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Breathing Room: A New Design-Focused Toolkit Addressing Police Violence In The US

Breathing Room: A New Design-Focused Toolkit Addressing Police Violence In The US

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“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic… Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
—Rep. and Civil Rights Activist John Lewis

I recently discovered an article written by Ayla Angelos via It’s Nice That announcing the launch of Breathing Room, a design-focused toolkit that aims to address police violence in the US. Please read the full article linked above for a more thorough review of the initiative development and creative overview. It’s a quick and inspiring read! Ayla’s article drew me in but when I visited the Breathing Room’s website, I was floored by the juxtaposition of the stunning visuals directly linking to tools and resources to fight police brutality.

Copyright © Breathing Room, 2021

Last December a heated dialogue sparked when Barak Obama criticized the “Defund The Police” slogan by stating, “You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pushed back stating, “The thing that critics of activists don’t get is that they tried playing the ‘polite language’ policy game and all it did was make them easier to ignore. It wasn’t until they made folks uncomfortable that there was traction to do ANYTHING even if it wasn’t their full demands.” More people joined the discussion online, which I thought was a very healthy debate, because we should speak more openly in constructive conversation.

In my opinion, there is no one right way to protest or “brand” activism. The more diverse, the better. No one approach is going to solve every problem. When collective citizens come together during times of crisis, hurt, pain and suffering, a common voice or message that is felt usually comes to the forefront. While I was out protesting, many people I met agreed that 1.) police budgets are inflated with resources that could better benefit communities in need, 2.) police are tasked with too many roles that don’t require an armed response and 3.) the policing institution and policies as a whole were not built to fully protect all citizens equally. A common phrase that was used to express this was “Defund the Police” but I can understand how an outsider wouldn’t immediately know the full scope the statement encompasses. But I also feel outsiders didn’t do their due diligence to even TRY to look further than the slogan and hear the rest of the message.

I, like others in my community, are also tired of seeing the harm and mutilation of Black bodies plastered all over social media and news coverage. Since when do we need to constantly see and recount the most violent, dehumanizing visuals repeatedly in order to have our voices heard and justice served? It’s traumatizing and it’s despicable.

This is where the Breathing Room comes in to help. It utilizes meaningful branding to further the conversation, inspire action and spark change. Sola Biu, founder and strategy lead, told Ayla, “Our creative challenge was to find a way to acknowledge the current reality, which we do through the curriculum, and pair it with inspiring visuals that represent a broader definition of the Black experience. Our identity system and campaign were intentionally designed to magnify what’s on the other side of that trauma: Black joy and limitlessness.”

The Breathing Room website offers two sections: Learn and Act. The Learn section currently includes four lessons for new advocates to understand the history of American police violence and learn how to pressure local decision-makers to create policies that end brutality and secure accountability. The Act section provides a directory of local organizations, alternative first responders, city officials, and policing statistics in your community. So far 19 cities are listed but the initiative encourages volunteers to get involved to help curate new cities.

Copyright © Breathing Room, 2021

“Creatives are culture carriers and have the potential to catapult social change. The fabric of America has been unraveling for a long time; this is the perfect moment for creatives to work with other change-makers to weave together a better version of the country.”
–Sola Biu, Breathing Room Founder + Strategy Lead

I hope you find this resource informative and inspiring. If you can, I encourage you to take action against police brutality and racial injustice in any capacity. Please share the website with your network and follow them on Instagram. If you have additional resources to check out or thoughts on this post, feel free to comment below or contact me.

Stay safe and be well!

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