BLACK OUT STORIES | Jeremy Ebobisse
When I look back on this past year of societal upheaval induced by COVID and amplified by the racial justice movement, my mind immediately scatters around searching for words and emotions to consolidate my personal understanding amid such straining situations. The Blackout Collection is a chance for us to share with you a piece of our story as Black Players for Change; it is a memento that can not only serve as a reminder of just how taxing of a year it was but also of the subtle beauty of a sustained movement towards racial equity growing in our sport. To me, the black tie-dyed top, done in collaboration with Participation Trophy Studio, represents our influence as Black players on our teams, league and sport in galvanizing the people around us to gain deeper understanding of and remedy the inequities that have pervaded our sport and society. My hope is that it serves as a reminder, to those who receive it, that the work is not complete, and that it requires all of us.
Reflecting on my personal story in 2020 and being tasked with picking a location to encapsulate the artistic touch of the jersey, as well as the emotion of the past year, I knew there was one place that would accomplish both. I went straight to Downtown Portland, where through the chaotic nature of the summer, murals and wall art progressively came to encompass entire blocks in the center of Portland. The art was unique to each square inch of canvas, however the commonality among them all was the depiction of the, at times generational, trauma of individuals and communities for the whole city to see. My long, isolated walks from emotionally draining rallies and back to my apartment were continual moments of deep introspection regarding my own journey, as well as my role in the movement. Amid the somber, late nights, I could feel the art yelling at me, as I know it has done to so many others who walked by such poignant expressions. I wanted the holder of this jersey to identify it with this art – not because they have bought into every single drawing or word a given board (I haven’t), but rather as a reminder to challenge beliefs and perceptions while empathizing with plights not always prevalent in one’s life.
Art is one of the most powerful ways to inspire change. Symbols derived from art have the potential to challenge the everyday comfort of one’s world, while planting a seed of a thought that will inspire a movement, in this case towards racial equity. To those of you that I have had the pleasure of sharing a Zoom screen with, you will have often noticed that in my background sits a canvas of Ruby Bridges walking to school – a perpetual motivator telling us that we are never too young to inspire generations of activists. As I pensively walked by the murals of George Floyd and Breeona Taylor, I couldn’t help but feel the constant feeling of grief every time society has allowed yet another Black body to be held up as a martyr, only for limited (if any) change to occur in the aftermath. Yet, somehow I walk on with a vague, minute sense of hope, a sense of hope coming from the numbers and diversity in the streets potentially morphing themselves into coalitions across sectors and industries holding people in power accountable to remedy their inequitable institutions. I take hope in this vision – that together, there will be change.