Monday, June 1 – Sunday, June 7
The Week in Pandemic vs. Protests: In this week of protests, I found it difficult to keep our other national tragedy in my head, that is the pandemic. It’s still here, of course. We’d all just been tentatively coming out of our houses when the protests took hold and sent us right back inside. Businesses closed again. As the week went on though, and tensions decreased, we tried again.
On Saturday morning I walked to Findlay Market, which was quiet for a Saturday but not empty. On the way I poked my head into the used record store on Main to say “hi” to the owner, one of my people I used to see out and about a couple times a week but haven’t seen since March. Then, I interrupted an OTR Underground Tour (which I NEVER DO) to say “hi” to the tour guide, another friend of mine that I hadn’t seen since March. By Sunday I was able to sit at an outdoor table and have a beer with a subset of the regulars at Knockback Nats. Oh, last call was at 5:30. It’s like an Amish bar now. 😉
Not much about seeing these folks, or having a drink was normal, but it’ll get me there for now.
The Week in Supporting: Over the course of the week I spoke to several neighbors about what it was like for us to live in the neighborhood where many of the protests and clashes have taken place. This is the densely populated area within a few blocks radius from the Court House and the Justice Center.
Neighbors are weary of the sirens, the level of uncertain activity, and, especially the presence of the police helicopter. But, by and large, we are so supportive of the cause that we believe our minor inconveniences are nothing. We believe that BLM is important for our entire community and to achieve that goal, some of us need to suck it up and let the people most effected and those with the most energy take the lead.
The Week in the Art of Protest: Many businesses boarded their windows last weekend in anticipation of violence that, thankfully, did not materialize. The boarded up storefronts gave the streets a desperate look reminiscent of the days when the city was in economic decline. By mid-week though, the artists of the community began using the plywood as large easels filling the streets with beautiful and poignant art and messages.
One of my favorites, because of its simplicity and intimacy, can be found on a building opposite St. Mary’s Church. I saw but cannot find the video on Facebook of one of the young nun’s from the Church on a ladder spray painting her simple, raw messages of hope. On the video she is alone, moving the ladder from window to window. I don’t know if she had church permission to spray paint “God is Love,” and and so on, but her and her conscience were most definitely answering to a higher power. Also, I would watch a movie about a rogue nun who goes on an inspirational tagging spree.
Here are some other messages and art:
The Week in a Change is Gonna Come: Last weekend Cincinnati was a tinder box of emotion in the wake of the murders by police officers of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Even on Monday as protesters once again marched through the city during business hours the situation on the ground was crackling. Part of this tension can absolutely be traced to the incompetence of the White House and the inflammatory messages and authoritative actions taken by the President on Monday.
On Tuesday, all four of the officers in the George Floyd’s murder were finally charged. The criminal charge against man who crushed Mr. Floyd’s neck while Mr. Floyd screamed “I Can’t Breathe” was upped to second degree manslaughter. The protests were working and the tide seemed to be turning. Here in Cincinnati, the curfew was moved from 8 pm to 11 pm. There were smallish events during the day and early evening. Protesters came out every day and then went home. On Saturday and Sunday, large, very peaceful protests were held downtown and across the Tristate. Even our whitest, most conservative suburbs held some form of protest.
The pictures below are from the Sunday afternoon rally downtown. Unlike many previous events, this one was well organized. It attracted a diverse group of people who vented their anger at the system in the most democratic way possible.
Personally, I was honored to support this cause and to see so many of my neighbors turn out in the name of justice and change. The sheer number of people allowed voices to be heard that have been suppressed or silenced. Showing up in force could pave the way for this energetic, smart, and compassionate generation to make some positive change.
The Week in the Community: I wanted to post this picture separately. I’ve been taking heat all week for daring to give the Cincinnati Police Department (Not the Sheriff’s department) praise for their part in this week’s civil discord. I am fully aware they made mistakes, but as a resident and supporter of the protesters and their message, I am generally pleased with the CPD. At today’s rally officers were handing out masks. I saw a lot of positive interaction between citizens and officers. In the hood, we are familiar with our beat cops, and they are not our enemy. The structure of policing in America is fundamentally flawed and needs a complete overall. The idea all cops are bad is as ludicrous as all cops are good.
The Week in Anthems: A few months ago, out of the blue, I started thinking about Sam Cooke’s amazingly haunting Civil Rights anthem, A Change is Gonna Come. Recorded in 1963, Cooke wrote the song after he and his band were turned away from Whites Only hotel in Shreveport, LA. Heavily influenced by another Civil Rights anthem, Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind, Cooke felt he wanted to personally address the racism he experienced.
He had the song fully orchestrated, more than a typical pop song, and the music of the three verses sounds like a small symphony. He only performed the song live once because of the complexity of the arrangement and the dark message he felt the song carried. A Change is Gonna Come seems like the perfect song for our still very imperfect world.