Signs Signs Everywhere
If you were in Portland following the presidential election it was hard not to notice some signs that were popping up everywhere. Printed by letterpress and mostly hanging in store windows they read:
ALL COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN
ALL SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS
WE STAND WITH YOU. YOU ARE SAFE HERE.
In a public environment that had become overcome by hate and fear- I understood trying to inject some gentleness and solidarity into the world. It is a kind and compassionate statement made bold.
On the other hand I’m a 43 year old native of heavily gentrified north and northeast Portland, and as I saw these signs up and down Killingsworth, Alberta, and Mississippi streets- I started wondering what it really meant to be safe in these places. I thought about the history of this city, and the history of gentrification and race and violence here. I thought about people calling the cops on shoplifters. I thought about people with money with outdoor seating, eating sushi, while black teenagers are lined up and patted down across the street. And I thought- do people selling $300 vintage backpacks really stand with me? Am I really safe in a high end taxidermy and museum goods shop? Will they record me on video? Will they even let me use the bathroom? And if ICE or the cops come charging down the street, will these stores take people in, shelter, and feed them?
The longer I saw these signs, the more I thought about alternatives. In the early 80s there was a lot of hysteria around kidnapping. I remember when I was growing up that there were houses around town with signs up for kids that said something like ‘safe place’, and I think these signs were set up by the city and churches- places/homes that kids could run to if they were scared. What if new signs in Portland came out explicitly against ICE or the police? Would that mean something more?
And then, honestly, I’m just kind of contrary- so it’s hard not to look at something and tear it apart in my head. One morning when I was sick, I sat down in front of the computer and worked up a photoshopped alternative to the ‘YOU ARE SAFE HERE’ signs. I did it with PPOP in mind, thinking of our fixed site on Saturdays. I thought about the quiet times up there, later in the day (after all the bulbs are gone!), when participants come and are just hanging out. I like those times, people use the space, sip coffee, lounge on the couches, charge their phones, and just look relaxed. Like they’re in a place that stands with them and where they are (relatively) safe. Like they are in a space where they’re not constantly criminalized or on the run.
I emailed these images to Sam and was rewarded a couple weeks later when he put them up at the PPOP fixed site. It was a real pleasure to watch people up there notice the signs, and then do a double take as they realized how the text had been altered. Anyway, these are the posters, feel free to use, reuse, adapt, mock, and change.
There’s a high res version of this poster (for printing) here.