NEW BRITAIN – To be an ally toward the Black Lives Matter movement means to be actively involved for Mahmuda Chowdhury, who was inspired to design her own lawn signs to support the cause.
“It is a simple message, but it means a lot,” said Chowdhury, a New Britain youth leader. “I wanted something with power but not anything too complicated so the message of support doesn’t get lost.”
The lawn sign has the words #BLACKLIVESMATTER printed in white against a black background. It also has a QR code that leads to the Black Lives Matter website for more information. She designed it with the help of friends and family and has been sharing it at different local protests, rallies and group discussions.
After the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after a police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, Chowdhury began joining local protests and started having conversations with family, friends and strangers about the movement. She soon realized while most people say they support the black community, they are not actually doing anything to help.
“I think it’s really important to not only acknowledge the problem, but to do something about it,” she said. “You can’t say you’re an ally and that’s it. That’s not enough. There is a need to do more and by making the lawn signs and putting it out there in our neighborhoods; it’s just my small way of contributing to the change.”
Chowdhury was inspired by the passion of the movement as well as the general sense of helplessness from people, a sentiment Chowdhury learned through her various conversations.
“A lot of people think the movement is going to lose steam and even with all the protesting going on, most people feel like nothing is going to change,” she said. “The thing is, nothing is going to change if you don’t do anything about it.”
Growing up in New Britain was a good experience for the University of Connecticut student. But because of the color of her skin, Chowdhury has had her fair share of racist experiences.
“I’m Bengali, but I was born in New York and grew up in New Britain,” she said. “While it’s a very diverse town and I love my early exposure to different cultures, there are still a lot of misunderstandings between different cultures and we have a lot of work we need to do.”
While recognizing she isn’t black, Chowdhury does feel like she has a heightened sense of sensitivity because of her own experiences with racism.
“We all go through our struggles, but the experiences are incomparable,” Chowdhury said. “Anything that I’ve been through is nothing compared to what a black child has to go through. Which is sad and depressing and that makes it even more important for us to acknowledge the problems.”
To stand in solidarity is important to Chowdhury and she believes the movement should not be viewed as something that is controversial or political.
“It’s a stand for people with human decency,” she said. “I know there is only so much that a person can do, but what we can keep doing is showing support by being vocal. It’s important to keep in mind what other people are going through and just because people stop posting about it on social media doesn’t mean the work is done.”
The price of the signs is $10, but buyers are welcomed to donate more. All proceeds will be split between the Black Lives Matter, ACLU, United Negro College Fund and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund & Education Fund.
For those interested in purchasing a sign, contact Mahmuda Chowdhury at firstname.lastname@example.org.