Signs of Change – New group raises $10,000 for Black Lives Matter movement
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Decatur, GA — The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked protests and activism across the country and locally in the Decatur area. One group, ATL Signs of Change, emerged in June and has raised over $10,000 that was donated to various national organizations supporting Black communities.
Jessie Carr and Ashley Cocchi-Miller wanted to find a way to show solidarity with their neighbors of color after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Cocchi-Miller had called Carr one day and mentioned the current events and said they needed to do something. Cocchi-Miller wanted to at least get a sign, support Black-owned businesses and figure out what they could do as white allies to be supportive and raise awareness.
“As teachers, we work with predominately African-American kids and it’s really important for me to see that they have a better future,” Cocchi-Miller said.
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Carr also said that it means a lot to her and her family personally to feel supported in their neighborhood as her husband is Black and their children are biracial.
“When we moved into the Briarlake area five years ago, a couple months after we moved in my husband, my daughter, Olivia, and her friend, Rachel, who is Black, were walking down Briarlake Road and someone screamed out (a racial slur) at my family,”Carr said.
Carr and her family were devastated by the incident.
Carr received a quote for the price of the signs at the beginning of June 2020 and decided to post on Nextdoor to see if at least 50 of her neighbors in the Briarlake area would be interested in buying a sign. A few days later, she had already received 450 orders.
“I think when we started it we didn’t necessarily know that we were starting but once we got out there it felt really important, just getting out, talking to people, helping create awareness,” Cocchi-Miller said.
Carr ordered 500 signs the first time through Best Print and Design, a Black-owned business in Decatur, and didn’t have any problems handing them out.
They set up pick up locations for those who ordered a sign and some people also just showed up to ask if they had extra signs to buy for other neighbors.
They then placed a second order of 500 signs to distribute. Carr and Cocchi-Miller also gave their effort a name, ATL Signs of Change, and set up more pick up locations.
“Once we realized that with that bulk order we were going to have so much profit from that, we wanted to make sure we were giving all of that back to different organizations on the frontlines doing the work, the policy work,” Carr said.
They have donated to Black Lives Matter, the NAACP Legal Aid Fund, Fair Fight, Color of Change and Movement for Black Lives.
The group ordered another 1,000 signs and plans to donate those proceeds to organizations in Atlanta that work with the Black community, like Boys and Girls Club East Lake.
Both women have received positive reactions and support in their neighborhoods and from people who have purchased the signs. Cocchi-Miller said she has heard stories of people who feel welcome in their area now that their neighbors have Black Lives Matter signs.
“When the response from my predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood was so great, it means a lot. It means a lot for us to be able to drive down our street and feel the support of our neighborhood because we weren’t really sure,” Carr said.
Cocchi-Miller said the most rewarding part about handing out signs is getting to talk to people in the community.
“We’ve encountered people who we’ve talked to that aren’t quite there yet or they don’t quite understand it all. At least some of the conversations I’ve had, it feels like they feel comfortable enough to start that conversation,” Cocchi-Miller said. “I think embracing those people who aren’t quite there yet is a step we need to help with.”
Carr and Cocchi-Miller have set up pick up spots in Decatur, Tucker, Avondale Estates, East Lake and North Druid Hills so far. They have also gained some help along the way. They have had about 12 to 15 people help out at various pickup events. Travis Copeland, Carr’s longtime friend, has helped on several occasions.
“The people who are coming up, these are the people we need to interact with right now based on everything that’s happening in the world. It’s been really positive and meaningful for me personally to hear these people making the effort to come out,” Copeland said.
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Copeland, like Carr and Cocchi-Miller, wanted to find a way to help and raise awareness for racial justice. He felt compelled to help Carr in her family since he has known them for 15 years and knew about the incident that happened when Carr moved to Briarlake.
Copeland has also seen positive reactions and seen many signs displayed in yards.
“Even just going to hang out with Jessie at her house, driving down her street and seeing all of the Black Lives Matter signs, I got goosebumps,” Copeland said. “I was overwhelmed driving down a street that is really representing, showing out and showing their support like that. It gave me chills and it made me feel really good about what we were doing.”
He also clarified that the pick-up events are done safely given the coronavirus pandemic. All the events have been outside, are contact-free and people are wearing face masks and using hand sanitizer.
The group wants to branch out into other areas and also wants to partner with more Black-owned businesses as pick up locations and help bring in business to support them. They are looking for small-businesses in Decatur to partner with.
ATL Signs of Change is hosting drive-thru pickups this week. Signs are $15 and the group is accepting cash-only payments. Signs can be picked up on Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m. at My Coffee Shop in East Lake, on Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at My Parent’s Basement in Avondale, and on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. at The Corner Cup Coffee in Tucker.
“It felt like a role that we could help fill and it grew out of the middle of nowhere. Every time we do it, it feels like important work,” Cocchi-Miller said. “It feels like the right thing to do. The community seems like they want to be supportive and maybe don’t necessarily know how but buying a sign and having the funds donated is a small start for them.”
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