Now That’s a Beautiful Wall!

Now That’s a Beautiful Wall!

On Monday morning, I was walking up the subway stairs at Union Square thinking, “what am I going to write about for Off the Grid this week?”  As I came around the corner, lo and behold the idea presented itself.  I found thousands of multi-colored Post-It notes adorning the long, white tile wall at the Union Square subway station, with a myriad of sentiments in reaction to last week’s election.  I couldn’t help but smile; it was a spectacular sight!

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The wall at Union Square is part of the Subway Therapy project started by artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez.  Chavez began this initiative about six months ago in order to provide an outlet for people to express their emotions, anonymously but collectively, in response to this past year’s tumultuous election.  Post-election walls, such as the one at Union Square, have become an even more important outlet for this expression.  While many of the messages are anti-Trump and some are pro-Trump, the majority of the messages call for love, hope, peace and equal rights.  Whether I agreed with the messages or not, I found reading them as therapeutic as leaving my own (not shown here in the spirit of anonymity).

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While the sentiments vary, the intent is expressed here: “All for one and one for all, if we all join hands, we’ll make a wall”

Governor Cuomo also participated in the project leaving a note emphasizing New York’s support of immigrants.

Governor Cuomo’s Post It note for the Subway Therapy wall in Union Square. Photo via Governor Cuomo Facebook page.

Governor Cuomo’s Post It note for the Subway Therapy wall in Union Square. Photo via Governor Cuomo Facebook page.

The site of this outlet for ‘silent’ protest/expression could not be more apropos.  Union Square Park has a long history as a place where mass demonstrations, rallies and protests took place, almost since its inception in 1831 when it was designated as a public space by the State Legislature.  Protests and demonstrations throughout the years have included a pro-Union rally at the beginning of the Civil War, anti-draft protest during the Civil War, various labor movement demonstrations before and after the turn of the 20th century, and demonstrations by the women’s suffrage movement at the beginning of the 20th century.

So as we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of an emotionally turbulent year and the beginning of a somewhat uncertain future, I am thankful not only for free speech, but for it being exercised in our neighborhood with such aplomb.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. […] Union Square – Designated an official public space in 1831, Union Square’s large footprint on the then-outskirts of the developed city meant there was lots of room for large civic gatherings. One of the first such gatherings was in 1861, in support of the Union Army in the Civil War. This and other early rallies solidified the Square’s reputation as a space for public demonstration, and an 1881 re-design of the park and square actually aimed to make the space more amenable to rallies and other large congregations. The park’s been redesigned since, but it has remained a go-to for activists – from suffrage rallies, to the start of the first Labor Day parade, to recent Black Lives Matter marches. A 2014 Off the Grid post gives greater detail about the history of public protest in the square, and things haven’t slowed down since then. Recently, even the Union Square subway station was a site for expressing dissent. […]

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