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Cedar Rapids man turns his Black Lives Matter sign into T-shirt fundraiser

Lovar Davis Kidd (left) with some friends (background from left): Karsin Lederle, Katie Smith, Karl Weglarz and Angelica
Lovar Davis Kidd (left) with some friends (background from left): Karsin Lederle, Katie Smith, Karl Weglarz and Angelica Vannatta model his T-shirt at NewBo City Market in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, July 23, 2020. Kidd is offering T-shirts with ethnicity followed by 100% over racism (ie: 50% black, 50% white, 100% over racism). All proceeds are being donated to local nonprofits or charitable groups. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Lovar Davis Kidd, 41, of Cedar Rapids, is 50 percent Black, 50 percent white — and 100 percent over racism.

He painted that statement on a sign for a June 6 Black Lives Matter protest in Cedar Rapids. He then sent a photo to his twin brother in Colorado, J.D. Kidd, who encouraged him to turn that sign into a T-shirt.

So he did, with the help of high school friend Rebecca Schuldt-Arellano, who reached out to him after seeing his social media post. She and her husband operate CleverTees in Sidney, Neb., and are producing the shirts.

Kidd isn’t making a dime off the $21 shirts. All profits are being funneled to African-American organizations in his Cedar Rapids hometown.

June sales netted about $600 for the African American Museum of Iowa; July proceeds are going to The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success; and August funds will go to Advocates for Social Justice, of which Kidd is a member.

Currently, the gray crew neck shirts come in youth and adults sizes, but toddler and extended adult sizes, as well as tank tops, may be added to the mix.

Various statements have been rolled out periodically since June, with 18 from which to choose. The final message reveal comes this week, creating more options. The wording reflects ethnicities, mixes, family relationships and support statements, including Native American, Asian, Black, biracial, Christian, Hispanic, Latinx, Pacific Islander, person of color, and parent, grandparent and ally. All end with “100% over racism.” With a period.

Conversation Starters

The purpose “really is to start a conversation,” Kidd said. “There’s already been people who have seen some of the shirts and taken the idea that someone is ‘over racism’ in a different way than had I intended, and so that sparked a conversation.”

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One of those Facebook discussions centered on the shirt saying “100% white — 100% over racism.” It was misinterpreted as promoting white supremacy.

“It’s like a well-done tattoo, in my opinion,” Kidd said. “You should have somebody asking you questions about it. ‘Why did you get that? Why did you go with that design?’ That’s what that whole concept is. We obviously are over racism, in the sense that something needs to be done.

“I think about my two small children, that are ages 3 and 5. When I’m over their behavior, it means that we need to figure out a way to change that behavior. It doesn’t mean that I just ignore it.”

When people do misinterpret the messages, he lets them know that he understands where they’re coming from, then explains the reasoning behind starting up the T-shirt project.

“There’s still people that will fight back, and some of those people are people of color, and some of those people are not,” he noted. “And so I say, ‘Hey, we’re doing a good thing by raising money for organizations that are Black-owned, and also supporting education through Black people, so if you can’t get behind that, there’s nothing more that I can really tell them, other than they don’t have to buy the T-shirt.

“A lot of people will say, ‘100 percent white isn’t accurate, because no one’s 100 percent white,’ which is why we also made a shirt that says, ‘My ancestry is complicated but my stance is not.’”

In the beginning, the shirts came in black and white, but Kidd and his partners decided on a unifying gray color, “saying, ‘We’re all different, but we’re all the same in our stance on racism,’” he said.

The word is spreading, with “a lot of posting and tagging” on social media, he said, including a TikTok video where a musician in Texas is sporting a shirt while he’s drumming. Kidd would love to see a photo from every state showing someone wearing one of the shirts.

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He’s sharing posts with his friends in the performing arts, from his days at the Disney California Adventure Park to appearing in the second national tour of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical, “In the Heights.” (For you “Hamilton” fans, Kidd has, indeed, met and spoken with creator/star Miranda, calling him “super down-to-earth.”)

Both shows have kicked down more stage doors for people of color, Kidd said. That has continued with Gloria Estefan’s “On Your Feet,” which played on Broadway from 2015-17, then went on tour. All have provided jobs for his friends on the national level.

“Now I think it’s really great that ‘Hamilton’ is on Disney+. More people will get to experience theater in a different way, and it’s opening a lot of people’s eyes to what the theater world is,” he said.

A professional dancer and educator at the University of Iowa and the Nolte Academy in Coralville, as well as a licensed massage therapist and member of Young the Lion band, Kidd said he hasn’t faced barriers performing on the local scene as an actor and choreographer. The barriers he’s felt come in finding audiences for dance productions. And growing up, the first time his mixed-race heritage seemed to matter came when he was interested in a girl from his class at Cedar Rapids Washington High School, and her parents didn’t approve.

Black Lives Matter

Still, the Black Lives Matter movement resonates deeply with him, rooted in other perceptions from his youth.

“There’s also a whole other conversation that a lot of people aren’t having, and that’s part of the reason I created the sign,” he said. “There’s racism that happens with people that are biracial, from both sides. And not so much in my adult life as when I was younger.

“There would be times where I felt like my Black friends didn’t think that I was Black enough, my white friends thought that I was too Black. Maybe that was just a perception that I had, but it was what sparked a poem that I put into my collection of poetry, which was also kind of the inspiration for the sign, which then became the inspiration for the shirt.

“It’s been very interesting for me, because to a certain extent, it’s given me a voice that I haven’t had in the past or haven’t felt like I’ve been able to connect to in a way that really mattered.

“I had a lot of friends that reached out early on, and had those tough conversations with people I went to college with or even high school friends that said, ‘If I ever said or did anything,’ and it was really great that people were becoming aware and willing to have the awkward conversation,” he said.

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“There’s a lot of people who really want things to get back to this level of comfort, and I think that more people need to be OK with being uncomfortable until things are actually changed.”

• What: “100% over racism.” T-shirts

• Style: Gray crew-neck; various statements

• Sizes: Youth XS to XL; adult XS to 3X

• Cost: $21; fundraiser, with profits to local organizations; July to The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success and August to Advocates for Social Justice

• Information: 100percentoverracism.com/

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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