Loving Day is a global movement to create a holiday that celebrates the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. Mr. and Mrs. Loving (below top) were a young couple who were arrested for their interracial marriage, which was illegal in Virginia (as well as in most states at some point). The celebration was founded by Ken Tanabe, a designer, animator, and art director that works in motion, identity, print, experience design, and interactive media for Imaginary Forces, Freestyle Collective, and AKQA. I recently asked Tanabe how this holiday came about and his goals and aspirations.
Can you tell me more about Mr. and Mrs. Loving? The police actually came into their house at night while they were asleep in bed! They fought their case for nine years. On June 12th, 1967, they won the right to get married – not just for themselves, but for all interracial couples nationwide. The Loving decision is a milestone in our civil rights. Today, Loving Day is celebrated by thousands of people in dozens of cities.
How did you become involved in founding this “movement”? As the child of a Japanese father and a Belgian mother, I was moved by the case and strongly believed that it should be as well known as Brown v. Board of Education or the Rosa Parks story. Loving Day was born as a graphic design project. It was my graduate thesis at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City. I came up with the concept, the graphic identity, and other assets like the LovingDay.org website, imagery, and motion graphics. I launched the campaign in 2004 with the website and a small event in New York. Since then, we’ve seen hundreds of Loving Day Celebrations in all shapes and sizes, and excellent press from Time Magazine, NPR, BBC World, and many others.
From your website I see various events have taken place. How do you organize and support them? With the help of over 100 volunteers, I organize the Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City which brings over 1000 guests annually. All of the other Loving Day Celebrations are hosted by organizations and individuals who believe in our mission to fight racial prejudice through education and to build multicultural community. Anyone can host a Celebration, and anyone can share their Loving Day Celebration on LovingDay.org. We provide guidance and ideas to Celebration organizers, and we help them to promote their events. We’ve seen everything from a Loving Day cruise to a Loving Day concert by a Grammy-nominated singer at LACMA. There are plenty of backyard barbecues and picnics as well.
We are told we live in a “post-racial” era. Why do you feel Loving Day is necessary? According the latest numbers from the FBI, about half of all hate crimes are related to race. That’s more than twice the number of hate crimes based on religion, and about triple the number based on sexual orientation. But not all racial prejudice is a burning cross on the front lawn. Many times, it’s your parents disowning you over your choice of life partner. We hear many stories like that on LovingDay.org. Race is a social construct that has been reinforced for hundreds of years. It will take time and effort to make a broad and meaningful change. We believe that Loving Day can be a part of that change through educational initiatives. In addition to the Celebrations, we participate in conferences and present at universities like Harvard, Columbia, NYU, UC Berkeley, and many others. We also believe that the Loving Day tradition builds a community that actively spread a positive message.
Are there still laws or decrees on the books against inter-racial relationships? The last law against interracial marriage was removed from the books in 2000. That was in the Alabama State Constitution. According a poll conducted by the Mobile Register in 2000, 19% of voters were in favor of keeping the law on the books – even though the Loving decision had made it unenforceable since 1967. The law against interracial marriage in South Carolina stayed on the books until 1998. According to a Mason-Dixon poll four months before the vote, 22% of voters were in favor of keeping the law. There was even a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would have banned interracial marriage. People can learn more about this history at http://lovingday.org/learn
What has been the most surprising, indeed gratifying, thing to come from your lobbying effort? The most gratifying thing about Loving Day has been seeing communities, including the multiethnic community, come together. When I launched the project, it was mostly about education. I totally underestimated the number of people and the passion from people who would support this new tradition. Building community is now a key part of our mission along with education. People choose to get married on Loving Day – an idea that came from the community. A woman got the Loving Day logo tattooed on her arm. Loving Day was officially recognized in Mr. and Mrs. Loving’s home town of Caroline County, VA. Right now we’re asking people to write letters to the President in a campaign for national recognition of Loving Day. That might be the most gratifying surprise of them all.