.
“[We wanted to make] the design and the sweatshirt discomforting enough to make people notice it and to provide opportunities for conversation,” said Kelly.
In addition to the sweatshirt project, participants in the day of action will be able to fold paper origami boats, which will be used to create an art installation in a yet-to-be-determined location on campus.
“Since it’s something that Cryptid is planning and we’re an art group, I wanted there to be an art element to it, particularly something people could do who aren’t a member of Cryptid,” said senior Natalie Shaw, who is organizing the installation. “I think having a community activity is something people will really enjoy, and it’s something that can be very powerful.”
Shaw’s installation is inspired by the Japanese tradition of folding peace cranes and the symbolism of boats as vessels used to carry people on to another world.
“Whitman is full of really quality people that care about changing the way things are, so I’m optimistic that people will turn out –– [despite] how awful April can be –– to say that they think [racism] is wrong and that our system’s wrong and that we want to make people feel uncomfortable about it to make the system change,” said Kelly.
*Audrey Kelly is a production associate and staff reporter for The Pioneer.