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US Democrats Wear Kente Cloth to Present Police Reform Bill—The Internet Reacts

What was the reason?

On Monday morning top US Democrats introduced a police reform bill in response to nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black people at the hands of police.

Before presenting the bill, several officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as Corey Booker and Kamala Harris knelt in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, in a clear tribute to the life of George Floyd who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for that exact amount of time.

What everyone seems to be less clear on however, is why they decided to do so while wearing kente cloth stoles.


Since videos showing the Democratic leaders donning kente began circulating online, the internet has been ablaze with hilarious responses to their unprovoked "fashion statement." So much so, that the word "kente" began trending on Twitter shortly after.

While the politicians may have felt they were thoughtfully acknowledging Black heritage, the move came off instead as an empty gesture and was quite frankly—corny.

As fashion historian Shelby Ivey Christie points out via Twitter, the use of kente cloth is "protected as an expression of folklore" according to Ghana's Copyright Act of 2005. It's use by politicians during a press conference as a form of intentionally conspicuous "activism" hardly feels as though it falls into any of the categories authorized for intellectual property use. Instead of representing the culture through kente cloth, they've done more to undermine it by ignoring its intended cultural use.

While many Black people are advocating for the complete defunding and abolishment of the police as an institution, the Democrats proposed bill would "make dramatic changes to police policy across the country and undo decades-old laws," according to Politico. But for many, mere "reform" of the existing police force, feels unsubstantial considering the violence police have wreaked on Black lives for centuries.

While advocates continue to push for more radical action to be taken in order to upend current systems, the kente cloth faux pas has led to hilarious jokes at a time when we could all use a laugh. Enjoy some remarks below.










Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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