It was only four nights ago that Darren Wilson, the cop who shot and killed unarmed black teen Mike Brown, walked away without any charges, giving way to protests across the nation expressing outrage over how our country continuously devalues the lives of black men. But by Friday, Americans were taken over by a different kind of frenzy, this one induced over the shopping holiday known as Black Friday. One film director, with the support of Hollywood, is trying to reclaim Black Friday in Brown’s honor and bring America’s focus back to issues of injustice, racial inequality, and police brutality that plague this country. As we head into a holiday season fueled by minority spending, the reminder is more prescient than ever.
Ryan Coogler, director of critically acclaimed film Fruitvale Station — about a black man who was shot and killed by a police officer in 2009 — launched Twitter campaign #BlackOutBlackFriday. The movement aims to “make Black Friday a nationwide day of action and retail boycott. Blackout will be organizing grassroots events, nationwide, for people to come out and show their solidarity in the fight for equal human rights,” according to TheWrap.
It has gained the support of many within Hollywood, including hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams, Ava DuVernay, director of upcoming Civil Rights era film Selma, and documentarian Soledad O’Brien, who wrote an op-ed on CNN called “Why blacks are urging a Black Friday boycott.”
Of the campaign, she told The Wrap:
They are trying to do the same thing [as the civil rights movement]. What is the impact that black lives can have? Well, they don’t need to spend their one trillion dollars that they spend shopping every year. Would American businesses feel that? So I think it’s a movement to empower people.
The campaign has been gaining traction online for the past few days, with Solange Knowles even delaying the release of a collaboration with Puma:
— RZA! (@RZA) November 27, 2014
Recognize the stranglehold that corporate money has on the neck of public policy, including the levers of [in]justice. #BlackoutBlackFriday
— jesseWilliams. (@iJesseWilliams) November 25, 2014
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) November 28, 2014
The Guardian reports that activists have also taken to the street as an extension of the Black Lives Matter campaign:
Beginning on Thanksgiving night, dozens of activists turned up at major retailers around the St Louis area with protest signs. They chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot!” as shoppers whizzed past in search of heavily-discounted TVs and vacuum cleaners.
The demonstrations, staged at a local Target and multiple Walmart stores, were brief and peaceful. As of mid-morning, there were no reports of arrests related to the protests. In at least one instance, protesters were ordered by police to leave, and they did so peacefully, Reuters reported. More protests were expected throughout the day on Friday.
To show the stark contrast between the reality for whites and blacks in American, filmmaker Shaka King put Kristan Sprague put together a powerful video in which a gleeful Christmas jingle plays over a roll of police beating black people with batons. It captures the sentiment of #BlackOutBlackFriday perfectly.