A viral post on Facebook accuses Prada Soho in New York of having images strongly resembling “blackface” and “Sambo” all over the store
Chinyere Ezie made a post on Thursday after going to the store and seeing the displays
Ezie had just returned from a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Angry social media users are calling for a boycott against Prada
A viral Facebook post accuses the Prada Soho storefront in New York City, New York of having displays that strongly resemble “blackface” imagery throughout the store.
Chinyere Ezie made a post on Thursday after leaving the store. The post has already been shared over 1,000 times in the eight hours since it was posted. In the post, Ezie explains that she had just got back from an emotional visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which includes an exhibit on blackface, and added to her outrage once she arrived at the Prada store. In her post, Ezie posted several images of what she saw in the blackface exhibit and what she saw in Prada.
I don’t make a lot of public posts, but right now I’m shaking with anger.
Today after returning to NYC after a very emotional visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture including an exhibit on blackface, I walked past Prada’s Soho storefront only to be confronted with the very same racist and denigrating #blackface imagery.
I entered the store with a coworker, only to be assaulted with more and more bewildering examples of their Sambo like imagery.
When I asked a Prada employee whether they knew they had plastered blackface imagery throughout their store, in a moment of surprising candor I was told that *a black employee had previously complained about blackface at Prada, but he didn’t work there anymore.*
History cannot continue to repeat itself. Black America deserves better. And we demand better.
Until then please repost and retweet @Prada using the hashtags #StopBlackface #BoycottPrada #EndRacismNow
Perhaps you do not understand why these images strongly resembling blackface are so hurtful. A look at the origin of blackface should clear that up. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a New York born comedian named Thomas D. Rice was looking for new material. Rice traveled to the South for inspiration where he learned that slaves were often compared to crows. At the same time, in their off time, the slaves sang a song of unknown origin about a figure named “Jim Crow.”
Rice adopted the Jim Crow name and began painting himself black and performing in concert halls where he would sing his reimagining of slave music. Rice also gave life to his perception of the “typical negro slave.” He acted dumb, wore rags and always made a mess of anything he was trying to do. The end result was Jim Crow becoming a synonymous for black Americans being used by whites and the equivalent of making blacks look inferior to whites.
Rice’s blackfaced Jim Crow character was so influential that racial laws in the United States are still to this day informally known as the “Jim Crow Laws.” Rice’s character can even be seen in Disney’s 1941 animated classic Dumbo. The crows in the movie were given what was considered stereotypical behavior of black Americans at the time with their leader being named none other than Jim Crow.
Ezie says as she walked through the store she was “assaulted with more and more bewildering examples of their Sambo like imagery.” Sambo stems from an extremely controversial book written and illustrated by Helen Bannerman in 1899 titled “The Story of Little Black Sambo.”
The story in Bannerman’s book is nothing special. Little Black Sambo is forced to give up his clothes and umbrella to four tigers to avoid being eaten by them. The tigers begin fighting and chasing each other around a tree until they are turned into ghee.
At the end of the story, Little Black Sambo retrieves his belongings. His mother, Black Mumbo makes tiger pancakes out of the ghee for the family, including Litlle Black Sambo’s father Black Jumbo. It has never been Bannerman’s tame storyline under fire. Instead, the controversy has always targeted Bannerman’s extremely racist illustrations. The word Sambo became yet another racial slur towards black people.
It is understandable why Ezie and others are mad at what she saw. At the end of her post, Ezie calls for a boycott of Prada. With her post quickly going viral, she may get a response from the store.