After the bombings in Boston yesterday, the security response was huge in New York. Manhattan was in lockdown, with police swarming everywhere, and people were told by the authorities to run and hide inside their homes. So we decided to stay in Brooklyn and project on one of it's most iconic and most loved buildings: the Brooklyn Academy of Music. BAM didn't know about it, and at first security was suspicious, but as soon as they saw the message, they embraced us with approval. Even police officers who drove by gave us a warm nod and beep. It was a sweet moment when we saw a plea for peace trump the rules.
The most beautiful thing about the location is that it's really a hub for many neighborhoods in Brooklyn. So rather than seeing people run inside their houses in paranoia and fear, the space became activated. And as soon as people saw the pictures on Facebook or Twitter, they rushed to the space to gather with the community—their neighbors—to mourn, talk, and share. That's a key thing that The Illuminator tries to do with its actions: to reclaim public space for the community.
As The Illuminator, we are a collective that operates the van and the projector, and the NY Light Brigade does the lettering. Monday night was Kyle Depew, Athena Soules, Lucky Tran, and Grayson Earle. The Illuminator was more or less created by Mark Read as a project of Occupy Wall Street, and performs creative actions to fight for social and economic justice.
Yesterday's action was in support of Boston after a time of real tragedy, so it was important for us to come together and respond in an inspiring, non-fear driven way. When we agreed to project something in response to the tragedy our entire outlook changed. It was cathartic for us, and from some of the responses we've received from folks in Boston, for them too.
As activists in New York, a constant conversation that we have is our reactions to 9/11—we had that initial beautiful moment of unity and outpouring of emotion in response to such a great human tragedy. We thought in this moment it was important to show solidarity as caring human beings, and help us remember what the ideal response should be. Dr. King put if best:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness,
Only light can do that.
Fear cannot drive out fear,
Only love can do that.
One of BAM's workers came over and said that he'd like to see "Togetherness is the Key" so we made that happen. Athena, from the Light Brigade (with the light signs) had changed up her lettering to "LOVE" so we drafted a quick "Peace and (down arrow)" which garnered a few smiles. At one point Kyle mentioned that he wished people would share feelings of grief and happiness more often, not just during tragedy, which is where the "It shouldn't take a tragedy for us to come together" came from.
The use of NY ❤ B (in the Red Sox typeface) was intentional as well. Much is made of the New York versus Boston rivalry, particularly in sports, but really in all facets of life. So we thought it would be powerful to take those symbols of sports and pop culture and remix them into a symbol of unity, because at the end of the day it's not about my city and your city; my state and your state; or my country and your country. For a world of peace, justice and equity, we must dissolve an isolating mentality and work together as custodians of our commons, the planet.
We as a collective will continue to project on walls for the foreseeable future. This action just sort of happened. We're not certain it will happen again but don't count it out.
Hang out with your neighbors on the last Saturday of April (a day we're calling "Neighborday"). Click here to say you'll Do It, and here to download GOOD's Neighborday Toolkit and a bunch of other fun stuff.