A Montclair University student has been making bold headlines for weeks with her courageous pro-black sweatshirts. 19-year-old Olatiwa Karade first let her creative (and outraged) juices flow when she produced an an anti-Columbus Day sweatshirt in response to the glorification of Christopher Columbus. The final masterpiece: A burnt orange fabric with the words “Columbus Was A Murderer” in bold white letters, breaking the internet and of course, our closets.
“I was in the midst of a racially tense personal situation with a love interest, as well as dealing with the political climate surrounding the presidential election,” Karade tells Her Campus. “I got fed up with celebrating genocidal, destructive, racist men as heroes and decided to put some truth into the world. I made the ‘Columbus Was A Murderer’ sweatshirt and wore it to campus on Indigenous Peoples Day. The rest was history—written the right way.”
The success of the original Columbus sweatshirt led Karade to open her own Etsy store called Splendid Rain Co, and since then she’s continued to make pro-black apparel with statements like “Your Founding Fathers Owned Slaves” and “Don’t Touch Me, Don’t Touch My Hair, Don’t Touch My Culture” as the main design.
“The sweatshirts are extremely personal to my own experiences,” Karade explains. “Every quote on a T-shirt came from a thought I had on the spot when someone said something bigoted to me, or when I witnessed something that made me and my ancestors cringe. I think this is why so many people relate to my sweaters because we have these thoughts, but are socialized to silence ourselves to keep people who harass and hurt us comfortable. We all agree that it’s time to make racists uncomfortable!”
In a nation where bigotry and racism are still present on college campuses, Karade is the breath of fresh air and the inspiration we need. For her, college activism is important––specifically pro-Black activism. “We come to school to gain education and experience that can be applied to the real world! How can we do that if our curriculum is built around the celebration and normalization of white supremacy and misogyny?” she asks. “College activism fights for young people to have their autonomy recognized as they come into adulthood. We can no longer be told to shut up and sit down.” And you can bet that she will be anything but silent.
“The sweaters speak for themselves so you don’t have to. I wanted to make a product that would seamlessly continue demonstrating the activism many of us do and offer support on social media after we close our laptops and put our phones away.”
So what’s next for Karade? Well, the budding English student is planning on taking over 2018 with new collections, pop-up shops and last but not least, “embracing [her] blackness, and continuing to empower others to do the same.” Bow. Down.