"Despite what we're told, the American flag has never represented freedom for Black people," wrote Channing Hargrove in PAPER's America cover story with Hood By Air. "For many it has become a tangible symbol of the white supremacy, hate and intolerance that has always been prevalent in our country."
Which is why HBA, the luxury brand famous for disrupting old ideas, redesigned the flag by flipping it upside down and introducing the statement, "New World Citizen."
For any new symbol to take root, it needs people to support and carry out its values, so PAPER sent out the HBA flag to members in our community — individuals who're similarly sparking conversations and challenging pre-existing ideas across internet culture, music and more.
Following The Garden, Charles Gardiner — the online comedian with an impeccable wig collection — answers questions provided by HBA Creative Director Shayne Oliver and poses with the "New World Citizen" flag over Zoom for Full Tac.
How do you receive your information?
I'm a social media influencer, so I make comedy videos. It's usually Instagram, Facebook, now TikTok, but that's where I get it. I'm definitely a tech boy. I'm always on my phone, it's ridiculous how much I'm on my phone. But for me being a creative, getting my information as far as inspiration for the stuff I make, it's usually in and around the neighborhood. If I'm going to the grocery store and I had a little argument, I see something and internalize that. Usually those scenarios are when I'm outside. I do have a little social anxiety and a lot of people don't assume that because I'm such this bubbly energy online. So I'm a big observer, I always just watch. I'm watching in the background and taking everything in.
What symbolism most represents your online culture?
For me, it's comedy. I'm not a stand-up comedian. I'm more so an actor and I'm usually portraying Black women, because my character is a makeup of all the women I've encountered in and around New York. Especially being from Harlem, I've hung out with so many different types of females, though. Like, the super ratchet ones, the boujee ones. I would definitely say New York women as a whole. I always take different parts and then exaggerate it for my character when I make my comedy. I feel like a New York woman is kind of like myself: Very blunt, straightforward, don't care. They do have feelings, of course, but it's straight to the point. I'm going to tell you how it is and it is what it is. I love that, I'm all that. I love that energy. I'm also a Sag, so I'm very straightforward. This is how I feel and you just got to get on board with it.
Who was the last person you hugged?
The last person was my best friend.
Who would you pass the flag onto next?
It's like passing the torch. I would definitely say one of my younger sisters. Where I am now, I haven't even started but I love to be able to share my craft with so many people. The feeling that you get and being able to have people say, "Hey, your stuff makes my day." I can be in a bad mood, and I'm uplifted and happy.
Other than Hood By Air, what is HBA an acronym for?
Hood Bitch Anyhow.
Do you exist in real life?
From a personal perspective, I feel like I'm half and half, and I say that because being gay and being Black, I have moments where I do feel like I'm present, but then I also feel like there's parts of me that I hide when I'm in society, you know what I mean? Like, I have to tone it down a little bit and I can't really be myself. It's annoying, but it's something that if I feel. I am open and I'm out and my family knows and everything, so you would think that when I walk out the house, I will just be like 100 all the time, just be myself. But it's so different because everyone isn't like my family, everyone isn't the same, everyone has a different view. I never want to put myself in any type of danger, so I'm always hiding parts of myself because I want to blend in with society instead of being that person. It's also tied into my social anxiety where I don't want that much attention on me when I'm out, but I'm trying to work on being myself.
From the start, 2020 has felt like a pivotal turning point for America. Ahead of what could be the most consequential election in our lifetimes, many of us are starting to re-think our behaviors, question old assumptions and challenge longstanding institutions. Through it all, there are plenty of reasons to feel inspired.
Highlighting compelling people in pop culture, politics and the arts, PAPER will examine America in all of its splendor, grit and complexity, and search for the stories that give us hope, compel us to be better versions of ourselves and to understand America as the multi-faceted, dynamic place — and idea — that it is.