‘What if they were Black?’: Campaign reimagines Jan. 6 Capitol riot

Man holding What if They Were Black January 6 Capitol Riot shirts
(Credit: Goodby Silverstein & Partners)

Goodby Silverstein & Partners created a campaign featuring air-brush style memorial shirts one year after the insurrection.

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, fueled by mostly White Trump supporters, on January 6.

In the wake of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners asked the question: What if the insurrectionists were Black?

The agency developed a campaign for the Courageous Conversation Global Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to racial equality and social justice, exploring that question. 

The campaign features a limited collection of air-brush style memorial shirts designed by artists Timothy Bluitt Jr. and Casandra Burrell. The shirts are inspired by memorial T-shirts popular in the Black community with messages like “In Loving Memory” or “Rest in Peace.” 

The campaign shirts depict Black versions of the rioters, including the Qanon Shaman. Statistics pointing out bias within the American justice system are emblazoned on the back. 

"Black people are 5 times more likely than white people to be imprisoned," one shirt reads. Another says, "One-third of unarmed people killed by police are Black.”

For Goodby Silverstein & Partners, the bold messaging was all about driving awareness.

“Hopefully, people don't see it as advertising or marketing,” Anthony O’Neill, GS&P creative director, told Campaign US. “It's more tapping into what's already happened. This is our opportunity to protest the injustice that goes on in America.”

The Instagram campaign is featured in fashion-catalog style, with models wearing shirts around the Capitol and throughout Washington D.C. People can purchase the shirts online with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Courageous Conversation Global Foundation.

The campaign will also later extend to TikTok with an #IfTheyWereBlackChallenge, a live Twitter Spaces discussion and an Instagram “Ask Me Anything” session. 

Ultimately, the campaign’s goal is to spark conversation about racial inequality in the justice system, which can lead to change. 

“We do this work for one reason: to help change the laws and legislation,” said Rony Castor, GS&P creative director.”We also want to change [the minds] of people who are on the fence, people who forget about the bias that we saw on that day.”

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