Banners painted with messages of love, unity, and resilience now adorn the facades of dozens of buildings around Philadelphia and Atlanta as a response to what organizers of the coordinated drops describe as “a global shift towards fear and exclusivity.” Although the dual-city effort’s urge for America to come together launched today to coincide with Donald Trump’s inauguration, it is not a protest directed at America’s least popular president in decades but rather serves as a visual stance against hate and divisiveness during this particularly tense weekend.
Over 100 artists and arts organizations spread across Philadelphia and Atlanta have contributed their colorful creations, which now adorn art spaces but also churches, bars, retail stores, restaurants, and tattoo parlors, whose owners have signed onto the project as well. These #SignsofSolidarity, as the action is called, include phrases like, “Girls w/ dreams become women w/ vision”; “No Matter How Dim, Continue To Shine”; “Moral outrage is born of love”; and “This is not normal. But we are not normal either. We will change the ordinary by being extraordinary.” They remain up through January 22.
“For me personally, this project is about two big things: first, refusing to treat the Inauguration of Donald Trump like any normal political event, and second, working with dozens and dozens of Philadelphians to send the message that we as a city overwhelmingly stand in opposition to hate and divisiveness,” photographer Conrad Benner, who organized the Philadelphia actions with artists Eric Preisendanz and Aubrie Costello, told Hyperallergic. “That the City of Brotherly Love is a place for just that, love and inclusivity. And we’re a much better city for it.”
#SignsofSolidarity began in Philadelphia, initially conceived as a banner drop confined to private homes. It quickly grew, though, into a city-wide endeavor and crossed the 800 miles into Atlanta after Monica Campana of local nonprofit Living Walls heard about it. After contacting Benner and his collaborators to express her interest in replicating their efforts in the cradle of the civil rights movement, she began reaching out to people in the Atlanta arts community, and many responded swiftly.
“For me, as an immigrant from Peru, and a woman, this project is important in a time when hate towards people like me and other marginalized groups is being justified,” Campana told Hyperallergic. “We, as artists, need to create spaces of support, hope and resistance. For me this project is simply a way that I can give people a little glimpse of hope. It is a way for me to tell them we are not alone, and for the whole ATL arts community to come as one to make the statement that we do not stand for hate.”
Artist Michelle Angela Ortiz‘s banner, which hangs at Johnny Brenda’s Tavern in Philadelphia, is one that specifically addresses communities at risk with the entry of Trump’s administration. Featuring two hummingbirds in flight, it reads, “You can’t take away our resilience, our beauty, our humanity, our strength. ‘Aqui Me Quedo/‘ [Here I will stay].”
“I felt it was necessary for me to say these words, as a child of immigrants, a woman of color, a mother, and artist working in communities,” Ortiz said. “I want these words to resonate in our minds and hearts and be reminded of our collective strength needed to continue to resist the growing hate and injustice in our country.”
While many people are headed to Washington, DC or New York City to join actions including the Women’s March on Washington and that on New York; Black, Brown & Indigenous Mobilize Against White Nationalism; #InaugurateTheResistance; and #NotMyPresident, many others are unable to attend these actions even if they wish to. Spread across two cities, #SignsofSolidarity offers an opportunity for artists to respond, loudly, to the election in their own towns while creating a connection with communities beyond these local borders.
“If we accomplish anything, I personally hope it’s that we can help to make the many, many communities that Donald Trump has attacked over the course of his campaign feel loved, appreciated, and wanted,” Benner said. “Donald Trump does not speak for the majority of Americans — heck he doesn’t even speak for the majority of American voters. It’s my belief that the majority of Americans choose love, and I hope everyone can feel that love this week.”