Lift every chair and swing: Why folding chairs are the symbol of the season
As more and more videos of the “Alabama brawl” surface, folding chairs have become a fashionable new emblem of resistance.
You get a chair, and you get a chair, and you get a chair!
Following the viral dockside incident in Montgomery, Alabama, this week, the Black community is coming together on social media to sing “lift every chair and swing!”
Over the weekend, videos of a chaotic brawl that took place on the Montgomery Riverfront on Aug. 5 began circulating on social media. If you somehow managed to miss it, the fight stemmed from a dispute about a parking space along the dock at Riverfront Park when a group of white revelers attacked a Black riverboat co-captain asking them to move their illegally parked boat. As Black onlookers rushed en masse to the man’s defense, suffice it to say; things didn’t turn out quite as the boaters expected.
In true Black Twitter style, users across all social media platforms found joy in the resulting melee, many seeing it as a minor form of reparations for the Black community. And as various angles of the racially divided fight emerged, social media users were especially fixated on one Black man’s use of a folding chair as a defense weapon.
The classic folding chair, often used as seating at Black gatherings from cookouts to card games to church gatherings, has now found new fame more akin to its longheld use in pro wrestling. While folding chairs have existed for well over a century, a Black man named Nathaniel Alexander from Lynchburg, Virginia, is one of the first and few to patent a folding chair design. In 2021, designer Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss highlighted the ingenuity of Alexander and other Black inventors behind modern-day items in the brand’s Fall 2021 couture show. Now, in light of the racially charged altercation in Alabama, the Black community is seeing the use of the folding chair as a full-circle moment.
Just as Alexander created his spin on the folding chair in 1911, Black folks have been doing the same online since the release of the viral video. From remixes of the Negro National Anthem to rap songs to comedic reenactments, the incident on the Alabama riverfront has showcased the Black community’s immense creativity. So much so that an entire cottage merchandise industry has emerged, inspired by the viral moment — specifically, the now-infamous folding chair.
If you’re one of the many looking for a way to commemorate the “Alabama Sweet Tea Party,” here are a few enterprising vendors who’ll ensure you are always strapped with a folding chair and never forget the events of Aug. 5.
From hats to crewnecks to stickers, Cltrwrk has created a whole collection of merchandise featuring a white folded chair design and various slogans like “The Alabama Slamma” and “Make chairs great again.”
This Black woman-owned Etsy shop is turning folding chairs into a fashion statement with custom folding chair earrings. They may not help you in a fight, but they will undoubtedly be a hit at the next cookout.
In the viral video, the co-captain throws his black baseball cap into the air as he is attacked. Seconds later, Black onlookers run to his defense. Since then, Black social media users have deemed the black cap an assembly call — a Black bat signal, if you will. SmallingWear combines the symbolism of the hat and folding chair with its “Don’t start nothing won’t be nothing” cap.
Jasmine Green, the artist behind Black Girl Absolute, created a folding chair earring design embellished with the phrase “Try Me” in the center, making it both the perfect accessory and warning sign.
Inspired by a quote from Shirley Chisholm’s autobiography, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair,” the B.Y.O.C. (Bring Your Own Chair) pin honors both the past and the present.
Inspired by social media’s designated slogan for the brawl, this Etsy shop sells an acrylic keychain featuring a folding chair and engraved acronym “FAAFO,” which stands for “F*** around and find out.”
From the brawl’s unofficial slogan, “F*** around and find out,” to the folding chair moment, All Things Euphoria has shirts commemorating social media’s favorite Alabama brawl moments.
Haniyah Philogene is a multimedia storyteller and Lifestyle reporter covering all things culture. With a passion for digital media, she goes above and beyond to find new ways to tell and share stories.
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