The good more than overshadowing the bad on Monroe Avenue and Liberty Pole Way

The good more than overshadowing the bad on Monroe Avenue and Liberty Pole Way

Monroe Avenue, 6/6/20. Jon Finlayson @JawnType (left) and Justin Suarez @aerosolkingdom. Except where indicated, all photos by David Kramer

This past week and today I went to four solidarity demonstrations: in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square, on West Main Street and at Liberty Pole Way. At each rally, the speakers were strong and the messages loud and clear. The rallies celebrated hope, community and empowerment.

A Black Lives Matter solidarity rally with commentary from Kholaa and a walk down Joseph Avenue drew a trajectory from Joseph Avenue in 1964 to the Hall of Justice today.

Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 5/30/31 (left) Geary Bka Kholaa recording Tian Stephens’ recitation of Frederick Douglass’ “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” (right) Olivia Kim’s statue of Douglass on Corinthian Street (off State Street). The plaque reads, “Corinthian Street. The site of Douglass’ renowned Fourth of July speech.”  From A Black Lives Matter solidarity rally with commentary from Kholaa and a walk down Joseph Avenue

We heard Kholaa’s impassioned story about why she came to the demonstration and what it meant to her. Khoalaa was back at the silent protest across from the Monroe County Office Building.

6/5/20, 4:30pm. Geary Bka Kholaa at the Black Lives STILL Matter demonstration on West Main Street across from the Monroe County Office Building. Near the end of the rally, demonstrators gathered in front of a line of police officers. The demonstrators attempted to engage in a dialogue with the police who apparently were told to stay silent. From A Black Lives Matter solidarity rally with commentary from Kholaa and a walk down Joseph Avenue

On West Main and at the Liberty Pole, Adrian Elim, artist, filmmaker, community organizer and founder of Rochester Black Pride, told the large crowd that all black lives matter, explaining that we need to stand up for ALL black lives: women, men, lgbtq, differently abled, homeless, everybody.¹ Adrian exhorted us to practice love and radical honesty.

6/5/20. Adrian Elim with an interpreter for the Deaf at the Black Lives STILL Matter demonstration on West Main Street across from the Monroe County Office Building.

6/6/20. Adrian Elim addressing a large crowd gathered at the Liberty Pole, downtown Rochester.

During the time between last Saturday’s demonstrations and the ones today, VILLA and the trashing of a movement, lamented the looting of the VILLA Clothing store on Franklin Street across from the Liberty Pole.

6/2/20. Sadly, the WARNING sign did not deter the looters. From VILLA and the trashing of a movement

The looting felt especially disappointing because five years earlier, Area Manager Rickey Hunley proudly explained the store’s  “Join the Movement” campaign and its mission to revitalize urban communities by supporting economic investments, educational opportunities and exposure to multi-cultural experiences, heroes, and other inspirational figures.

Villa

David Kramer (left) with Rickey Hunley. [Photo: Gabrielle Ellis, management, downtown VILLA, September, 2015] Rickey loaned me an “I Matter” shirt. From VILLA and the trashing of a movement

In the headline, “the bad” refers to the looting that occurred after last Saturday’s peaceful rallies at Manhattan Square and the Public Safety Building. From the outset, often quoting MLK, organizers denounced the vandalism and violence, organizing clean ups beginning the very next day. Fortunately, I’ve heard of no more instances of looting in Rochester.

Inside entrance, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School No. 9, 485 North Clinton Avenue [6/9/20]

Today, outside VILLA was a much more positive image: a table where volunteers registered voters. King knew that the ballot box was one fundamental tool of change, far overshadowing the self-defeating violence of looting that often hurts the very citizens for whom change is meant to help.

6/6/20. David Kramer at the voter registration table outside VILLA. [Photo: volunteer Michele Spagnola]

One on my all time favorite — and well received — stories was Seriously, where can I get a shave and hair cut? And the nine barbershops on Upper Monroe Avenue. I am amplified my shaggy look, going in search of a shave and hair cut on Monroe Avenue.

(left) 4/23/20. David Kramer [photo: coronacop]; (right) Seinfeld – The Kramer Portrait, caption: “He is a loathsome, offensive brute, yet I can’t look away” (pinterest). The placard for the mug-shot-like photo — Wanted Failure to wear mask during bank robbery — is the brainchild of Leslie Kramer. At one point, all members of the Kramer family owned The Kramer Portrait. From Seriously, where can I get a shave and hair cut? And the nine barbershops on Upper Monroe Avenue

Of course, neither were to be found!

Today, on the way back from Liberty Pole Way, along with a few other boarded up businesses, I saw two barbershops and a women’s salon apparently damaged and vandalized.

676 Monroe Ave. Dandedeville Barber and Beauty Shop. On the windows is spray painted, Black Lives Matter, a mindless gestures that undermine what is otherwise an important and laudable guiding slogan. See Seriously, where can I get a shave and hair cut? And the nine barbershops on Upper Monroe Avenue

B.K. HAIR SALON, 463 Monroe Ave next to Furat Al Atlace Barber Shop. Furat Al Atlace was open, but B.K’s door was covered and the boarded up window next door indicates the salon many have been a target. See Seriously, where can I get a shave and hair cut? And the nine barbershops on Upper Monroe Avenue

Blinking Pretty on 658 Monroe posted signs in support the Black Lives Matter movement, including ones written, “Black Owned.” Apparently, the signs did not deter vandals or looters as the salon is closed; boards are installed inside its windows.

6/6/20. Blinking Pretty, 658 Monroe Avenue

THE GOOD.

Fortunately, most of the barbershops and salons are undamaged and open for business.  Today, I met two local artists, Jon Finlayson @JawnType and Justin Suarez @aerosolkingdom.

For a week or so, Jon and Justin wanted to express solidarity with the movement. Familiar with many Monroe Ave businesses, they contacted several owners who very receptive to the idea of supportive artwork on their walls.  Many passing drivers honked their horns in approval.

Neno’s Gourmet Mexican Street Food, 640 Monroe Avenue

Neno’s owner selected his wording — Tu Lucha Es Mi Lucha — while the others had Jon and Justin choose the images and lettering.  These wall artists expect to complete five or six paintings/mural, and as many more as people want.

6/6/20. 644 Monroe Avenue. By Jon Finlayson @JawnType and Justin Suarez @aerosolkingdom.

The paintings will more than overshadow and outlast the damage done by looting and vandalism.

¹ Originally, I used the more generic phrase, all lives matter (without quotes), to characterize Adrian’s message of inclusion: change requires black and white people working collectively.

Reader Amanda Rampe rightfully pointed out:

Let’s be clear, Adrian did not say “all lives matter” it was “all black lives matter” to explain that we need to stand up for ALL black lives (women, men, lgbtq, differently abled, homeless, everybody)

Amanda is right that using the generic term, all lives matter, to a degree blunts the power of Adrian’s message; he is referring to oppressions faced by black people. For me, the power of Adrian’s message is also that it calls for us to stand up for groups often unheard or unseen in both black and white communities: the underclass and the socially marginalized.

For an extensive discussion of the rallies, including excerpts from Adrian Elim’s speech, see Will Cleveland and Tracy Schuhmacher’s “Thousands take to Rochester streets in anti-racism demonstrations Saturday” (D & C, 6/7/20). Will and Tracy also noticed the lettering in Spanish — Tu Lucha Es Mi Lucha — on the wall of Neno’s Gourmet Mexican Street Food.

SEE ALSO

Adrian, University of Rochester ’13, reminds me of another UR alum, Justin Delinois, who also spoke at the Liberty Pole.

For Justin Delinois, all roads led to the Liberty Pole Way. And beyond.

What is it to be “Woke?”

VILLA and the trashing of a movement

A Black Lives Matter solidarity rally with commentary from Kholaa and a walk down Joseph Avenue

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

4 Comments

  1. Concerned Citizen

    The interpreter is not deaf. God.

    • dkramer3@naz.edu

      According to the Deaf Interpretation Institute: A Deaf Interpreter is a specialist who provides interpreting, translation, and transliteration services in American Sign Language and other visual and tactual communication forms used by individuals who are Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and Deaf-Blind.

      So I think the term used was accurate.

      • dkramer3@naz.edu

        ps After seeing the language used by the Deaf Interpretation Institute, I capitalized “Deaf Interpreter.” So, ultimately, even though your comment is snarky, it did lead to an improvement. Thanks. By the way, “God,” why are you sending me messages. Is this like that tv show “God Friended Me?”

  2. dkramer3@naz.edu

    I stand a little bit corrected. I spoke with a woman who worked at NTID. She said the term “Deaf Interpreter” is not inaccurate, however, it’s more a term used by the previous generation. Today’s generation would say, “an interpreter for the Deaf.” So I amended.

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