Ever since the two-hour American Ninja Warrior Women's Championship special aired on May 9, 2021, people have been a) in total awe, because the episode showcased some of the strongest, most badass women on the planet, and b) thinking about Jessie Graff's shoulder tattoo. We can't help it, we think Jessie is awesome and we are so intrigued by her tat!
The episode showed 12 women competing in the first-ever Women's Championship, and while Meagan Martin won the championship (she took home $50,000 as a prize, along with her trophy), people were busy googling "what is Jessie Graff's tattoo." Because priorities. And because we haven't noticed the tattoo before. We did a little digging, and here's what you need to know, tat-obsessed friends.
What's Jessie Graff's tattoo on her shoulder all about?
Jessie Graff's tattoo is a Black Lives Matter tattoo that states "Ninjas for Black Lives," and it features the BLM symbol of a raised, clenched fist. This is considered to be a Black Power symbol and stems from the Black Panther Party, which was used in the 1960s. It seems like it's actually a temporary tattoo that she wears for special occasions, as she wore it back in November 2020 on the final episode of American Ninja Warrior Season 12.
In an October 2020 Instagram post, you can see that the tattoo is no longer there (and we're assuming this photo was taken after the series finale).
In an Instagram post, Jessie stated that she's part of a group called Ninjas for Black Lives, and that they are "raising funds for @naacp_ldf - Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans." You can check out Ninjas for Black Lives here.
The Ninjas for Black Lives Instagram page states that its mission is "Coming together to support people of color and overcome racial disparities through education, dialogue and fundraising." Read the full mission statement here:
What's the meaning behind the fist? According to this article that breaks down the full meaning and history of the raise, Black, clenched fist, the image first "debuts as a symbol of revolutionary spirit," and actually goes all the way back to the 19th century. However, it became a more universally understood symbol in the '60s when members of the Black Panther Party used it to spread their message.
"In the 1960s, the Black power movement used it as a gesture to represent the struggle for civil rights," Margaret Chadbourn wrote for ABC News.
The article also explains how it was recently reclaimed by the BLM movement: "Although it never stopped being a symbol of Black pride, the clenched fist (also known as the BLM fist) has made a major comeback with Black Lives Matter supporters of all races, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 by a White policeman who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes."
It's empowering to see that Jessie stands for equality and is pushing for a movement that matters now, then, and always. A literal Amazonian warrior fighting for justice IRL (Jessie played one of the warriors on Themyscira in Wonder Woman 1984, in case you didn't know). Badass.
If you are looking for ways to donate your time or money to Black Lives Matter and other antiracist organizations, we have created a list of resources to get you started.