Posters, street art and murals continue to pop-up around the city in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the signs in Greenpoint have their own local flavor.

A row of posters plastered on wooden boards near McGolrick Park draws a connection between Black Lives Matter and the 1980’s Solidarity movement in Poland.

At the top of the poster, the red logo for “Solidarność” (meaning solidarity in Polish) references the 1980’s anti-authoritarian movement in Poland. Underneath the logo is a black and white photograph of a person wearing a face mask, holding up a fist in protest. On the bottom of the poster the words “Black Lives Matter” are written in thin black letters. Since their posting, the posters have been defaced and torn down, but their remnants are still legible to passersby. For some Greenpointers, though, the meaning of the signs might still be hard to decipher.

Solidarność posters in Greenpoint this summer.

Solidarność began as a worker’s strike at a Gdansk shipyard in 1980 and grew to become a massive labor union with 10 million members. Solidarność was also a social movement that fought against authoritarianism and eventually led to democratic elections in Poland in 1989.

“It’s a beautiful bit of typography,” says Marcin Wolynski, a Polish-American New Yorker whose parents were activists involved in Solidarność. The connection between Solidarność and Black Lives Matter is clear to Wolynski. The Solidarność movement was “about the dignity and agency of human beings, and for me that lays over perfectly with Black Lives Matter,” he says. For others, the connection makes less sense. “It’s a little bit confusing,” says Dr. Malgorzata Mazurek, an associate professor of Polish Studies at Columbia University. “Solidarność is about class solidarity, historically.”


Images of the posters circulated on Twitter, gaining the attention of Polish sociologist at Nicolaus Copernicus University, Łukasz Wojtkowski. Wojtkowski says he was intrigued by the “bridge over the ocean” between the American and Polish movements. He sees the signs as hopeful, and remind him of the doubts people had about the success of Solidarność. “If Solidarity managed to fight communism, Black Lives Matter also has a chance,” he says.

Not all local residents find the posters hopeful. Stanisław, a man sitting at McGolrick park, lived in Poland during the Solidarność movement says he doesn’t like the signs, “I liked the 1980s Solidarność, not this, this is not good.”

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  1. Interesting manipulation. Solidarity was an anti-communist and anti-socialist movement. BLM activists on the other hand are socialists (Sanders, redistribution of goods, censorship, fighting opposing ideas and freedom of speech, etc). Solidarity fought ideas shared by BLM movement. And there was no blacks in Solidarity. BLM: Please keep your hand of that symbol. It is not yours. You disrespect my father who was a Solidarity activist and risk his life to abolish socialist system.

  2. Julia, some of us in Greenpoint know exactly what Stanisław envisions in his little head when he says “not this, this is not good.” The “this” he envisions are black people and people of color, the “them”. Dr. Mazurek, Stanisław, and JJ, face your racist self and think not too deeply, as to why you want our hands off this symbol of solidarity to belong only to white Poles like yourself. You know why, it’s because you think you are better because you are white. Be aware that people risk their lives for equality, freedom, and dignity throughout the world, and when good people stand together for basic human rights and dignity, it’s called solidarity, or in your language, solidarność. Solidarity with a movement for black and brown lives to be treated equally with whites is not a “class” movement in the US. As Wojtkowski says, “if Solidarity managed to fight communism, Black Lives Matter also has a chance.” Another thing, it’s time to read the Bible, and truly, really truly understand the words of Jesus Christ.

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