GLOSSRAGS founder and creator of the “And Counting” t-shirt Randi Gloss has been at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement, using fashion to fight amnesia. Her shirts are a stark reminder of the names of Black men and women who’ve lost their lives at the hands of police and race-based hate crimes. The activist talked to ESSENCE about her feelings regarding the latest names to join the list of men fatally affected by police brutality, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, how we can heal and what the next steps are for the movement.
ESSENCE: As someone who has been on the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement and in contact with families that have been hit with tragedy, what are your first thoughts about the most recent killings?
Randi Gloss: I’m devastated. I wanted to reach out to Uncle Ron, Jordan Davis’ father yesterday after witnessing Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old son break down sobbing. I wanted to ask him what it feels like, as a father to see this happen over and over again–to see other fathers slain and to see sons losing their fathers. These murders are incredibly blatant and I’m thankful that the DOJ reacted quickly and took over the investigation into Baton Rouge. I fell asleep just before the news of Philando Castile broke. On Thursday morning, it felt like I was waking up to a nightmare. There’s too much bloodshed. Too much.
ESSENCE: We’re all in a state of grief right now. Wearing the names of the men and women whose lives have been taken is an immensely powerful statement. Spreading the word via social media is also a great tactic as far as information goes but what else can be done? What do you think the next steps are?
Randi Gloss: David Banner said that white supremacy respects the loss of life and the loss of finance. I do not think our communities are on the verge of inflicting violence upon police or white people in general because we’re far too wounded and more importantly, we’re not fueled by volatile conscious and unconscious biases or hatred. At this point, we’re seeking actions that go beyond marching and protesting. I think that the CampainZero.org is a great place for us to start as far as addressing the police departments and issues within our communities. We also need to make sure that they do not forget the pain that we’re going through and the trauma we’ve suffered since it’s clear that they have no idea what it feels like.
ESSENCE: How do African-American people, especially young people build themselves up after being bombarded with news like this? How do you stay in a positive place about life?
Randi Gloss: We have to remember that our lives are absolutely still worth living. I believe each life they take away from us is an attempt to chip away at our self-worth. We won’t be defeated that easily. We have to find a source of joy or a reason to smile each and every day because these days it feels like we’re in the midst of an ugly war. That joy could be a cheeseburger, a clip from the Fresh Prince, a favorite song or Vine flip, a hug—just something that puts a smile on your face.
ESSENCE: What’s next for GLOSSRAGS when it comes to the movement?
Randi Gloss: We’re trying to figure out how we can keep our people both uplifted and engaged. It’s challenging because we want to move beyond symbolic actions. The shirts are simple, wearable reminder that can instantly make a statement. Aside from that, our social media platforms are an open forum for people to bring their burdens, express their frustrations and share visuals of their acts of taking a stand.
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