Neighborhood combats divisive graffiti with love and chalk in Prairie Ronde Twp.

An unknown person or persons spray painted “White Lives Matter” and “Keep America Great” at the intersection of 8th Street and W Avenue sometime before 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 22nd in Prairie Ronde Township, Schoolcraft. By 8 p.m. however, a group of nearly 40 people had chalked over the graffiti, writing “Hate has no home here,” “Let Black people live,” “SHS supports BLM,” and other phrases. Some attendees wrote names of Black people killed by police and messages of love. Others drew American flags and peace signs. 

“The hate that people are trying to spread, we gotta counter that with love,” explained Quinton Bryant, as his six-year-old daughter tugged on his megaphone. “Car!” she shouted, warning people in the street to move to the roadside and let traffic pass. Quentin continued, “Black Lives Matter to me, means that my daughter can grow up in a world where she doesn’t have to come out and do this when she’s our age. She shouldn’t have to protest, the same way we shouldn’t have to protest what our parents and our grandparents protested.” 

“For folks who live in towns like Schoolcraft, who believe that Black people should be welcome in our communities, it is important that we stand up to racism whenever we see it.” Max Jones, a white man who grew up in Schoolcraft, explained why he came to chalk the street. He waved to people driving through the intersection. Many drivers waved or honked in support. Others spun their tires in the chalk, smudging messages that had been written by attendees, or passed through without slowing down for pedestrians. 

Liz Hart Walker, a white woman who grew up on 8th Street a few miles from where the graffiti took place, said “I had a much more visceral response to this than I did to a lot of other things. This public display of making a space feel unsafe for my Black husband and my biracial child just really hurt. And I wanted to see different messaging and different imagery to defend the safety of my family.”

Her husband Laird Walker was also in attendance, commenting “I’ve been trying to be contemplative about what I write on this street. People think just because they live in this small town with small town values of respect, know your neighbor, that they’re immune.” He said that as a Black man in a predominantly white town, he is often treated like he is unsafe. 

Justene Knowlton, a white woman who lives in Schoolcraft, explained why she attended. “One, because it’s the right thing to do. Because everyone should be equal. And two, I came here for the two kids that I have. They passed away, but I would never have wanted them to live in a world like this.” She then asked for blue chalk, and began writing a message about love.

Bryant explained that he does feel like things are headed in a different direction, “Absolutely. Because we’re in the middle of a rural area, we got cornfields around us, predominantly white people, and at the same time we’ve got all these white people coming through telling us thank you for cleaning up this hate. We’ve got people showing up, showing support, cleaning up the mess that their community did.”