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Community Spotlight: How Main Streets are Standing Up Right Now

June 4, 2020 | Community Spotlight: How Main Streets are Standing Up Right Now | By: Abby Armato, NMSC Communications Coordinator | 
6_4_HowMainStreetsAreRespondingNow_Blog.pngThe Marc in Downtown San Marcos, Texas (Photo credit: Downtown San Marcos)

“Main Streets can be a force for good in addressing the challenge of racial inequity,” wrote NMSC’s President and CEO Patrice Frey in a recent letter to the Network. As the country mourns the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and countless others, Main Street programs across the nation are responding to these tragedies by using their platforms to stand up for racial justice and equity. From sharing anti-racism resources to sending updates on peaceful protests, these Main Streets are amplifying the voices and initiatives of anti-racism activism in their community. 

Marquee Messages. At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Main Street theaters used their marquees to share words of encouragement (and safety precautions) to their downtown districts. This time, marquees are once again sharing messages of solidarity. In Downtown San Marcos, the marquee on a local music venue and nightclub, the Marc, now glows with three words to live by: “Unity. Respect. Equality.” To help spread the word, the Main Street program shared an image of this marquee on their Instagram account (pictured above). View it here.

A Space for Solidarity. Encinitas 101 Main Street in California thanked the surfing community for creating a space for solidarity in their district. Hundreds of surfers joined the “Paddle Out for Unity in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter” event hosted by three surfing organizations, two of which were co-founded by Black surfers. The event began with attendees spelling out the word “unity” with their surfboards on Encinitas’s Moonlight Beach. “In the surfing community, we paddle out when we lose a loved one,” wrote the Main Street program, “and that’s just what we did yesterday. We mourned for all the black lives lost.” Learn more about this event here, and view photos from the event here.

Anti-Racism Reading Lists. It’s incumbent upon each of us to expand our understanding of ourselves and others. The Montclair Center in New Jersey is sharing resources for those who are diving into that work by sharing a list of anti-racism reads from their local library. This list includes both fiction and non-fiction books, as well as books for all ages, “to help us understand and examine the hows and whys society is structured as it is and how we can change ourselves and our policies to the benefit of all.” Their list includes:

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • I am Enough by Grace Byers
  • On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by DeRay Mckesson

Murals Demanding Justice.
A new mural on the exterior walls of Pho Hoa, a Vietnamese restaurant in Orlando’s Milk District, now shares a call to action. In bold letters across the wall, the artist has written, “Breathe for Floyd.” Silhouettes of protesters chanting and holding signs are painted behind these words. The Milk District thanked both the artist and the local restaurant on their social media channels for their poignant addition to the downtown. View it here

Supporting Black-Owned Businesses. Due to a legacy of systemic racism, Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs enter the market with less capital and experience more difficulties raising private investment than their white peers (Brookings Institute). To help highlight these businesses and encourage patronage from the community, some Main Street programs are creating a directory of Black-owned businesses. Downtown Stockton in California is adding a Black-owned Business category to their downtown business directory including their address, website, and phone number. Learn more.

Promoting Protests. Many Main Street programs are using their social media platforms and other communication channels to share information about peaceful protests in their community. Stand Up for Salem in New Jersey used their Instagram channel to share the time and location of a local protest in their town as well as emphasize the support from the community for this event. These details were shared with photos of signs for Black Lives Matter. View their post here

Say Their Names. A block-long stretch of sidewalk in Langley, Washington, has been filled with the names of Black men and women who have been killed by police. Written in colorful chalk, the installation was created by two women in the community who wanted to advocate for justice. To highlight this call for racial justice, Langley Main Street Association shared these images on their social media channels. "The installation peacefully, yet poignantly, stirred the emotions of all who walked by," said the Main Street director. "By morning, flowers had appeared on many of the names." View the installation below.

This is just the beginning. We look forward to continuing to share the ways in which Main Street communities are using their platforms and community connections to stand up for racial justice and equality. Main Street America is committed to the vision of shared prosperity, and is working to develop further resources for Main Street programs and small businesses. In the meantime, we encourage you to:

If you have an initiative or resource you’d like to share, please consider adding it on The Point or email us at