The phrase “Black Lives Matter” has become synonymous with the protests for social justice and against police brutality that have gripped the city for two months. Those words are prominently emblazoned on a street in Brooklyn. On Saturday, this symbol of the movement became the setting for a community celebration.
“We want the space to not be just where you remember the death … [but] become aware, enlightened and enjoy fellowship with one another,” said Monique Antoine, a programming coordinator for the event.
“Black culture is expansive,” added local Royal McKenzie. “We are so dynamic. We are not just one thing.”
With that in mind, the entire day was dedicated to wellness activities for both the body and spirit. Naturally, it attracted people of all ages to the Black Lives Matter Plaza.
“It feels united. You don’t feel any tension. It feels like a community that wants to come together and just support the movement,” said Lisa Lawrence, a Canarsie resident.
Organizers came up with the idea to provide a fun environment with enough space for social distancing.
“We have a tremendous uptick in gun violence in our communities and not enough of this,” said Councilman Robert Cornegy. “So we are doing our share to ensure that the community is coming together.”
“With coronavirus, a lot of people were cooped up, a lot of pent up energy. We want to get them out in the open, enjoying themselves and each other,” said Cyriac St. Vil of the 500 Men organization.
The event aims to attract visitors to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and its small businesses, many of which are still trying to recover from COVID-related losses.
“I think we all have to come together and just keep on doing our best,” said Gloria Allen, a Bed-Stuy resident.
In addition to new activities every Saturday through Labor Day, starting next week, there will also be a weekly dance party on Friday evenings.