NYC Journal #19 — Saturday, June 6/2020 — Black Lives Matter March
Accuracy: Some notes made on the subway ride there. Some were taken on Saturday while waiting for the rally to start. Some taken while the leader was talking. Some jotted down on the subway ride home. The memory of the observer is iffy. So where he fills in the notes, and where he has no notes to refer to, the accuracy becomes iffy. In general, accept this as an attempt at the gist. The gist requires many details, for it was a scene full of details. Would you believe that even if none of the details are quite right, the gist can still be captured? If not, please accept this as pure fiction.
Perspective: Older now, repenting the blitheness of youth, but not quite wise enough for the moments when we’re tested; always tested, always faltering, missing the essential rhythm, muddling along with time’s arrow. Need to start again.
Walking down the sunny streets towards the subway stop.
A clump of bikes, white 20-to-30-somethings pedaling. The first with a basket on front a big brown cardboard sign in it: “Organize, Mobilize, .. “ (I forget the rest). On the final bike a tall thin girl covered in tattoos with legs much too long for her bike; makes for a gawky ride.
A white couple somewhere-30s, looking fit and trim in their preppy-casual shorts & Ts. She stops to adjust her top-edge grip on an unwiedily large cardboard “Black Lives Matter” sign.
By the street-serving bar (“Open for Take-Out!”), a tall blond girl 30ish, shoulders a little high, a bit knock-kneed, pretty face, sloping nose, long hair pulled back. Sipping some clear liquid from a clear plastic straw inside a clear plastic cup. Standing by a little tree by the street, in the shade, angled towards a medium-height, medium-build 30ish black guy sitting on (a bucket? I didn’t see, but his seated posture was erect, not sucked down into a chair) with his back to the street. “So you guys from around here?” “New York, born and raised!” Another black guy, shorter, slighter, with a pointy beard and short hair, milling a little this way and that. All three in shorts and T-shirts; the guys’ shorts long and baggy, the girl’s black, short, billowy, riding high on her belly.
Yesterday [Friday] walking home from work same area:
A superintendent formerly employed by that place you work M-F 8AM-5PM or a little beyond. Sitting on the stoop, half-way through a blunt. Thing’s going great, got a new job, still smok’in my weed, still here. Family’s good — we’re work’in through it.” “Yeah? … Strange times.” “It’s alright. You gotta [and he shimmies up into a very tall seated position] keep your head up through all the bullshit.” “Yeah.” Flecks of gray in his black beard. The dreads still there, tied back? Cannot recall. His camouflage handkerchief around his neck; your blue surgical mask in your hand. Another sunny day.
Columbus Park – in front of Kings County Supreme Court, the Plaza bookended by Borough Hall (south) and the statue of abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher
I picked this march because it assembled on the courthouse steps in Columbus Park (it’s called a park, but it is a big cement plaza with benches), and I happen to have the key to a bathroom not far from Cadman Plaza. No public bathrooms when the city’s shut down for a pandemic. And so at 2pm I quit all liquids and at 3:35pm I used my security card to beep open the tall glass entrance door to a tall brick office building near the gathering crowd. Upstairs to my office’s floor for one final bathroom break. Back down in the main lobby, with its glittering marble floor and infinitely tall ceiling, I head towards the door I’d entered with. But then I see signs reminding me that that door is now only for entering, and the other one only for exiting. I look up at the guard behind the high desk, but swiveled towards the open-end of square guard station. He’s facing me. He’s in his late 20s, tall, broad-shouldered, trim, in the uniform dark slacks and white dress shirt. His legs a little long for how low the chair sits, and so with his knees spread to allow his feet the ground. I make an exaggerated, swinging fingersnap, as if to say, “Forgot!” and begin to turn around to take the longer walk towards the further doors. He throws his long arms in the air, hands heaven-beseeching, “I mean … ! You’re … ! There’s like … !” His head is oval, hair buzzed pretty short, jaw square, skin-tone 70% chocolate. He’s grinning and shaking his head. I give a little forward shrug and say, “I’m gonna do it! I’m gonna do it!” And then I head towards the back door. From behind me now: “I mean … !” Because, you see, the point of those signs is for when there’s a lot of foot traffic, but on Sunday afternoon the building’s completely empty.
[Update June 2, 2020: Management must’ve clarified the dogmatic rigidity they expect in the enforcement of this one-way policy. Now when I absent-mindedly, at almost 8pm, blurry-brained from processing a thousand heartless forms, wander towards the front and most convenient door, a well-suited young man points sharply and not without wrinkles of annoyance ruffling his brow, and, his voice likewise a little clenched with impatience, declares, “The exit is that way.”]
Less than ten cops stood under the scaffolding (Brooklyn is always under scaffolding — for one thing, all the brick buildings need to be pointed every year; and then there’s always other repairs) by the giant office buildings on Court Street, across from Columbus Park.
I crossed the street and walked to benches across from the fenced-in garden housing the statue of Columbus. It had just rained. The benches were all wet. I sat on the railing. Black metal tubes, about 3 inches in diameter, the top bar about two feet above the bottom one, itself a foot or so above the cement (on one side; on the other side is some lumpy dirt with sparse grass). Five feet from me sat two women in their petite, fit but skin-tightening 40s speaking a fast Spanish (not sure; didn’t listen closely enough). They were on the top bar, with their feet on a bench. “Stronger Together” with interlinked hands of various hues on giant white posterboard, propped up dry on the tops of a pair of white sneakers, with two small hands clasping the sign’s top edge.
At 3:45pm there’s a pretty large group gathered around the plaza in front of the courthouse steps. A little group of maybe ten black people are on the top of the steps in front of the recessed courthouse doors. Hundreds of people had gathered by then. By the time we started walking (I guess that was maybe ten minutes after 4pm), we must have been several hundred, with the crowd spilling all the way back to Borough Hall. The demographics were not closely studied by this observer, but I would say: people of all races, with the largest portion being caucasion; people of all ages, with the vast majority in their 20s and 30s. Many many signs. Everyone wearing a mask. It had been billed as a nonviolent and a social-distancing march and rally. And a little before 4pm, the man with the bullhorn — 40ish, African American, with a beard and short hair, medium build with a very slight paunch, in blue jeans (or dark slacks?) and a black T-shirt, said that if anyone didn’t have a mask, to please come up to the front and get one.
A 30ish Asian girl, 5’6”, slender, fit and lithely curvy (or do I, a month later, now add that detail for my own sake?) in black tanktop and black yoga pants held up a long narrow cardboard sign that said “Mask”. It must’ve said more than “Masks”. There must’ve been something about them being free. I don’t remember. On the bottom was the #BLM hashtag, or maybe “Black Lives Matter” was written out. There was a blue medical mask fixed to the center of the sign. She held it over her head and moved it from side to side. I don’t remember noticing anyone ask for a mask. Most everyone had brought their own.
Up on the top of the steps where stood several black people who I guess knew the organizer and/or had helped organize the march, there was also a little skinny white girl (maybe 4 years old?) in a straight, frill-less dress emblazoned with a green and red floral print over red biker shorts. The girl, pale with long dark brown hair, was pacing this way and that, swinging her arms, and then she took to leaning on the banister, giving a little raised open-palm, side-to-side princess wave.
Many many people, standing around, signs at the ready or already raised. T-Shirts, shorts, some jeans. One tall thin white man with a handsome face and long luxurious brown hair wore a beautiful green dress and white low-heels.
Asian girl 30ish. Black T-shirt, black cut-offs, white Nikes with red, yellow and blue lettering and swoop; long hair in two braids. Can’t read her sign.
“Black Lives Matter” sign. White guy, 30ish, arms reddened from sun, 6’, stubble, rangy in gray athletic T shirt, maroon shorts. Curly brown hair. Shades. Green cloth mask down.
Black woman, 40ish. Hoop earrings. Black tights and T-shirt. Hair buzzed to one-inch. Hand around a Big Gulp (well, that type of large plastic drinking cup with heavy-duty lid and straw)
A dark and a light skinned black girl, both in their twenties, leaning against the railing around the little garden surrounding a statue of Columbus on a raised pedestal. Both a little over average height, pretty. A blue T-shirt; blue handkerchief over her hair. White mask. Digging into her big leather purse-like bookbag. The other’s shirt said 44 > 45. I had to google it. It is referring to the superiority of our 44th president over the 45th. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I forgot what number president we were up to, I guess. Curly hair drawn on top into a little bun.
Tall thin pale girl with her very red hair in two braids. In blue jeans and a long blue T-shirt. Her friend also pale, but with dark hair flowing, and not so thin — her breasts and belly bumping her tight green long-sleeved T-shirt a little out. Black camo tights. Both 30ish, wearing knee and elbow pads, with standard bike-helmets in their hands. Both fanning themselves with rainbow-themed fans.
African American lady 40ish “Black Teacher’s Lives Matter” T-shirt. Light brown, (red-tipped?) curls exploding out from under green cap. Her friend also African American and 40ish, wearing a gray T-shirt that read simply, “Abolitionist”. Her mask heavy-duty like from a war movie, but mostly clear and with the two side mushrooms a very bright pink. Pin-striped pedal-pushers. White sneakers.
Lots of sneakers at this rally.
Black guy and white girl, 30ish, him in black T-shirt with “Oakland” in white and “Riots” in multiple colors. Hair full and buzzed to like 2 inches thick. Girl pale with a pregnant belly in white & navy striped soft-flowing shirt that billowed down to her thighs. Pants a thin loose black fabric, very wide cut, kind of like chiffon culottes.
A very short 30ish white girl, reddish hair (or do I misremember?). Cardboard sign says, “Standing for my Students” with “#BLM” on the bottom. A well-drawn raised fist in the upper right hand corner. Red, white, gray, geometric print sleeveless shirt. Short khaki shorts. A pink hat in her belt. (really?? That’s what my notes say, anyway.)
“Silence is Compliance” on a cardboard sign on one side of a big bike basket filled with water bottles. Bike led by the handlebars by a 30ish white guy. Free water and snacks come around, the latter brought by 20ish year olds, smooth-skinned and shining youth.
The girl offering water. “Indians for Black Lives.” In a black polyurethane mask. Petite/Sturdy/Shapely/Vigorous. Long straight black hair. Cute.
From Columbus Plaza past the Cadman Plaza Post Office, Taking a right on Tillery and a left onto the Brooklyn Bridge, & Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge
We walk down the park, past the statue of the 1891 Henry Ward Beecher, abolitionist preacher and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. On one side of his pedestal a black girl (13ish?) offers laurels at his feet; on the other side two younger white children (a girl and a boy; 7 and 10?) do the same. Ahead of me two 20-something men, 5’7”-ish, sporty, rectangle-faced, tanned, with dark hair buzzed on the sides and spiked on top. Is that right? Or just longer on top? Maybe one with spiked hair? I thought they (or their parents) were from south of the US, with blood indigenous to the Americas. The one thumbed towards the statue, making a “what is this??” grimace. I had often passed this statue and had long ago read the plaque and also looked Henry Ward Beecher up on Wikipedia, and then also sometimes heard tour guides talk about him, and was therefore in a very good position to tell them all about the statue. But I thought it best to let it go. They can google it if they want to.
When we crossed Tillery Street onto Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard, and also as we started up the Brooklyn Bridge, there were cops on both sides. Mostly with helmets. Some in just a white captain shirt, without even a hat. As we passed the police, the chants changed from “No Peace! No Justice” and “Black Lives Matter” and “Say her name! Breonna Taylor! Say his name! George Floyd!” (different chants going on in different places in the long wide moving line (one person just starts one, and then the people around join in) to “Our Streets! Our Streets!” As we began ascending the bridge, I watched the police lined up in the street on either side of us, looking hot in their big round visored helmets, putting on stoic faces, men and women, 30s, 40s, different races.
People in cars would beep-beep-beeeeep-beep and the flowing crowd would cheer back.
People standing off to one side, filming. As we crossed onto the Manhattan side, I noticed a tall, strong-shouldered black woman in a multi-colored dress, leaning on a post, watching. Her face was long, oval, attractive, with big eyes, full lips. I tried to read her expression. She wasn’t smiling, but there was a smile in her contemplation, though a kind of pained one. Or so I guessed at the time. I wish I had a better memory.
Foley Square; what does the building across the way say? Something about Justice etched in stone in giant letters above its triumphant Roman portico. Organizer stands on the pitch black Triumph of the Human Spirit statue (abstract two-D four-foot-thick cut out of a vaguely human form with one arm raised above its square head and another curling around its tapering waist — it kind of reminds me of the shape of Texas, or a tea kettle)
I’m Phil Mckay. Instagram and FB. First of all, I want to thank you for being here. Give yourself a hand. I’m glad — what I’m glad to see is black people, white people, etc. Black people and white people need each other. Black people need white people and white people need black people. If you’re a white person and don’t yet have a black friend, I’ll be your first one (big laugh). An injustice for one of us is an injustice for all of us (lots of cheering). We all need justice. A moment of silence for everyone, black men, white men, anyone who’s lost their lives to police violence. White people, give yourself a hand.
Shame on you, police! End police brutality.
Warrant, swat team raid, Breonna Tayler’s boyfriend fires one shot (he has a license for the gun), police respond with nineteen shots. Breonna Tayler dies. The guy they were after had already been nabbed.
What was he saying about how accountability keeps him in line? I missed that part, but it got more an uneasy foot-shifting than the standard cheer.
“I got no problem with the police. I got no problem with the police.” The guy next to me, light skinned black guy. What??! “What I don’t like is dick heads.” Yeah!
When someone from the crowd yelled the system is broken, that same guy, with agitated, raised voice said that, The system is not broken! This is exactly how the system’s supposed to work! His white girlfriend says shh, shh, shh, the system’s broken because (but I don’t hear the rest).
A text about a broken elevator. Me yelling in crappy Spanish with the rumbling crowd in the background.
Asian cop round hips with belly widening into them. 40s. Not tall. A little plumpening from shoulders to thighs. Smile wide and tall, gesticulating, ignoring my satisfaction at the general direction, indulging in a long drawn out explanation with hand signs and every left and right, smiling, pointing, peering over her hands to the paths I must travel. So happy to be asked for directions!
Walking down China Town all boarded up.
Police in side streets, a couple rows deep. Standing behind riot shields. People stand a while in front to film them with their phones. People yell, “Does this look like a riot to you?!”
Black Lives Matter
No Justice. No Peace.
White Silence = White Violence
End White Supremacy.
My Life Matters.
Defund the Police
If you think it is hard breathing in a mask, trying being black in America.
A Good Goal
To make all police/citizen relationships like mine were when I was a stupid kid: Nice, safe, cozy, minimal.
Change training and emphasis: 0 collateral damage.
But how do you police a country overflowing with guns?
[which led to:]
A Note on the Supreme Court
We moved A Note on the Supreme Court to it’s own page.
NYC Journal #20 — June 2020 — Other #BLM Notes
Monday, June 1, 2020
Protesters marched down Dean an hour or two ago.
I couldn’t make out their chants.
Well, “Don’t Shoot!” (they raised their hands as they chanted) I got, but not the others.
The crowd looked mixed.
At like 7pm my phone went all Amber Alert and then told me in Spanish of the 11PM curfew
I don’t know why, but it texted and spoke in Spanish to me.
An hour or so later I got the same message in English, but only texted, not spoken.
Tuesday, June 2, 2020 – Morning
Co-worker and I in the break room.
My sister called me; she was in the demonstration.
They started on Flatbush and went all the way downtown. She said yesterday when they started rioting, she was like: oh let me get out of here. I said, well at least you had the sense to leave. It’s a shame, all that …
But it can’t take away from the people who are out to help.
But it is! It’s all people are talking about!
Yeah, well, there’s always a few people; it’s too bad; most everyone’s just trying to make a positive change.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020 – Nighttime
When I was a kid I played church basketball from second grade through like seventh.
I was close to all the kids on the team; they were in my grade so we did all church stuff together and we did a lot of church stuff; we were not, it’s worth noting, even a little bit religious — we were just hanging out and goofing off.
Before every game we would all put our hands together and yell, “let’s go team!” and throw our hands up in the air.
Except not me. I couldn’t stand doing that. It became a kind of game where the other kids would run and catch me and try to carry/force me into the circle.
I’ve been feeling that memory lately, as the protests go on.
My boss just texted me: there is going to be a rally at Cadman Plaza tomorrow and so she’s going to work from home and maybe I should too.
People are marching by now, chanting. I can’t make it out.
Now they are going past my window.
They have their hands up, marching down Dean, chanting, “Whose street?” “Our street!”
Rows of police in helmets are walking behind them.
It’s two hours past the 8PM curfew.
Most of the arms I glimpsed were pale; at any rate, a mixed group.
A slug of what — a hundred people?
On their way to a larger gathering, I imagine.
The rain’s stopped.
I can see the reflection of police lights red and blue on the red brick of the medical center.
Thursday, June 4 – Early Afternoon
Bodega nearish to museum – Fat white guy 30s with white T-shirt tenting out from big belly and his wide-legs lean-back stance. Blue shorts and striped shirt. Mask over his beard.
The guys speaking Arabic around me as I purchase coconut water.
At museum steps see lots of people — mostly white — walking with signs about Black Lives Matter.
Wondered why I wasn’t joining in.
People come from miles to do this important thing. I, after my boss’s text last night, avoided Cadman Plaza, site of today’s scheduled rally, towards which I suppose all these young energetic, forward-thinking people are now streaming.
Saturday, June 6/2020, see:
NYC Journal #19 — Saturday, June 6/2020 — BLM March
Sunday, June 14 – Early Afternoon
At Museum steps. More and more people showed up. Mostly white & 30ish. They took of their shirts and replaced them with white T-shirts with black lettering: Black Trans Lives Matter. The T-shirts were being handed out by someone leaning against the wall by the YO statue.
Two light skinned black girls in their 20s wearing the shirts came and chatted and giggled merrily a few steps above me.
A pretty woman like mid-30s walking her tiny dog climbed over the low sloping wall and sat down a bit away from me. I thought she eyed me with open admiration when I looked in her direction. Maybe it was my vanity that eyed me with admiration.
Stood up and slipped my flip-flops back on and headed back home.
A light-skinned black guy wearing a white wedding dress and with long hair and eyes made up with giant lashes talked with some other guys.
A thin dark-skinned black guy in a black one-piece dress danced with swinging butt a little bit, just as a laugh while greeting someone. The dress was a piece of cotton with straps over the shoulders flowing into an open V-neck; it was cinched around the waist and then opened up into a simple, pleatless dress. Another guy dressed similarly also danced around with them for that brief smiling moment. Who were they greeting? Was it the guy who was all queened out? The two in the simpler, more athletic dresses were in their 20s or early 30s; the one in the fancy dress was perhaps a little older.
The plaza around the museum soon filled.
As I walked down Washington Avenue I saw many slugs of young people, some with Black Trans Lives Matter signs, one with two big prongs coming out of her back with that feathery carnival look. Between them was a cardboard sign with the BLMT message. That lady was black. Most everyone was white, but there were also quite a few black people and some other racial profiles. Lots and lots of people. Lots of hot girls. I also saw a big slug of young people coming up Classon as I got to my apartment.
About the Plaza around the museum:
The cement was bright in the sunlight, so were all the white T-shirts and youth radiated off of the participants. 30 was not the mean age. There were too many in their 20s for that. People were congregating, milling, in groups of many. Everyone had masks on, but I did not as I threaded my way close-lipped through the swelling crowd in front of the museum steps and the wall at the back end (along the sidewalk, facing the street) of the terraced grass steps. I sunbathed on the farther of the two banks of these walled-in “steps”. I started sunbathing at 11:53AM and more and more people streamed in during the twenty minutes I was there. By the time I left the place was full and people continued streaming.
Race in America: None of us here now chose it, but here it is still. It has gotten much better since the days of slavery, but it is still not where it should be. We have to balance forgetting about race and letting everyone just be people together and remembering that this mythology called “race” has caused and continues to cause real problems for real people. None of the things people say and do are True, and human truths only point adequately well towards Truth to the degree they are living in and through and for the Love that Knows we’re all in this together. The Light is coming to claim us all. The rest is often beautiful and fun and neat; we should work together to create and sustain systems and places where we can each understand and ground ourselves within the Love in a way that is meaningful to each of us, and where we are safe and mutually supportive and can together push towards the more aware, clearer, more honest, more competent, kinder, more effectively helpful — towards more shared joy, more beauty, more fun, more neatness.
Author: Sam Spade, Private Investigator, hard-boiled and with a clipped 1940s cadence.
Editor: Jonathon surle Spotte
Oversight Committee: Bartleby “I don’t even exist!” Willard & Amble “I’ve spent my life out at sea, subject and responsible only to the sloshing waves and splashing spray!” Whistletown
Copyright: Andy “oh man, idunno, i, i, i, well, uh” Watson