Updated: Nov 23, 2020
I spent several days in Connecticut last week. We don’t have autumn in Vegas and I wanted to see the leaves change. What I got was much more. A breath of fresh air to my soul, I left New England with a sense of hope. Believe it or not – yard signs had a lot to do with it.
My adventure started in Farmington, just outside of Hartford. It was the perfect little town for a stroll, even though we encountered some rain the first day. Miss Porter’s School for Girls dominated the main street and reminded me of the days when girls were educated separately from boys, particularly if they were wealthy.
Nestled in this small town, but not too close together, are homes in the traditional colonial or saltbox style. Typically such homes are white or butter yellow with black shutters. But occasionally I would see a deep forest green or burgundy red home begging to be seen and appreciated. A recent rain urged the leaves to begin to fall and several blew past as I walked.
Many buildings boasted the year of origin and I was reminded of my first love; American History. It was pleasant enough to be able to take in fresh air and feel the humidity on my cheeks. But as I strolled along I found even more to lift my spirits. Whether on church property or private lawns, yards signs commanding social justice stood proudly.
“Black Lives Matter”, “Hate has no place here” and other powerful slogans were prominent. I’ve always considered New England, wealthy and white. Yet, my visit proved that BIPOC community members are present and respected. Of course there is always the exception to the rule. If I’ve learned anything it is that racism is everywhere. But Farmington proved to me that there are places where right is still right and American means everyone.
New Haven was next on our itinerary. As we drove into Yale University I couldn’t help but notice the incredible architecture flanked by more signs of the times. The First Methodist Church had a marquee that read, “Learn to do good, seek justice and correct oppression. Isaiah 1:17. Black Lives Matter.” An afternoon exploration revealed the local United Churches door sign: you are our neighbors. No matter who you vote for, your skin color, where you are from, your faith, or who you love. We will try to be here for you. That’s what community means.” The latter message in particular spoke to me. It is what we should be.
It made me wonder if the ministers of those congregations were talking about self reflection in their sermons. Are we looking within, particularly as white folks, and dissecting our hearts and minds regarding racism? What does it really mean to be American? It would seem that at least in some of our churches, the fire, hell, and brimstone message is slipping away.
We’ve reached a point when we can no longer deny our moral obligation regarding freedom and equality. It includes introspection, as well as, standing up for others when we know injustice is taking place. I’m reminded of another yard sign, “None of us are free if all of us aren’t free”. Maybe we are getting it. We have a lot to learn still. But perhaps we are making progress. The mass majority of our signage seems to point in that direction.