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