On November 9, 2016 Rafia Santana began ordering meals for people of color using donations from white people collected through social Facebook from food delivery services such as Grubhub. Santana’s use of new technology and social media is a common aspect of her art practice, which has been featured on Rhizome, so it is powerful to see her leverage her brand as an artist and to feed others. It is important to note that these are not only meals for those who are going through particularly hard times, but also for the average person who is going through the everyday trauma of being marginalized in America. “So many people have hit me up saying “But it’s okay if someone else needs it more” IF YOU HUNGRY, YOU NEED IT. Survival and self-care are of utmost importance and we need to #stayfed to stay strong. There is money in the account, We’ll handle it. Just come thru,” shared Rafia Santana via Facebook on November 12, 2016.
This started when Santana posted a status asking if a white friend could “PostMate” her some NyQuil and Soup, facetiously adding the question “Is this how it works?”
On November 11, Rafia shared a status which summed up her progress to that point, “I was sick, cranky, and hustling *yall for some nyquil gels and 44 hours later for some reason i have raised 2 thousand dollars & sent over 50 Seamless orders to Black / Brown folx all across the country… from my bed. y’all wild lol.” Within the span of a few days Santana raised several thousand dollars which has equaled to around 150 meals within this week thus far. Check out the interview below to learn more about #PAYBLACKTiME
FELT Zine: You are known as a very talented artist who works in both performance and new media art. Does this project relate to your art practice, if so, how, and if not, how do you see this labor?
Rafia Santana: It’s been a while now that I noticed that white people really admire my personality, my talent, and the many ways I entertain them. Many black people monetize their white influence for survival but those whose blackness doesn’t entertain or impress the white gaze don’t have the same access to that resource. I also noticed a lot of white people want to do good for black & brown folks (or at the very least they want to be seen doing good for us) but they can’t empathize and connect with us and, when they try, still cause harm to people of color because it’s built into everyday social customs to do so. Many white people don’t understand this. However, they do understand money transference and the necessity of a proper meal. Food is of utmost importance to survival, and it’s one of my favorite things in life lol. I know all about what not having a meal does to a person. My job with #PAYBLACKTiME is to be the middle-maven and show white folks an easy way to make a real difference to people of color by providing the funds used to relieve some of our collective stress of living under white supremacy.
Included in the structure of this project are several avenues of my art practice: graphic design, printing, storytelling (crafting Facebook posts to reach more people), marketing, stencil-making, public service. It’s all labor. It’s all art. It’s all survival.
I will continue to grow this program as long as people continue donating. I hope they do.
FZ: What is the significance behind the name #PAYBLACKTiME?
RS: Pay Black Time is a play on the phrase “Payback Time,” and also a demand to pay back black people for the hundreds of years of free labor and continuing trauma in the US alone. It is time to pay back / pay black.
FZ: What was your inspiration?
RS: My inspiration was my hunger and my need to be taken care of, knowing that other black/brown people need to be taken care of; and seeing that white people are willing to give me money (more than random black people who don’t have the little bit of clout that I do) and I’m just spreading it to those who don’t have as much access to white money.
FZ: What has been the most difficult part of this process?
RS: I think the most difficult part has been customer service on my part. It gets a little like Diner Dash, especially when things go wrong with the websites. So far all of the delivery services froze my accounts. GrubHub / Seamless is the only company that looked into it afterward, unfroze my account, called me to let me know that they thought it was a cool thing I’m doing, and explained why I was frozen (on paper it looks like fraud, it probably looks like I’m getting scammed). They also threw in a couple of coupon codes for my trouble. I’m just using those two apps after that.
Right now I’m dealing with PayPal charging me fees for every donation because so much money has passed through the account that the system detected me as a “seller” when I’m just taking money from people and using it personally. I Spent an hour on the phone with customer service doing that.
Other than that, it just gets a little hectic taking orders around lunch and dinner [laughs].
FZ: It seems like this is turning into a full time job…
RS: Yeah it’s good to have something to do that keeps me busy and feeds my soul at the same time.
For anyone looking to donate to #PAYBLACKTiME read Rafia Santana’s note:
“All orders are paid for by the White Guilt Reparations Fund for white people who ask “What can I do?” during a time when we have heavily publicized evidence of their race’s direct connection to the continuous suffering and disenfranchisement of Black / Brown people globally. YOU CAN HELP in alleviating our stress by putting $ into my PayPal.me/rafiasworld/20 the account I use to pay for the delivery orders. It is an easy, bare minimum action that has a major impact on real living people. It’s TANGiBLE, it’s DiRECT, it’s iMMEDIATE, it’s #PAYBLACKTiME”