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New! A Powerful Pennant from rayo & honey

nobody's free until everybody's free by rayo & honey
23"x17" ($120)

As Keely mentioned when introducing our previous edition, our holiday season has shaped up to be a wordy one. As longtime collectors know, our word nerdery is a long-standing obsession and as of late we’ve been using our words with increasing purpose and ferocity. (Whisper networks really are a thing, y’all.)

Our edition today—nobody’s free until everybody’s free—is a handmade, generously sized wall hanging created exclusively for us by Brooklyn-based textile artist Roachele Negron. Roachele's made quite a splash with rayo & honey, purveyor of striking pennants bearing messages that celebrate blackness, diversity, progress and positivity. No stranger to the ways in which words can educate, comfort and inspire, Roachele's own inspiration came from the messages of affirmation that her mom hung throughout her childhood home.

My first encounter with one of these bold-faced beauties was via the writer Ashley C. Ford’s Instagram feed, where a rayo & honey pennant makes frequent cameos in Ford’s cozy tableaux of home. I was instantly obsessed and absolutely thrilled to get an enthusiastic “Yes!” from Roachele when we reached out about a possible collaboration.

Roachele’s got hustle, and with it she inspires. Politics and purpose are built into her business model, and she pairs oft opposing characteristics with ease—her confidence hangs comfortably with humility and openness, and her hardworking hustle manages to make room for family. I’ve learned a thing or two from working with her, not the least of which is a reminder of the enduring importance of the quote immortalized in black felt lettering on her debut edition.

nobody's free until everybody's free by rayo & honey

In 1971, the legendary civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer delivered a speech to the National Women’s Political Caucus entitled Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free. Hamer spoke about the importance of black and white women working together towards freedom for all, a message that today falls under the banner of intersectionality.

There is a plain logic to the title of Hamer's speach, but unfortunately it’s not how activism has worked historically. In the early 1900’s the women’s suffrage movement advanced the right of white women to vote, failing to address the the oppression and discrimination black women faced. Much has been written about the ways in which second wave feminists also excluded women of color. Even today, the idea that certain identity groups should advance ahead of others persists, but in many circles the concept of intersectionality—the idea that component identities should be considered as a connected entity in the face of oppression—is taking hold. It’s a powerful idea, but the compromises it entails create stumbling blocks where even the most progressive-minded folks can find themselves wanting to favor their own interests above another.

There’s no doubt that intersectionality is hard. I’ve sometimes felt overwhelmed by the challenge of incorporating inclusiveness into everything I do, and have had to correct my own course when those frustrations have tempted me to justify any other approach to equality. When I first came across this quote from Hamer, it had a huge impact on me. Such a simple statement, and so powerful. A truth so straight-shooting that nothing else makes any sense in its presence. It created a calm center for me, quieted any equivocation. When Roachele proposed this very same Hamer quote as the text for her rayo & honey pennant, I got goosebumps. "OMG kismet!"

Hanging above your dresser, in the hall, beside the mirror you check each time you walk out the door, or in a place of pride amid the rest of your art collection, this pennant can become a touchstone. It can become a mantra that we roll over in our minds, a source of energy to continue to fight, grow and challenge ourselves. nobody’s free until everybody’s free is the ultimate artful entreaty to lift each other up, to work towards freedom for everybody, since it’s the only thing that can free us all.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman