The streets of NY have been full of protesters since the disappointing and disgusting decision not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner, an unarmed New Yorker. Protests have also sprung up all over the world around the murder of Garner, as well as those of Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, and far too many others. This is a time for many of us to feel sad, angry, heartbroken, and helpless.
I, myself, have attended a protest that started in Union Square and ended up at the Rockefeller tree lighting. I was relieved to see such a huge crowd of supporters, but utterly dismayed to see tourists and Christmas tree enthusiasts yelling at us, starting fights with us, and, even worse, being completely apathetic to our presence. I left angry and sad and scared.
I should really attend more protests. I feel so strongly about this, and yet, I’ve only been to one.
Crowds of citizens protesting the deaths of unarmed Black men and women are a reality of life in New York City and the world at large. The library would be remiss to not comment on the demonstrations or the killings. It’s just not always clear to me how to tackle the subject.
I’ve made displays about other sensitive topics: body image, racism, LGBTQ pride, and self-care, but this one seems harder to bring up. And who am I to bring up the topic anyway? What am I trying to say, exactly? Do I think the teens aren’t talking about it? Maybe they just don’t want to talk about it around me.
My attempt may be awkward, but, here it is.
I made a display called An Incomplete and Brief History of Protests, Riots, and Uprisings. I wanted to show that protests are not a new phenomenon. They are not just an American institution. They are led by and for the interests of men and women, queer people and straight people, those who are Black or white, young and old. It’s been happening since before the dawn of this country.
I see a lot of apathy concerning protests: “Why? What is the point? What does it accomplish?” And yet: The Storming of the Bastille, though only a few prisoners were released, brought about an entire revolution. The Boston Tea Party accomplished the same. The Salt March opened up the world’s eyes to Indian, not British, interests. The Great March on Washington gave the world the “I Have a Dream” speech. The Woman’s Suffrage Parade raised $14,000 (in 1913 dollars!) and women were afforded the right to vote only seven years later. Walls were brought down. Rights were granted. The world was made to listen to voices that were being silenced. There were real, tangible results to these protests.
Now, looking at this display I’m wondering if I should have made a bigger statement, huge signs that say #BlackLivesMatter or #ICantBreathe. Certainly, in (mostly) liberal Brooklyn, they wouldn’t be out of place. I don’t know. Maybe I chickened out. I suppose I didn’t want it to look like I was telling the teens what to think. I simply wanted to provide access to this history and let them figure out what they needed to themselves.
In any case, here is the display, along with some visuals I made if you want to steal them to make something bigger and badder and better. They are yours if you want them.
This was put up in the Young Adult section. I hope it starts some dialogue, even if I’m not there to hear it.
And now, the visuals I made (using my old friend, PicMonkey). The text is mercilessly and shamelessly cut-and-pasted and Frankensteined from all over the place. I tried to make these historical events accessible and clear to teen readers.