The large tree-lined boulevard in my neighborhood, 34th Avenue, is closed to traffic every day so people have enough socially distanced space to walk and bike and get some air. This past Sunday, a local teenager decided to organize a chalk-writing Black Lives Matter event. At 2:30, the kids began gathering on the corner of 72nd St., grabbed some multi-colored chalk, and wrote their feelings all over the sidewalk. Little kids were there with their parents too; like the small girl at right in the drawing above, holding her “Justice for George Floyd” sign.
Black Lives Matter! was the most written statement; although some of the kids wrote the names of their heroes of color, such as the young man who painstakingly wrote the name of JAMES BALDWIN in all caps.
Using the painted crosswalk of the street as a guide, the teenagers wrote out all of the names of people killed since the Black Lives Matter movement began; the list, sadly, stretched all the way across the four lane street.
The kids were out there on a beautiful day, enjoying each other’s company and the feeling of solidarity that comes with joining together for a common – and peaceful – purpose. Suddenly a cranky old New Yorker yelled through his window down at the group: “I’m sick of all of this! ALL lives matter! ALL lives Matter!” The response was swift – the kids quickly located his window and hollered back at him in unison: “BLACK LIVES MATTER!BLACK LIVES MATTER! BLACK LIVES MATTER!” The words of purpose rose up and surrounded his little jeers, and, without showing his face, he shut the window and went away.
One of the girls announced, “I’m writing this on the sidewalk right in front of his window, just for him to see every day:
ALL LIVES CAN’T MATTER UNTIL BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
I saw George Floyd’s close friend on the news one evening, holding George’s 5-year-old daughter on his shoulders as she cried out, “My Daddy changed the world!” On the day of his funeral, thinking of how these kids pushed back and asserted peacefully that Black Lives Matter, I’m beginning to have hope that it’s true.