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 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.”