CHICAGO (CBS) — In the last week, businesses across the city have been recovering from days and unrest and looting – and now from that, messages of hope are arising.
Over plywood protection in one site were pledges of solidarity written in chalk beneath the words “What now?” – including, “Stand for justice,” “We march, we listen,” and, “Enact anti-racist education.”READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Spotty Showers Sunday Night, Monday
After days of civil unrest and looting left store after store boarded up, local artists used eyesores as a canvas.
“It’s cool to see somebody to take something as scary and frightening as a boarded-up window and do something positive,” said Patrick Ryan.
Across Chicago, from the heart of downtown to the north, to the south, and to the west, the messages came in shapes and sizes, colors and words.
On the plywood at Burnham Mart at 826 S. Wabash Ave., the words read, “Let’s Create a Brighter Future Together.”
At first, the broken windows outside the store represented Chirag Patel losing part of his business.
Now, it represents the unified front in moving forward together.
“I really felt like, you know what? I want to keep this,” Patel said.
After all, turning pain into art is what artists have been doing for centuries.
“It’s this weird dichotomy of the violence, the anger, the destruction is creating something beautiful,” said Derrick Westbrook, co-owner of 1340 Beer Wine Spirits at 1340 W. Madison St., which put up the “What Now?” board.READ MORE: Phase 2 Opens Monday In Illinois Outside Chicago For Anyone 16 And Over To Get COVID-19 Vaccine, But Teens Under 18 Face Challenge
For Westbrook, the messages on the plywood represent the discomfort it took to get people to listen.
“It’s taking something frightening like a boarded up window and doing something positive… the art is a metaphor. Having to board up is traumatic, being black in America can be traumatic, but inside that trauma we can create something beautiful.”
— Marissa Parra (@MarParNews) June 7, 2020
“Black people have been protesting quietly for a very long time,” Westbrook said. “We’ve asked, we’ve begged, we’ve pleaded, and it feels like, you know, people are listening now.”
He continued: “This wall is an example of breaking the system. Having to board up is traumatic, but inside of that trauma, we can have something beautiful. We can create something important.”
The question really is after the protests, and after the looting, what changes? As the board said, what now?
“I’m worried about in 6, 9, 12 months – are people really going to care?” Westbrook said. “And this was a little piece of hope for me. It is hope that the tides are turning.”MORE NEWS: On One-Year Anniversary Of Botched Smokestack Demolition, Little Village Community Leaders Call For Jobs, Better Environmental Protection
A few store owners said they loved the art so much that they were worried they’d be forced to take the messages down before they were ready. The Department of Buildings said art murals do not require a sign or a building permit, so they should be in good standing as long as they have permission from the owner.