Bus ad girls

An idea that started as a small fundraiser by a group of local middle schoolers to make a month-long public statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement has evolved into a larger way to support anti-racist groups and black-owned businesses and organizations in the area.?

A group of six 8th grade girls from a local grade school, some of whom didn’t want to be identified, started the effort in the wake of the nationwide protests after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. Greta, who was comfortable using her first name, said the group’s effort started by aiming to raise enough money to buy an ad on a Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) bus, a message that would support the Black Lives Matter movement and show solidarity with those protesting around the country and locally.?

They came up with the idea after discussing ways the group of girls could get involved despite their youth and relative lack of resources and growing more eager to voice their support in whatever way they could. Then, after initiating a GoFundMe and getting the word out to friends and family, their effort quickly surpassed its funding goal of $450 and raced all the way to $1905 before they closed the campaign after just two days. With the extra money, Greta said the group decided to expand the plan to include three ads, which will each run for one month.?

“We started a GoFundMe, because obviously bus ads cost some money,” Greta said. “We raised way more than we expected, a lot of people were really supportive of the idea.”

Greta said the three ads will be split between one that displays a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, one that shows a quote from Malcolm X (“That’s not a chip on my shoulder, that’s your foot on my neck”), and one that says “I can’t breathe,” which George Floyd (and Eric Garner before him) urgently exclaimed as they were being killed by police.?

The fact that buses travel constantly around the county at all hours of the day also appealed to the group, meaning their message would be spread far and wide and would extend past just the current moment. Plus, another member said that the bus ads in Ithaca were always catching her eye, and she thinks the group’s ads would have a similar impact. The ads are currently being designed, Greta said.?

Alana said once Greta had the initial idea, the rest of the group each began sharing the links to generate interest. In interviews, the girls all seem to have social consciousness well beyond their age, and the need to educate those around them as much as possible.?

“I try my best, I understand personally why this is important,” Alana, who was also comfortable using her first name, said when she talks to members of her extended family. “It is hard to educate, but I try.”

Ellie, also only comfortable with her first name being used, called this “just the beginning.” Alana said she imagines that the plans further down the line involve continuing to push for fundraising for black organizations and minority-owned businesses. It’s clear the group wants to use this period to remain involved.?

“Black lives matter, and they matter all the time, not just now that it’s trending,” Alana said.?

The success of the first GoFundMe inspired the group to keep the campaign going. They started a second GoFundMe, and money made from this point forward will go to a blend of Standing Up for Racial Justice, Black Lives Matter - Ithaca, Business Leaders of Colors and the Multicultural Resource Center. Gladys Brangman, of the Business Leaders of Colors, said they would be taking any funds from the GoFundMe campaigns and making it available for distribution to local black businesses.?

“They’ve been fighting this battle a lot longer than we have, so they probably have a lot of things they can do with the money,” Greta said. “We just really want to spread and show our support for their movement, and try to get other people involved as well.”

The group is going to continue to try to find ways to support the movement doing what they can, though Greta acknowledged the limitations that she and the five other girls, and likely many other kids, are facing when it comes to public shows of support. Other members agreed, saying that this seemed like a good way to make their voice heard immediately

“We wanted to find a safe, supportive way of showing our message that would be okay for us to do as eighth-graders,” Greta said. “Again, there’s really not a lot we can do as eighth-graders and during this time. A couple of us were allowed to go to certain protests around here, but some of us aren’t allowed to leave our own homes. However, having a bus that rolls all around Ithaca showing our message is like holding our sign up for us.”

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