Photo by Anna Arnsberger
What happens when you combine Wilson tiger spirit, nationwide protests against police brutality, and a deadly pandemic? Signs of Justice, pioneered by Wilson graduate Lexi Brown and Duke Ellington graduate Amiri Nash.
Brown and Nash said the point of the signs is to “start a conversation” as well as give people who can’t protest (due to the pandemic or living in a high-risk household) a COVID-19-friendly way to protest. This also helps people move beyond “internet activism,” referring to people only posting about social issues and not taking their activism further.
There are several different signs for use, including the three originals that say “Killer cops will not go free,” “A man was lynched by the police. What are you doing about it?,” and “You are contributing to killing Black people by not stopping the killing of Black people.” All included “text ‘Floyd’ to 55156” at the bottom.
The idea was first publicized by Brown in an Instagram live titled “Racism and Proximity,” in which she ended with a call to action, an idea that wouldn’t put protesters at risk. Then, on May 29, Nash posted a photo with the signs, saying you could DM him for the details and links to download.
Fast forward to now, the signs have been published in 10 languages, over 35 states, and over 10 countries. The Instagram account (@signofjustice) created by Brown and Nash gained over 1,200 followers in roughly nine days. Additionally, new signs, made by Wilson graduate Rema Haile, have QR codes that take you to different websites where you can donate and sign petitions.
Haile says that she thinks the signs are “highly effective because you can’t ignore the elephant in your home anymore… A lot of white people living in wealthy areas are ignorant to the injustices many people of color face, or are privileged enough to ignore the elephant of systemic racism that plagues every country. These signs start a conversation towards changing that.”
The signs have been met with many different reactions, commonly though, with anger and discomfort. Recently, a video went around in which a white man on the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda verbally harassed and assaulted three teenagers putting up Signs for Justice. Anthony Brennan III turned himself in and now faces three-second degree assault charges and up to 30 years in prison.
Negative reactions are not uncommon, and there are several videos of young people being harassed by locals all over the internet. Many who have put up the signs have been met with people taking them down, in or out of their presence.
However, that has not discouraged Signs of Justice. More and more signs have been created, by people across the globe, and often people put signs up again if they’ve been taken down.
When asked how people have been inspired by Signs of Justice, Brown had this to say: “they’ve taken it upon themselves to make different signs with more resources and different messages, and I think it could be used in the future not only as a form of protest but as a way of raising awareness.”