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Jewelry Brand Hit With Backlash After Naming Products After Black Victims Of Police Brutality

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A South Carolina jewelry line was criticized for exploiting and capitalizing on Black trauma with their new line of pieces named after victims of police brutality.

The new “Wear Their Names” line was designed by Charleston-area couple Paul Chelmis and Jing Wen – cofounders of the nonprofit group, Shan Shui – and was set to be sold in the Gibbes Museum of Art next week.

The collection featured necklaces, earrings, and bracelets partly made out of broken pieces of glass from the May 30th King Street protests that turned violent in Charleston, South Carolina.

Items in the line bearing the names of Black victims who died as a result of police brutality included necklaces like “The Breonna,” named after Breonna Taylor and “The Elijah,” named after Elijah McLean – both of whom were unarmed when killed by police.

Profits from sales were to be donated to the charitable organization, From Privilege to Progress – which according to their website is “a movement to desegregate the public conversation about race.”

Because the controversial line was accused of capitalizing on the tragic deaths of Black people, the museum has decided to cancel upcoming sales.

The Charleston Scene reported that the museum initially agreed to sell the collection in its shop, but reversed course after Tamika Gadsden of the Charleston Activist Network expressed her opposition to the idea when the Post and Courrier published an article that featured the collection.

In an Instagram live, Gadsden criticized that – despite the museum’s intent to donate profits to charity – the jewelry line was not only being insensitive but also disrespectful to the Black victims whose names were used to sell merchandise.

Gadsden added:

“It made what happened on May 30 into a caricature. Really what it is is perpetuating white supremacy.”

The Gibbes released a statement in response, saying:

“In light of recent discussions, The Gibbes Museum Store is halting the upcoming sale of Shan Shui’s ‘Wear Their Names’ jewelry line.”

“The feedback we received from our community was enlightening and appreciated. It has also deepened our perspective in regards to future store merchandise.”

“We apologize to anyone who was hurt by this and will continue to listen and learn from our community.”

But by the time the museum issued its statement, word about the collection had already spread online and was met with hostility.

@JuliaaMenziee/Twitter

Many thought “Wear Their Names” was never a good idea to bring to fruition. 

On Friday, Chelmis and Wen decided to remove the names from the items featured in the collection and “pause things” to assess their future plans.

After hearing about the pushback from the community, Shan Shui issued the following statement:

“So sorry to anyone we offended or harmed, especially those we have been trying to help. We genuinely thought what we were doing was good, and we want to continue on the best path.”

“We’ve removed the names from our site, halted our collaboration with The Gibbes, and are going to pause things to hunker down to figure out what we can do next.”

“We want to make things right. Thank you for holding us accountable.”

Koh Mochizuki

Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion, and endless cups of coffee are a necessity. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1