Black Lives Matter: Inspiring Stories of Communities Coming Together Against Racism
"You've posted about Black Lives Matter on social media. Now what?"
That's a question many seem to be asking in regard to how to push the human rights movement forward in real life. You may have seen plenty of educational posts recently providing information on everything from the "Dos and Don'ts of How to Ally" to "How to Talk to Your White Relatives, Friends and Kids About Racism."
So how do you take what you've learned online and apply it to your everyday life? In addition to voting and signing petitions, change can begin by having conversations with the people around you, starting with family members, friends and those in your community. Let these inspiring stories from people across the country be your guide.
Caroline Crockett Brock, a white woman living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has been making headlines for starting a dialogue about race with Ernest Skelton, a black appliance technician she hired to fix her family's dryer.
Brock shared in a lengthy Facebook post that when Skelton came to her home last month (following the fatal arrest of George Floyd, which sparked global outrage), she asked him how he was doing given the current climate. Skelton opened up, sharing a few stories about how racism has affected him professionally.
"Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year. He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another," Brock explained. "Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car -- parts and pieces of appliances. They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he's selling drugs. These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way. Every time he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him."
"Ernest does not work past dinnertime. Not because he doesn't need the business, but because it isn't safe for him to be out after dark. He says, 'There's nothing out there in the world for me past dark,'" Brock added. "Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle-aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it's not safe for him. He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth. A truth that needs to be heard."
Brock concluded her post by writing that, as a 45-year-old white woman living in the South, she can "begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans" in her world and "listening to their lived experience and speaking up."
"I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses," she added. "That's what I can do today. Let's start by listening and lifting up. It's that simple."
Since that initial post, Brock has been encouraging her Facebook friends almost daily to have important conversations about race, and even attended a local peaceful protest with Skelton in Grand Park.
"Well friends, it’s been quite the week," she wrote June 6. "Last Saturday Ernest and I could have never imagined that a broken dryer would cause the events that have unfolded, or that we'd be attending a peaceful protest together, arm and arm, a week later, but here we are."
"We need to recognize that we've got a lifetime of kindness to pour into people of color. Not pandering or net-neutral interaction, but good old fashioned kindness -- the type that shines in the eyes because it comes from the heart," she added in another post. "Next time you’re out in public, take a moment to open your heart ... be the change."
Skelton also gave an update on how much his life has already changed since news went viral of the candid conversation he had with Brock. He said in a video posted to his new pal's Facebook page that "business is good," and he is now working later hours.
"People have started working with me with open arms, and some of them are in tears because of what's happened," he explained. "I'm very grateful. Now we continue to move forward ... I just want to make this area a better place to live, and a safe place to live."
Meanwhile, in Rochester, New York, Benjamin Smith, a white Marine, and his black best friend, Marcus Ellis, set up a sign in his front yard that read, "Black or white, relax and have a beer," following Floyd's death last month. The two cracked open a few beverages, sat in lawn chairs and invited others to chat about race in America. Their story has since gone viral.
"It's insane," Smith told CBS of the widespread attention. "It's such a cool feeling that we're making such a big impact across the community, and what seems to be across the U.S."
"I fought for a free America, a just America," he continued. "When I heard about the George Floyd incident, it really, really upset me. That's not what I fought for."
One person who took notice of Smith and Ellis' outdoor discussions is country star Brad Paisley. He recently hopped on a Zoom call to chat with the two, and sent them hundreds of dollars' worth of Budweiser and Bud Light beers to help keep their community chats going.
"Man, I am so thrilled to meet you, face to face like this," Paisley said during the call, according to WROC. "I'm so inspired by you, and we thought we should deliver more beer than you could possibly drink. This is going to be a popular destination on this street."
"I'm trying to hear out my friends in the black community, that's what you guys are doing together, [it's] the same thing," he added. "I'm all ears, always have been. I've had big ears my whole life."
Another inspiring story comes from Nashville, Tennessee, where Carlos Whittaker, a black man, recorded a conversation he had about racism with his white neighbor, James Martin, who is in his 70s. In the four years Whittaker has lived at his current residence, he and Martin have never spoken, until now. And it all started with a painted lawn rabbit!
"[James] has a huge American flag draped on his front door and 2 white porcelain bunnies in his front yard. I've waved. I've smiled. I've shouted 'Morning!' Nothing. Not even an acknowledgement," Whittaker shared, of where their relationship previously stood. "But then yesterday, I see this man walk out his front door with a can of paint in one hand and a brush in the other. He proceeds to kneel down in front of one of the bunnies and opens up the can of paint. He dips the paintbrush in the can and begins to slowly and carefully paint the white bunny...Black."
"For the next 12 hours I was trying to come up with 1,000 other reasons why he [might have] painted that bunny black, besides the reason my gut was telling me. So this morning when I saw him in his driveway, I walked across the street and asked him," Whittaker continued. "This is the hard work it's going to take, friends. Uncomfortable conversations. Admitting our own bias. Calling it out in our small circles of friends. So I need you all to call out the bias in your own hearts… Apologize to who you need to apologize to… and let's get this party started. Do the heart work."
Whittaker added that while protests may change policy, "conversations change communities."
"They are both vital," he said. "Now go do your part."
Watch his interaction with Martin below:
In Seattle, Heather Christo was taking a walk around her neighborhood when she spotted a few young kids having their own version of a Black Lives Matter protest.
"I was feeling pretty down today, so I thought I would take a walk to clear my head and try to spare my family," she explained on Instagram. "When I rounded the corner a few blocks from my house I heard little kid voices yelling and followed the sound to the most wonderful sight! A bunch of the cutest kids ever from the neighborhood all working together to bring awareness to Black Lives Matter and selling popcorn to raise money ($1000 goal they said) for The Urban League."
"These children gave me all the hope in the world for a better future," she added. "I, in a miracle of miracles had cash on me -- so I made my donation, and told them how awesome they are and to please keep up their amazing work. They said, 'I bet you want to take a picture of us, huh?' Warriors for change!"
For more feel-good stories like these, head to ET's Good News section, and find more information about the Black Lives Matter movement here.
Stephen 'tWitch' Boss & Allison Holker on Raising Biracial Kids
Lady Gaga Addresses Systemic Racism in 'Dear Class of 2020' Speech
Blackout Tuesday: Chance the Rapper & More Share How You Can Help