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Community Spotlight: Main Streets Stand Against Racism

June 12, 2020 | Community Spotlight: Main Streets Stand Against Racism | By: Abby Armato, NMSC Communications Coordinator | 
Marching for Black Lives Matter in Mount Airy, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Mount Airy Downtown, Inc.)

NMSC’s President and CEO Patrice Frey recently shared a letter to the Network calling on Main Streets to be, “a force for good in addressing the challenge of racial inequity.” Last week, we highlighted the ways in which local Main Street programs did just that, standing up for racial justice in immediate response to Mr. Floyd’s death on Memorial Day. Eighteen days later, local leaders continue to use their connections and platforms to stand up for racial equity. 

Supporting Local Protests. Main Street communities big and small came out to protest against racial inequity and injustice this past weekend. Local Main Street programs used their social media channels to highlight when and where protests began, as well as share photos after the event. To highlight a few of the local protests:
  • A group of teens in Ada, Oklahoma, organized a Black Lives Matter rally that attracted over 1,000 people. Ada Main Street helped spread the word by using their Facebook page to promote the event. Learn more.
  • Conversation within the community was encouraged by a group protesting for Black Lives Matter in Danville, Virginia. “We’re a protest, we’re a march, but we also educate,” said organizer Brandon Coleman. Learn more.
  • Lewiston, Idaho, saw 1,000 supporters come out for their Black Lives Matters protest over the weekend. Beautiful Downtown Lewiston helped provide up-to-date information regarding the event on their Facebook page. Learn more.
  • Young organizers in Illinois have been holding peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Springfield, Illinois. Their consistent protests have been effective, as the young leaders recently met with Governor J.B. Pritzker at a rountable discussion. Learn more
  • Mount Airy Downtown, Inc. in Mount Airy, North Carolina, shared photos from the town’s weekend of protests. "This is Mount Airy. This is our city, and we're not going to take this any longer,” said the organizer of Sunday’s event. “Enough is enough." Learn more.
  • Organizers in Sheridan, Wyoming, had only expected about 15 people to turn out for their Black Lives Matter Solidarity Peaceful Protest, but instead the downtown was filled with 500 to 600 people. Learn more.
  • Small businesses also came out to support protesters, such as a local barber shop in Ames, Iowa, who opened their doors to provide support for protesters, including free haircuts and a “safe place” for conversation. Learn more.
Donating Proceeds. Main Street Oceanside in California highlighted their local coffee shop—Steel Mill Coffee—who donated 25% of their sales from last week towards the George Floyd Memorial Fund. Created by George Floyd’s family, the George Floyd Memorial Fund covers funeral and memorial costs as well as “mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist our family in the days to come as we continue to seek justice for George.” A portion of the funds are set aside for the benefit, care, and education of his children. Learn more
Listen to Your NeighborsA riot on May 30th in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania left 17 businesses damaged and boarded up. Almost overnight, positive chalk drawings appeared on the sidewalk and boards of these damaged businesses. This was the inspiration for Erie Downtown Partnership's new campaign: Listen to Your Neighbors. Erie Downtown Partnership collaborated with Samone, a local artist of color, to create a series of posters with quotes from community members, leaders, and business owners (example on the right). The printing costs were donated from a local print shop. "The campaign’s goal is simply to encourage everyone to listen to the experiences of others, acknowledge the systemic racism in our community, and approach events like the riot of May 30th with empathy and compassion," said the Main Street program's Events Manager.

Bail Bake Sale. District Bridges in Washington, DC, has been supporting a new initiative in their community. Called Bail Bake Sale, volunteers are gathering free or discounted baked items from grocery stores and bakeries to provide funds for racial justice assistance platforms, such as cash bail. 

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 directories of Black-owned businesses. Downtown, Inc., in York, Pennsylvania, coordinated with Black and Minority-Owned PA, City of York, and the York County Economic Alliance to develop a countywide Black-owned business listing. They supplemented this new directory by highlighting Black-owned businesses in their Instagram stories. View the directory here.

Window Displays. Downtown Salisbury, Inc., in North Carolina shared an image of a window display from one of their local restaurants. Colorful post-it notes filled the windows with calls for racial equity and messages of solidarity for Black Lives Matter. “Go Burrito was built on diversity and unity,” the restaurant said, “Come put your own personal note on our window to show your support as we call for justice and change.” See the display.

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