On Monday at the Capitol, before unveiling bills targeting police reforms and the justice system, the lawmakers knelt at the Emancipation Hall for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. That is how long officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
In all, there were about two dozen Democratic lawmakers, including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer who also wore the sashes. When the photos went online, the response was immediate.
But Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus explained at the unveiling of the bills that white lawmakers joined in on the occasion in order to lend support for racial justice.
Bass, who represents California’s 37th district, explained: “The significance of the Kente cloth is our African heritage. And for those of you without that heritage, we’re acting in solidarity. That is the significance of the Kente cloth — our origins and respecting our pasts.”
But she did not stop those who thought both the cloth and the kneeling were empty exhibitions.
Screenwriter and TV director Eric Haywood asked on Twitter, “What if they, like, just passed some laws instead of dressing up like a Wakandan chess set?”.
That sentiment was shared by Princeton University professor and author, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor who added: “get off your f-king knees and change the damn policies, redistribute the funds, and stop the evictions and foreclosures.”
A Brief History of Kente
Kente weaving is said to be indigenous to the West African country of Ghana. Some scholars have, however, forwarded that its origin stems from Western Sudan as far back as the 16th century, and was introduced to the ancestral natives of present-day Ghanaians through trade contacts.
The Asante have laid claim to pioneering Kente weaving in Ghana, using an age-old folk story of two brothers (Nana Kuragu and Nana Ameyaw) who learnt the noble art of Kente-weaving by observing a spider spin its web on a farm they visited.
But the Ewe of Ghana and Togo also boast of a long history of Kente weaving.