A fundraiser and public relations effort among a handful of Westchester teenagers is bringing their anti-racism ideals and messages right to the front door of community members.
Called signs4change it is a grassroots campaign that calls upon artists who support the Black Lives Matter movement and make their feelings known on social media to create signs that carry such messages as "United We Stand" and "This House Supports Black Lives Matter."
Shivi Jain, one of the five Edgemont High School rising juniors speaking for the teens leading the cause said as of this past weekend, 400 signs were sold to homeowners throughout Westchester County. The project was created to raise money for "this critical cause, but also to spread awareness to our privileged community," she explained. The Signs4Change fundraiser— the signs cost $20 — will benefit both the National Bail Fund Network and NAACP. The artists listed here on the Signs4Change website created the images pro bono asking only that their names be mentioned.
"We have teamed up with several different influential artists around the world who are all either allies or members of the black community and who have personally designed these lawn signs," says the group's message, in part, on social media.
"Please buy these signs to show your support for the Black Lives Matter movement," the post on Facebook asks. The effort "symbolizes the alliance of our community in the fight against police brutality." The students will continue to partner with more artists so more signs will be available as the fundraiser continues, it says. Those purchasing a sign may arrange to pick them up or have them delivered.Shivi, responding as the group's spokesperson, along with friends Jillian Zolot, Isha Bahadur, Jasmine Rao and Sanjana Jaiswal told Daily Voice Plus in an email what motivated the group.
She said the death of George Floyd was pivotal, "an abrupt wake-up call to the injustice that the Black community has faced for over 400 years. As we educated ourselves about how this matter applies to the entire country, we felt the urge to do anything we could to make a difference."
Further bolstering the effort among the students was witnessing "large masses of people coming together peacefully during protests showed the power behind this movement. Seeing our privilege, we wanted to not only raise money for important causes such as NAACP and the National Bail Fund Network but to also spread awareness about this movement throughout Edgemont," said Shivi.
"In our own high schools, we are barely taught about Black history and many are oblivious to the implications of microaggressions to people of color. We are very focused on prioritizing change within our privileged community," she continued.
"With the help of artists who have so generously allowed us to use their art, we were able to create signs which had significant meaning, publicized these artist’s art, and supported important organizations." Shivi acknowledged there may be misunderstandings among community members to understand the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.
She said, "The BLM movement means that we need to emphasize the importance of black lives because they have been both systemically and systematically repressed in America. Some white people may find that the BLM movement undermines their personal struggles, but at the end of the day, their race is not a root cause of their struggle. It is concerning to see that certain people don’t support the movement when innocent black lives are actively being taken."
The students, said Shivi, were especially bolstered to start their organization after watching how the local community responded during recent protests and marches. Participants, Shivi noted, "can come together make an impact."
"Without a doubt, elements of racism exist within our very privileged neighborhood, even if it may not be as obvious. The microaggressions that the Black community faces each day are prevalent and must be addressed. It is our job to not let these voices go unheard," she continued.
The response has been "very supportive," Shivi said. On the first day the students launched Signs4Change they sold 50 signs. Sales doubled the next day. To date, the fundraiser garnered $4,000. The goal is to raise $5,000 with the sign sales which will be matched by employers of the students' parents to be able to donate $10,000 in total.
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