Last Monday night, many Naperville, IL, businesses were damaged by rioters and looters smashing in windows and stealing merchandise from multiple stores. Community members, including myself and family, cleaned up broken glass early Tuesday morning.
Across the street from the Chico's store, where my brother, myself, and many others were sweeping up broken glass, a few young girls began decorating the boarded-up Apple Store with hearts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lou Malnati's brought out pizzas to those helping to clean up Chico's, their neighbor. Cindy Brennan
Although I did not see any of this myself, a video soon went viral that showed a man confronting a group of teenage girls who had just decorated the front of the Apple Store with Black Lives Matter paper hearts. He disagreed with what they were doing to decorate the town.
Quickly, people in the area stepped in to defend the girls.
Members of the community stood by the girls and started to decorate the entire downtown area. What started as a few hearts on the Apple Store turned into thousands of hearts, paintings, and posters on many Downtown Naperville business storefronts.
Before and AfterAmanda Brennan
On Wednesday, I went to Downtown Naperville and was overwhelmed by the number of people who were decorating up and down all of the streets. As Downtown Naperville (and the rest of the country) has been shut down during the coronavirus, it was comforting to see so many people in one spot again. Most people were still wearing masks while outside, but a sense of normalcy was restored when I saw the streets lined with people on a sunny, hot afternoon. Months prior, it was oddly deserted with only a few people running in and out of restaurants to pick up take-out food.
Seeing so many people in one place again, all promoting peace and equality after being separated indoors for so long, was more than refreshing.
Owners, employees, and customers of Peace, a locally owned boutique, painted positive messages on their boarded-up windows. Community members chalked the sidewalks with colorful, uplifting mantras and phrases, standing with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Painting outside of PeaceAmanda Brennan
A few days later, the number of paintings continued to grow. By Saturday, murals were added to the boards outside of Bluemercury, Two Bostons, Lululemon and Liam Brex, a locally owned cabinetry company.
Paper hearts were on nearly every storefront. From local small businesses and restaurants such as Anderson's Bookshop, Allegory, and SaraBoo Creek, to larger chains such as Sephora and Filson, there are now minimal blank spaces on boarded windows.
Hearts on Anderson's BookshopAmanda Brennan
As the town became more and more involved, the girls who originally started taping up hearts created a Facebook page, Hearts for Peace. Now, nearby Hinsdale has organized an event to decorate their town with paper hearts and other art.
I hope that this movement continues to expand. It is a great way for communities to work together and support one another. People can finally come together after spending so much time apart to promote equality and justice in our country. And, as a plus, the colorful artwork makes the brown, boring wooden-board look much more exciting and comforting.