On Thursday, OneUnited Bank announced a new limited-edition Black History Month version of its Visa debit card. The card features a rendition of famed American abolitionist and Underground Railroad member Harriet Tubman with her arms folded across her chest, commissioned work by Miami-based artist Addonis Parker.
But when the bank announced the new card on Twitter, reactions were swift and critical.
Some who commented on the design said they assumed the project had been led by a clueless white marketing team. Many interpreted Tubman’s crossed arms as the “Wakanda Forever” salute from the Marvel film Black Panther.
According to Parker, however, his portrait of Tubman was intended to convey the American Sign Language symbol for “love.” He told Adweek that he started the painting in 2016 (two years before Black Panther’s release) when the Obama administration’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Harriet Tubman would be the new face on the $20 bill. That decision was delayed last year by Lew’s replacement Stephen Mnuchin,