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BLM Protest Signs: A Way to Remember?

By: Emily Hom

I smoothed the wrinkles from the paper bag that was to be my canvas and dipped my paint brush into my paint. I decidedly painted the words “I CAN’T BREATHE” in large letters across the bag’s surface, filling the space with a message that nearly brought tears to my eyes. Though individually a small gesture, the sign I crafted became part of a much larger collection of voices and stories. 

Meanwhile, outside the White House, curators from Smithsonian museums walked along the security fence near Lafayette Square, which had become a mosaic of signs and banners for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Signs that read “Silence is not the answer” and “Justice 4 George” were collected along with other artifacts such as art and photographs to “record the emotional turmoil,” according to the New York Times.

The article talks about the importance of collecting objects to be preserved instead of letting them fade away undocumented. 

This country has a long history of misrepresenting the role Black lives have and continue to play in shaping who we are. Community members live in cities where they have to walk past statues and monuments of confederate leaders everyday. I think it’s time we recognize the value of displaying artifacts and the power they have in representing the voices of individuals and communities.

It’s easy to look at a sign made at somebody’s dining room table and not recognize the story it could tell if displayed on the walls of a museum. Artifacts like these capture a moment — not just a moment in time, but the sentiments of a country. In bold paint and marker colors you feel the hope and anger, in strong brushstrokes you see confidence, and in the words you read you hear defiant voices.

When I walk through museums 15 years from now with my children, I hope they look back at the artifacts of our protests and see how much the world changed.

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