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Rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, highlighted the controversial phrase “White Lives Matter” when he wore a shirt with that line during Paris Fashion Week last month.
While he initially intended to sell t-shirts like this, he’s going to have to overcome a few hurdles to do so. That’s because the phrase’s trademark is now owned by a pair of black radio hosts, Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward.
“In the space where it’s a trademark, think about fashion, we can prevent people from having a tax incentive to mass-produce those clothes, those shirts,” Ja said. The currentIt’s Matt Galloway.
Ja and Ward, hosts of the Phoenix radio show, Ariz. civic cipherofficially received the trademark in late October from a local listener who wanted to remain anonymous.
Ja said the owner did not feel he was in the “best position to speak out about black issues” and thought the protection of the phrase was better suited to be in the hands of Ja and Ward.
“Within a short time, they contacted us, had a conversation with us about…trademarking, and basically put it in our care so we could decide,” Ja said.
“This person felt that we had the right temperament and the right perspectives and that we were leading with love. And I felt that the brand would be in good hands with [Quinton] and me in civic cipher.”
Sometimes the opposition is seen a certain way. Sometimes they look like us, and that can be a little more painful.-Ramses Ja, Civic Cipher co-host
After the broadcast, Ja said The current that the next step is hopefully reassigning the trademark to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or the Anti-Defamation League.
For now, the brand grants the duo sole ownership of the slogan and the right to sue anyone who uses the phrase for monetary gain.
This doesn’t necessarily stop people from painting the phrase on their own clothes, Ja said.
“You can’t just go into a store and buy it unless it’s for sale by Civic Cipher LLC, and I have to be careful here, I’m not sure I’ll ever see that.”
Mute harmful phrases
However, the decision to take on the trademark was not an easy one for Ja and Ward, due in part to the phrase’s history as a response to the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
“We as [Black] people felt the need to affirm that our lives matter, that our lives are worth and have value, and that we deserve to live and grow old,” said Ja.
“But the phrase ‘White Lives Matter’ was born to be contradictory, as a response to the claim that Black Lives Matter. At no time was there a question of whether or not White Lives Matter.”
Ja said he and Ward deliberated for several days as to whether they had made the right decision in taking the trademark.
But in a country like the United States, “where the feelings of non-black people take higher priority,” Ja said they felt they had a responsibility to downplay the potential for a world where harmful, hateful phrases like “White Lives Matter, they are normalized.
“We’re already fighting against, you know, the relics of slavery in this country,” he said. “The Confederate flag comes to mind. We have to walk through parks named after Confederate generals and see statues of these people.”
“We are doing everything we can to create a reality where everyone can feel comforted and centered, and that includes Black people.”
Although they own the trademark for the phrase, Ja said that “at this point, based on everything we know to be true, we have no intention of putting that shirt in any store for people to buy.”
He doesn’t anticipate anyone coming to him and Ward with “enough money to take [away] the smile that we’ve seen, the bit of joy that we’ve seen” come out of communities, like the black, brown, and Jewish communities.
“Sometimes the opposition looks a certain way. Sometimes they look like us, and that might be a little more painful,” he said. “But sometimes, heroes look like us.”
“It makes us feel good to see our people feel good.”
Produced by Howard Goldenthal.
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