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