Community Spotlight: A Month-Long Snapshot of Racial Equity Advocacy on Main Streets

  
July 2, 2020 | Community Spotlight: A Month-Long Snapshot of Racial Equity Advocacy on Main Streets | By: Abby Armato, Communications Coordinator, NMSC | 
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A new block-long mural in Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District. Photo Credit: Ramona Emerson 

Against a background of COVID-19 and state-by-state reopenings, local leaders have been working hard to address the second pandemic: racial inequity. Here is a snapshot of how Main Street programs have been supporting and amplifying Black voices and standing up against racism over the past month.

  • Advocating for Change. As the State of Mississippi considered removing the Confederate symbol from their state flag, the Mississippi Main Street Association was a vocal advocate for this change. This 35-year-old Coordinating Program released an official press release along with a suite of social media posts in support of the removal. In their statement, the Main Street program called for a state flag that would, “represent all people in our state, encourage investment in our communities, and foster economic growth.” Learn more.
  • Disarm Racism Mural. A new block-long mural appeared overnight in Gallup, New Mexico, earlier this month. Gallup Mainstreet Arts and Cultural District worked in collaboration with Navajo painter Jerry Brown, community partners, and residents to create this temporary art exhibit. The mural reads “Disarm Racism” with a dove in the center of the text. Throughout the piece, the statement is translated into “into a variety of languages important to [the] community and its rich cultural diversity,” the City of Gallup said in a statement. Local businesses came out to support the mural by opening their doors and providing food and drink. “The community came together to make this mural happen!” said the Main Street program. Learn more.
  • Standing Against Hate Speech. Downtown Martinez in California was quick to vocalize to their opposition to hate speech flyers that had been found on the sidewalk near their downtown. The flyers, which made violent threats against those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, were turned into the Martinez Police Department over the weekend. By Monday morning, Downtown Martinez had shared the police station’s news release with their own message: “This flier is disgusting. Hurtful. Absolutely not what our downtown or City represents. These hate crimes need to stop. Our diversity in our downtown and community is what makes us unique and strong! We stand united for inclusion and against racism in any form.” Learn more.
  • Bakers Against Racism. Van Ness Main Street in Washington D.C. held a virtual bake sale as a part of Bakers Against Racism. Local bakeries from around their district offered sweet treats such a signature ice cream sandwiches with blueberry ice cream and sweet corn cookies as well as chewy peanut butter cookies. All of the proceeds from this virtual bake sale were donated to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Learn more.

Looking for more examples of how Main Streets have been advocating for equity? Check out our collection of initiatives we gathered on how Main Streets are standing up for racial justice, continuing to use their connections and platforms to address racial equity, and supporting Black-owned businesses.

Black Lives Matter Protests Across the Network

Nationwide, communities are standing against racial injustice, in both rural and urban places. MainStreet_BLM_29june_2.pngBetween May 25 and June 30, people protested and demonstrated in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in more than 4,000 cities and towns around the world. With more than 3,300 of those protests occurring here in the United States, we took a look at the numbers to see just how many Main Street programs had one or more protests in their town.

We found that over half of the Main Street America Network had a Black Lives Matter protest in their town. Protests occurred in 613 communities with Main Street programs—representing about 56 percent of our Network with Accredited and Affiliate programs (indicated by the yellow dots on the map to the right).

While much of the national news coverage of these protests has focused on big cities, many small towns and rural communities have seen protest activity as well. We found that the frequency of these protests vary depending on the size of the population. As of July 1, all Main Street communities with more than 100,000 residents have been the site of a protest, and more than 95 percent of Main Street communities with more than 50,000 residents have had one or more protests. Of the 513 Main Street communities with fewer than 10,000 residents, 143 (28 percent) of these towns were sites of protests. Of the 293 Main Street communities with fewer than 5,000 residents, 42 (14 percent) of these towns held protests.

Learn more about a few of those Main Street programs that participated in protests this month.

Main Streets Honoring Juneteenth

On June 19th, Main Street communities across the nation celebrated Juneteenth, the oldest national commemoration of the ending of slavery in America. Learn about the ways they honored the holiday here. Also check out this article by Dionne Baux, Director of UrbanMain, for suggestions of actions we all can take to ensure equity and inclusiveness within the broader field of community and economic development.

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 mainstreet@savingplaces.org.


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