Paul Chelmis and Jing Wen are apologizing after facing criticism over their jewelry line inspired by Black Lives Matter and police brutality victims.
Following the scrutiny, the couple has issued an apology and shut down the brand’s website.
According to the Post and Courier, Chelmis and Wen launched a jewelry collection called “Wear Their Names,” the couple’s own take on the “Say Their Names” phrase that is meant to bring attention to police brutality victims.
The couple reportedly came up with the jewelry collection idea after watching the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests on Facebook Live.
“I kind of saw it as a natural reaction,” Chelmis previously said. “Like yeah, of course this is the result of our inattention. Instead of focusing on how terrible these people are who are ‘rioting,’ we should focus on what we should do to prevent it from happening in the future.”
The following day, Chelmis and Wen drove to downtown Charleston and began collecting glass shards at various riot sites. The pieces were then used to create bracelets, necklaces and earrings that were named after police brutality victims. The design names included the Tamir (Rice), the Trayvon (Martin), the Eric (Garner), the Elijah (McClain) and the Breonna (Taylor).
The collection was launched under the couple’s nonprofit Shan Shui and prices ranged from $45 to over $500. All of the proceeds were reportedly going to Black Lives Matter. Although the couple says they had good intentions with the collection, they quickly received criticism. Chelmis and Wen were accused of exploiting police brutality victims for their own commercial, and financial, gain.
nonblack people itching to profit off of black people’s deaths…. “it was killing me i couldn’t be there to document that moment.”
evil people. https://t.co/sBudrRlYNr
— white people just log out i need some space rn (@yibco) September 8, 2020
This is disgusting. SHAME on Shanshui for exploiting Black death for commercial gain. No matter how much they donate, they stand to benefit financially and in other ways. This is reprehensible and offensive. This line needs to be pulled ASAP!!! https://t.co/LjfrnfrOxb
— Denmark Vesey Co-Conspirator (@mikagadsden) September 4, 2020
just when we thought it couldn’t get ANY worse… pic.twitter.com/iGm7423PeI
— sophie the cat lady (@sophieming_) September 8, 2020
Why you cannot qualify your own advocacy 👇👇👇
At it’s worse this could be insidious capitalization and reinforcement of performative concern using “I didn’t know better” as a shield
They could have asked Twitter and known better instantly
— Supergreen🌵 (@SupergreenOK) September 8, 2020
Following the scrutiny, Chelmis and Wen have shut down the Shan Shui website and also deleted the non-profit’s Instagram page. As well, they issued an apology prior to the website being taken down.
“Just want to say we’ve heard the feedback from the community loud and clear and are taking it seriously. So sorry to those we offended or harmed,” they share. “While our intentions were pure and we consulted with a wide variety of people before launching, it is clear that there are issues with the approach we took. Though we only wanted to honor the victim’s names and retell their story, we see now that using those names was inappropriate and in poor taste.
The two of us started this project from a place of creativity and in good faith, with a sense of duty to do our part and help the movement by bringing funds and awareness — and through all the backlash we want to keep sight of that duty and move forward on the best path.”
The Shan Shui website has been shut down permanently and the couple is not continuing on with the project. However, they will fulfill all orders that were previously placed. As well, they are honoring both returns and refunds.
“It seems a lot of confusion was based around the profits,” they continue. “Some didn’t like the organization we chose, while others didn’t see that we were donating 100% of our profits, and others felt even then we were only doing it for credit. We want to make things right. Thank you for holding us accountable. Nothing but respect for our activist community. We’ve been out there shouting in the streets as well. We will continue to listen if anyone has any further thoughts.”
What are your thoughts on the jewelry collection? Let us know in the comments below.