Only a few years ago, there was no guarantee that when the police killed an unarmed or law-abiding citizen in the U.S., it would even make the local news. Today, the combination of video footage spread online and the Movement for Black Lives has made sure that these stories can no longer be swept under the rug.
As part of this movement, the #SayTheirNames hashtag has emerged. It’s a reminder to focus on the stories of the victims of gun violence, not just the perpetrators.
The hashtag has inspired a collective of artists, all people of color, to bring the concept offline and help people canvas their own cities with a set of stickers bearing the names of police violence victims.
“We are hoping these stickers, when separate from the violent news headlines and media vitriol, will serve as a way for people to see the name, say the name and remember these individuals not as victims but remind them of the humanity behind each figure,” Leslie Xia, the project creator (and a graphic designer for Fast Company), writes.
The project started when Xia was asked to produce 800 patches that read “Black Lives Matter” for a graduation ceremony from an art college in Baltimore, around the time of Freddie Gray’s death. Everyone wore them at graduation to stand in solidarity with the movement. Xia continued the project by producing 700 “Black Lives Matter” stickers and distributing them to friends for free, placing them in neighborhoods around Baltimore and New York.
The new stickers include the names of high-profile victims including Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown Jr., Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and others. Two other stickers bear the movement’s slogans: “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Silence Is Compliance.”
Each artist had a different take on the sticker they designed. Some, like Heather Abbott, who created the Trayvon Martin sticker, thought a lot about symbolism: “Trayvon Martin was ‘one of the first’ young black men to be slain in our recent times of social media news coverage, yet I feel he has already been forgotten. Playing on ‘the elephant in the room’ and ‘an elephant never forgets,’ I placed Trayvon sitting on top of one carrying his name,” she explains.