I woke up yesterday morning, groggy from the conflict and dark energy still looming in the air. I rode a mile down Fairfax to Melrose Avenue. The destruction of the peaceful-protest-turned-riots-and-looting arrived not even a mile from my doorstep. It has made a war torn scene out of a boulevard I head down almost every day.
So I had to help the only way I could – by cleaning it up. I got a razor and started scraping off the spray paint from one of the storefronts on the intersection. With me, numerous women and men of all colors stood together, scraping and wiping down the desecrated windows.
My initial intention was just to see the aftermath of the looting, out of journalistic curiosity. But the gutted buildings, a couple still smoldering from arson, took my breath away. This was done in the name of justice? Of course not. These were opportunistic saboteurs hijacking a noble cause for their mission to instill fear and strife among us, in addition to nabbing a few pairs of expensive kicks from Flight Club.
The good people marching in support of human rights, expressing their grief over the unjustified death of yet another black man at the hands of the police, have been betrayed by agitators.
I took in the scene. I walked, and looked, and nodded at folk. It was calm in the morning, thank goodness. A collective sigh filled the street. It felt awkward. People eyeing each other as they passed. Are you a legitimate protestor or a troublemaker? Seemed to be a question written on a lot of people’s faces.
The young women of color who own and run Giselle Soto Brows, stood outside the salon sweeping glass, one of them telling me how she was holed up in the store last night to protect it from looters. The old white man who runs The Record Collector next door thanked her for protecting his store as well. They were in it together. It was touching, even inspiring to see that.
Down the block, the black owners of the boutique Sorella, were hurriedly boarding up their business, expressing their fear that their store might be destroyed later that night. Why should people of color and senior citizen small business owners be boarding up their storefronts? Are they the problem? Why should they be afraid?
What could I do? What could I say? How could I help? It’s my neighborhood after all. As helpless as I am to prevent something like this, I am also empowered to improve the situation by cleaning up. It’s all I could do, for now.
God bless you all. Stay safe out there.