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Dear Pepsi... Sincerely, an Activist.

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Dear Pepsi... Sincerely, an Activist.

What made you think profiting off of pain and exhaustion was okay?

Yasmin Younis

4.12.17

As an activist, my immediate thought after watching Pepsi’s most recent (and controversial) advertisement was, “What. The. F***.” I say this for a few reasons, the most prominent of which being that this advertisement is NOT an accurate representation of what a protest is like from an activist’s perspective.

There are certain stills where protestors are partying and enjoying themselves while protesting. Even though I do feel a certain rush every time I march or chant alongside my fellow activists, it’s not out of happiness or joy. In fact, all we feel is pain. We are tired of being ignored. We are tired of being ostracized. We are tired of being bothered. We are just tired.


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A company as large as Pepsi attempting to profit off of exhaustion, alienation, and frustration disgusts me. On top of that, it infuriates me as to how misconstrued the advertisement is. The image of Kendall Jenner handing a Pepsi to an officer as a symbol of peace made me think of two interactions I’ve had with the police as an activist, and I assure you they were never like that.

In November of 2014, I marched alongside thousands in St. Louis. As a Black Lives Matter collective, we successfully shut down one of the biggest highways in St. Louis.

The day began with me writing the emergency hotline number on my arm in fear of getting arrested for exercising my right to protest and ended with witnessing police brutality a mere three feet away from me.

My friends had to drag me away to ensure that we would not be separated or attacked. From the front lines, I witnessed peaceful protestors getting maced and beaten. The screams of pain and agony from beaten protestors still haunt me to this day.


A couple holding onto each other, screaming "stop" and crying, while getting beaten with batons.

These officers did not wear blue uniforms like the officers in the advertisement. They were adorned in riot gear: helmets, shields, masks, batons, etc. They looked as though they were going to fight a war, when in reality they were just facing thousands of peaceful protestors sitting on a highway.

On Black Friday of that same year, I was threatened with arrest for participating in a Black Lives Matter “die-in.” I, alongside hundreds of others, simply laid down in the middle of West County Mall to symbolize the deaths of Black Lives all across the country to prove that we are not in a post-racial world. In response to peacefully lying down, I, a 5 foot 18-year-old (at the time), was perceived to be a threat who should be arrested. The police were not standing there, staring at us like they were in the advertisement. They yelled at us, intimidated us, and harassed us.

They didn’t give a shit about our pain and our frustration, they just wanted to get rid of us.

To this day I still feel fearful of the police, especially when I participate in or organize actions, and I am not alone. This fear is etched on our faces through our expressions, through the pain in our voices when chanting, or through our desperate attempts to hold onto each other in fear of being separated or arrested.


A man crying in pain after being maced in the face.

Next time you try to make an advertisement to promote peace, do not be ignorant. Do not try to use your product as a symbol for peace because your product has nothing to do with our struggle. Do not try to profit from our pain and exhaustion and use a protest as your main setting because a protest is not sunshine and rainbows like you imagined. Do not romanticize our reality because that is a slap in the face.

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