You cannot sell “White Lives Matter” t-shirts because the trademark belongs to two Black radio broadcasters.


The Civic Cipher radio show hosts Quinton Ward (left) and Ramses Ja (right) currently hold trademark ownership of the phrase “White Lives Matter.” hide caption for Civic Cipher

switch to caption Cipher Civic The Civic Cipher radio show hosts Quinton Ward (left) and Ramses Ja (right) currently hold trademark ownership of the phrase “White Lives Matter.”

Cipher Civic Ye, a rapper formerly known as Kanye West, organized a “secret” catwalk event during Paris Fashion Week when models wore T-shirts with the words “White Lives Matter.” Never officially publishing the design, Ye had intended to sell the shirts before delivering boxes full of them to homeless camps in Los Angeles.

Now, the two Black radio DJs who own the trademark will issue a cease-and-desist letter to anyone attempting to sell a White Lives Matter shirt or use the term for financial advantage.

Phoenix-based radio program Civic Cipher is hosted by Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward. A listener of the program contacted the hosts and informed them that although they had secured the trademark for the phrase “White Lives Matter,” they believed Ja and Ward were better suited to safeguard the term.

According to Ja, “The listener did not want to be connected to this in any way, yet they understand the value of ownership.” “By taking ownership of it, you can stop negative things from happening. The results are in your hands.

The listener, who requests anonymity, was a fan of Civic Cipher, which, according to its hosts, delves deeply into discussions like political representation, voter suppression, and police brutality.

We discuss anything that needs to be discussed, correct? Ja spoke to NPR. This person says, “You know, who would be a better decider for the future of this object that is now owned by me?” after listening to our podcast. It would be these dudes. And so they got in touch with us once more, saying, “Hey look, if anything ever happens financially in the future, please, you know, donate half to these specific orgs.” And if that day ever comes, we plan to carry out that plan.

Ja and Ward took some time to talk about what it would mean for them to hold this brand together after speaking with the listener. This trademark carries a lot of significance: The phrase is a ‘racist response’ to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Additionally, organizations that practice white supremacy, like the Ku Klux Klan, employ the word.

The optics of something like this can easily escape you, Ward said NPR, so “we both had to deal with it for a while.” We’ve set ourselves up so that, even if it overwhelms us, there will be more we can do in the future. But for the time being, if we are requested to act as the protectors, we will. We shall accept that challenge and strive to treat everyone fairly. You know, obviously, once more, we feel that the Black community—particularly the Black women—has the greatest need. We therefore concentrate a great deal of our efforts and energy there. However, all men and women on the planet are our brothers and sisters.

On October 28, the trademark became legally theirs, giving them sole ownership and the capacity to pursue legal action against anyone who uses the term for commercial advantage. Owning a slogan like “White Lives Matter” could lead to the hosts receiving negative input over what they should or shouldn’t do with their trademark.

That was one of the unsettling aspects of getting this trademark, to be honest. That day, Ramses and I walked 4 to 5 miles while merely attempting to process what had just occurred, Ward told NPR. And we were aware that this obligation would come with consequences, as well as criticism and misunderstanding from some quarters. However, we are prepared to have such discussions.

Both radio hosts have received a tremendous amount of support, with many people responding favorably to this news on social media. Neither of them has received any communication from Ye’s reps or anyone interested in purchasing the trademark as of yet.

When faced with hopelessness, “For us, it’s about giving people back a little bit of hope, giving people a little bit of a silver lining,” said Ja.

Every day, a new headline features this one person who is very visible and who is constructing or supporting a really detrimental narrative, allowing a particular segment of the population to point to him and claim, “Look, he feels that way, so it’s OK if I feel that way too, right?” It therefore seems nice for us to take a small portion of that back and offer it to the individuals who are at the forefront and somewhat at the bottom of that.

Both hosts are aware that it won’t be simple to stop the sale of White Lives Matter apparel or other merchandise. In collaboration with a lawyer, they want to issue cease-and-desist letters to anyone attempting to profit financially from the word.

“We can sue them and recover damages, and we can sue for copyright infringement, which permits that litigation to get a lot bigger,” Ja said to NPR. “If we feel like someone is benefitting from, you know, the sale of any clothes,… our federally protected trademark.”

Both hosts acknowledged that it will be difficult to halt the selling of counterfeit goods across borders or online. They lack entire legal teams, unlike big businesses, to halt the sale of counterfeit goods.

For better or worse, we’ve had to take into account the fact that everything that goes into preserving a trademark is now in play. We’ll see how it goes, so,” Ja remarked. “But up until now, it has been the symbolism of it, and the impact that has been so meaningful, especially to communities who have been terribly harmed… by one particular individual saying some very nasty things,” Therefore, I want to take a minute while we are together to acknowledge the suffering that my Jewish brothers and sisters have gone through lately.

Having the trademark is a duty that neither host takes lightly, and they both want it to have positive effects on other people.

‘You know, when people are trying to be, when they’re trying to examine that movement, a lot of people look to the organization Black Lives Matter. They are unaware that the phrase was created out of great suffering, from a whole population in this country feeling that they have lived under the thumb of a system their entire lives, with a foot on their neck, a knee on their neck, etc. According to Ward, “And all of these other Lives Matter organizations were created not to support those other groups but, quote, unquote, purely to attack Black Lives Matter.”

“Now that our names and faces are associated with this, we have a duty to ensure positive results.” We can’t, say, hide. We accept that it is a part of our obligation. If there are any results, particularly financial results, they can’t be for our benefit. So we are unable to get a new vehicle or take a trip. According to Ward, they must help and strengthen these communities that have been harmed by anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric.

Now that they are the owners of the phrase, neither host is sure what the future holds. They’ve considered donating the trademark to a group they think will be trustworthy and able to keep it safe.

We have no idea what will happen next, but now that our names and our faces are associated with this, it is our responsibility for the outcomes and the headlines to be positive and uplifting, so the stories can stop being about division and pain and start being about, you know, building and bridges and forgiveness and love and, you know, helping people who are typically underserved.

Ja sees this as an opportunity to become informed and learn alternative ways to tackle a situation than with rage or by staying out of it. Both hosts now see this as a means to become active and perhaps support issues they believe in rather than standing on the sidelines.

“I do believe that everyone can benefit from what happened. And I hope that the result we see will be a good one,’ Ja told NPR. There are many methods to resist and fight back. It’s like we have to fight this battle with one hand tied behind our back, one shoe unlaced, and things like that. However, every little bit helps, you know. And I believe this tale to be motivating. I’m learning this from other people, at least. When it came to us, we were undoubtedly inspired.