(CNN) – Congressional Democrats wore stoles made of Kente cloth during a moment of silence for George Floyd, drawing criticism from observers who felt they made the traditional African textile into a political prop.
About two dozen Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds at the Capitol's Emancipation Hall as a tribute to Floyd on Monday. Most of them were seen wearing Kente cloths during the moment of silence as well as during a subsequent news conference.
The wearing of the Kente cloths drew criticism from a University of Oxford researcher who saw the move as performative.
"My ancestors did not invent Kente cloth for them to be worn by publicity (obsessed) politicians as 'activism' in 2020," Jade Bentil, a Ghanaian-Nigerian researcher at University of Oxford, tweeted.
Kente cloth is believed to have been produced as early as 1000 B.C. among the Akan and Ewe peoples of Western African in modern-day Ghana and Togo, according to the African American Intellectual History Society.
Each color holds a special meaning. Gold symbolizes status/serenity, green means renewal, blue means pure spirit/harmony, red is passion and black is union with ancestors/spiritual awareness, the society said.
Other observers from the journalism and entertainment worlds added to Bentil's criticism, arguing that the lawmakers were just using the cloth as a political prop.
"Standing in front of a church and holding up a bible you never read for a photo op is no different than kneeling in kente cloth you never wear for a photo op," Charles Robinson, a sports reporter for Yahoo tweeted, referring to the now infamous moment when President Donald Trump held up a Bible at St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo-op last week.