"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 Charles Gardiner, Rolling Ray — the internet sensation who introduced "purr" into the 2020 vernacular — 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 receive a lot of my information from my phone. I'm a person who uses their phone every day of my life. It's essential. I like to be on Twitter a lot. I don't really like Instagram. Twitter is very informative, especially because it's the now. It's alive, how people feel. So I check today's trends, the next day's trends. I'm always following trends. Information can come through many different forms: Shade Room, media outlets. In my opinion, today's society is so hooked on the now and your phone that information just comes to you. Sometimes you're sitting there, scrolling down and then boom, breaking news. You become persuaded and that's why I say, in my opinion, some news is biased. We're so stuck with what we see on our timeline as news and information that it can be false information. Some things do need a fact check, nowadays.
What symbolism most represents your online culture?
The wheelchair emoji. That symbolizes me. When people use the wheelchair emoji even on Twitter, they automatically think it's me because I am the King of Wheelchairs. I'm out here on the front lines and I represent everybody in a wheelchair, in my opinion. So when they see those emojis, they see it's a Rolling Ray emoji or somebody will say, "Why are you using that Rolling Ray emoji?" That's my symbol.
Who is the last person you hugged?
The last person I hugged was my guy friend. We hugged off of bad terms, in a way. Because recently, I just thought he was acting different and crazy and so I wanted to hug. Sometimes a hug brings people back together. You need that hug in order to appreciate someone's love. So I said to my friend, "Give me a hug." Because I'm ensuring that I care for you and I love you. That's a good question, oh wow.
Who would you pass the flag onto next?
I'd pass the New World Citizen flag onto someone who's 10 years younger than me in a wheelchair. And I say that because 10 years ago, I didn't know I'd be at this point in my life. I always wanted to be famous, I always wanted to be the King of Wheelchairs, but I would give this flag to someone who I think is going to become someone better than me, or like me in a way. "United We Stand," but we didn't stand, we rode. I'm giving you this flag to show that you can become your own symbol and become the next wheelchair emoji yourself. Don't just think that because you don't have representation that the world is against you. We could be in an even greater pandemic 10 years from now. I want you to always think of this flag as us united together.
Other than Hood By Air, what is HBA an acronym for?
Head Bitch Administration. [Laughs]
Do you exist in real life?
Hell yeah, I exist in real life. I think without me, there would be no citizens in this world. I bring so much to the table. I know my worth, I know myself. If I was to die tomorrow, my symbol that I stand for, that I rode for, would always be remembered. Even when I go outside, I'm thinking about how many people wanna see me, wanna take a picture. Is my outfit OK? Is my look OK? Am I who I want to be? Am I a citizen that can represent myself more than anything?
But I can be bigger than what I am now. I have the cards, I have the personality. I have everything that I want. But if you know yourself, you know when something isn't time to be shone. You as an artist, as a person, you know when you're doing too much and when it's time to tone it down. It's not always about you, the world doesn't revolve around you. I could be bigger, but I choose not to. I need time to brainstorm, time to organize and put my cards on the table. I may have a book of Spades, but I don't have the Ace of Spades yet. So somebody can copy what I do and do it better. My advice to people and myself — music, reality TV, whatever I choose to do or be great at — take your time, be patient. You wanna feel like your worth isn't being taken advantage of, but you have to remain on these people's toes. Purr.
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.