By Remi Newman
Revolutionary Student, Activist, Health Educator
The night the world learned of George Floyd’s murder I sat in bed watching live video of the protests in Minneapolis. I felt I should be out there protesting. That sitting in the comfort of my home watching was not enough. It wasn’t long before protests spread to other cities and when I heard there was something happening in Santa Rosa, I said no excuses. It’s time to stand up.
I began making connections on social media with local activists. If I heard there was a protest, I would find out who was organizing it so I could reach out and see if they needed help. I connected with a co- worker and we came up with the simple idea of buying materials so people could make protest signs. We are both white and felt like our place was to support and uplift the movement led by people of color.
Ally is a verb. Thinking about and being aware of racism is important for those of us who live with white privilege, but it’s not sufficient to end racism. That takes action.
We organized a time to meet at Rincon Valley Park and make protest signs with other families in the neighborhood in the hopes of displaying them somewhere in the community. One woman who was there making signs with her two sons messaged the principal of Sequoia middle school and quickly got a reply back giving us permission to post the signs on the fence at the school.
We fortified the signs with duct tape and zip tied them to the fence. Over time we added more signs. At first a few were vandalized, torn down. We made repairs. One night they were all torn down, but left there on the ground. Neighbors found them and took them home to repair and hang them back up.
We quickly moved from thinking about protest signs to public art- murals, where people could express their emotions and speak up for racial justice. We began reaching out to local BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) artists. We raised money. With three local artists we started SCAPE-Sonoma County Artists Propelling Equity, with the plan to create murals with a message of social justice and equity.
It is easy to get overwhelmed with the injustice in the world. To wonder what could I possibly do to help. I feel that way sometimes- that we have made a horrible mess of this human race experiment, creating a system based on greed and hatred rather than cooperation and compassion. Where do you begin when the foundation is rotten?
So, I come back to what is possible. Where can I make a difference right here, right now, in my own community? I began following local politics closely as I followed the protest movement. There is so much work to be done right here in Sonoma County. And lots of amazing smart compassionate people who have been doing the work for years.
The artists were already here. We just helped lift them up.
To see SCAPE’s first mural project-- Trinity, check out the outside wall of 3 Disciples Brewing at Ross Street and Mendocino Avenue in downtown Santa Rosa. Depicted are three local women of color, Bernice Espinoza- an immigrant right’s attorney, Rose Hammock – activist and educator in the Indigenous community and Joy Ayodele- student activist.
For more info or to support SCAPE, go to https://www.socoimm.org/public-art/scape/