KJ Kearney released the pins this week
Remember the 'slave baby' saga
? In September, a controversial chalkboard drawing of a shackled African-American baby was used to promote a Hearts & Plugs show, and captioned 'slave baby,' a play on the band Brave Baby. The incident caused a rift in the Charleston music community and beyond, prompting follow-up discussions at a forum called Southern Discomfort
, which addressed race and privilege in the local music scene. According to organizers McKenzie Eddy and Elliott Smith, plans for further Southern Discomfort discussions are underway for 2017, but KJ Kearney, a sometimes City Paper
columnist and founder of Charleston Sticks Together, decided to reignite the conversation this week with the release of a slave baby lapel pin.
The pin bears the image of the drawing along with the words 'Never Forget' and 'September 2016.'
"After the whole slave baby thing happened, I thought, 'This is gonna be big news for a month, and then we're gonna go back to whatever we were doing,'" Kearney says.
Tired of Charleston's unity facade, Rainbow-Row-colored glasses, and tendency to sweep its racial issues aside, Kearney launched Charleston Sticks Together
as a platform for reminding the city of its imperfections.
"We want to use Charleston Sticks Together as a reflection of the community and the negative things that happen in Charleston," he says. "We always talk about how it's beautiful, but we never hold up a mirror to our ugly issues. So if we illustrate them, if someone's walking around in two years with a slave baby pin, that'll be more of a deterrent — because they'll know if they do more dumb shit like that, we'll immortalize them. You'll live forever in your infamy."
Charleston Sticks Together's mission statement, which can be found at charlestonstickstogether.com
, goes like this, "We will not be polite when discussing economic disparities. We will not be civil when discussing discrimination. We are not concerned with your fragility. We will not shrink ourselves for your comfort and we will encourage others to do the same. We will test the limits of your rhetoric on the subjects of unity, inclusion, understanding, and freedom of speech through our work in the community and the products we offer."
The slave baby pin is only the first of other wearable reminders of the Holy City's issues, the next of which Charleston Sticks Together will release on Inauguration Day.
For Kearney, pins are like a new form of protest. "Marching in the streets works for a little bit, but these are wearable pieces of art, and it causes people to talk. Someone's gonna be like, 'What the fuck is that?' or something, so that dialogue won't ever have to die. But by the time it gets too old, that'll be a great thing — we'll understand, because we've been told so many times, and we don't have to ask anymore."
You can purchase a pin soon for $10 through Charleston Sticks Together