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Jewelry Named for Victims of Police Brutality Is Yanked

Controversial collection made of shattered glass from BLM protest pulled from Charleston museum
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2020 12:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – A bolo tie named for Eric Garner. "The Elijah" and "The Breonna," necklaces costing several hundred dollars in honor of Elijah McClain and Breonna Taylor. A $45 pair of earrings bearing Trayvon Martin's name. These are some of the items the Guardian lists as part of the "Wear Their Names" collection dedicated to Black victims of police brutality, originally featured at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC. You won't be able to buy any of those items anytime soon, though, as backlash against the line has resulted in the museum pulling it before it even launched. The collection's pieces—which incorporate smashed glass from windows broken during a May 30 Black Lives Matter protest in Charleston—were designed by the Shan Shui nonprofit, founded by local couple Paul Chelmis and Jing Wen. The pair had wanted to call attention to the BLM movement and planned on donating proceeds to a charity focused on racial issues, per the Post and Courier.

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But those plans were nixed after the museum heard from local activist Tamika Gadsden, who railed against the "mindless, ill-conceived" collection for making Black trauma and pain a commodity, per the Guardian. A more specific complaint: Each of the pieces of named jewelry is priced differently, "as if the name attached to the product determines the monetary value of each life," another activist says. In addition to the museum pulling the line, Shan Shui has shuttered its site, and Chelmis and Wen are offering an apology. "Though we only wanted to honor the victims' names and retell their story, we see now that using those names was inappropriate and in poor taste," they say, per the Complex. "Thank you for holding us accountable." Meanwhile, Gadsden says she's glad the story is getting widespread attention. "Justice is not jewelry. Especially not jewelry named after Black bodies," she tells Yahoo Life. (Read more jewelry stories.)

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