On Sunday afternoon a comrade in the effort to change the name of our neighborhood posted the following regarding George Floyd and so many others:
For those of you with kids, I thought you might want to know about this peaceful protest happening at Central Park on June 6th 9:00am
Not knowing the neighbor who organized this protest, I thought the image that accompanied the announcement was a little tone deaf.
Turns out the event, Show Up for Black Lives, was organized by the mom in this photo. She’d been so impelled by the protests in Denver she hadn’t changed her profile photo to reflect her cause. She did so later, obviously having received some feedback. And she wrote:
I never imagined the interest in my post would be so great. I wanted to do more to involve and show up with my kids, and I figured like 10 people MAX would come with us, we’d exchange numbers, and we’d maybe do a book club and talk about how to begin dismantling racism within ourselves and I’d have some new friends.
But I didn’t visit the event post on Facebook, so I didn’t see that (if it would have been there when I learned about the event). I held my tongue for several hours, but finally on Monday morning I thought I’d reminisce to fellow name-changers.
Hey all. I told my wife @Andrea Carney about [the following last night] and had kept myself from sharing it because it’s sorta off topic:
On May 8, 1972 Nixon or his lackeys mined the port of Haiphong. CU students got word and began marching, which led to their shutdown of the Denver-Boulder turnpike amongst other things.
The demonstrators came by Boulder High. “Out of the schools and into the streets.” We were in a film studies class with one of those rare teachers who was our friend, and there was no way we’d leave.1 But if we had another class after that, we gladly did [leave], only to find Alan Ginsberg at Broadway & Pearl singing with his harmonium surrounded by townspeople from all walks.2
“Take the bridge!” people yelled, meaning the turnpike again. We marched there, met by police and gas, only the latter of which somehow I have avoided these 65 years. A week or so later activists organized a family-friendly “protest.” Like the one planned for Central Park. As an antiwar organizer at BHS I was amused by the balloons.
Some years later Holly Near would capture this style of protest with “We are a gentle angry people,” and I think I’ve sung its verses with y’all. Anymore, I don’t know how far gentle gets us, just as I was shocked in ’72 at how balloons might ever stop a war.
We could have been doing Minneapolis, Ferguson all along, countrywide.
We know that now, of course. Many of us have known that for decades. When the next pandemic wave rolls over us, when the next economic disaster hits, when climate brings us to the brink, will we demand our due? Or unite and improvise as neighbors, like folks on Lake Street did in Minneapolis, to defend themselves when the cops copped out.3
Or will we blow up family-friendly balloons?
After posting my comment to the private change-the-name group, I tried to sleep, literally tossing and turning. How can we change the name of our neighborhood, St*pleton, honoring a mayor whose membership in the Ku Klux Klan led to his election? Because white folk in our neighborhood have voted to keep the name, it’s up to us white folk to push back. I’m loathe to compare, but who is our Rosa Parks? To my knowledge no one has been jailed in changing the name. Can we line up? Can we remove the name everywhere it’s displayed, either covertly or overtly, escaping law enforcement or embracing it? How timid are we, just to change a name? Who might get in line? “Out of the schools”—out of the suppositional—“and into the streets”—into the real. Am I willing?
No, I admitted, somehow sleeping Monday morning. Only to find this, Tuesday afternoon, in the private group messaging:
This image (click it to enlarge) is a testament both to our progress and our problem. I sent it to a number of friends who read it as a white-supremicist graffito. But examine the elements. The branding up top, that’s our ZIP Codes, and so the St*apleton name is becoming anathema to developers, even if our neighbors have chosen to keep it. Admittedly, the repulsive remnant is retained in the web address in blue below, but it’s no longer brandished. And atop this portent of progress, a glorious, fluorescent flare.
Rosa, whoever you are, I am very fond of you. I’d bestow a balloon—and more…
- Our screening room had a door that opened onto the school’s front lawn—and the demonstrators. They were heckled by the jocks who stood on the band room roof.
- I’ll write later about my apprenticeship with Ginsberg at Naropa, which included transcribing his notebooks from about this time.
- I’m grateful to my wife Andrea Carney for hearing this story on NPR while I risked my life food shopping yesterday. Lake Street is a lovely miles-long boulevard that provides recreation for the moneyed and the not so. It’s named for the water-body whose name was changed three weeks ago!