Signs of Hope

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Signs of Hope

Catalog Entry

The material that the collage consists of is a series of photo submissions from a local organization “Brookfields fight fear.” in response to a Post made by myself, requesting help on finding significant artifacts to recount the events that transpired in the year 2020 pertaining to the black lives matter movement. At first, the artifact was going to be a single example of a sign to represent signs, but after multiple submissions from the community submissions, there is now a series of images coming from many citizens across time and town lines, all involving facing black lives matter in our small community. 

After taking a closer look at an instance of the humble individual, and how they impact the community when going through a time of social change, I wanted to also have representation from the community as a whole. When organizing the local protests, many people came together with signs. These signs were an important symbol of unity, and also unified the message of the group. Although this is just one example of a physical community, it is a strong one because each sign represents something different and also holds true to the individual holding the sign. Signs are a massive symbol of wide-scale protests and, clearly, the small community level as well. In light of the enormous social changes that occurred in 2020 in response to the black lives matter protests, towns across the country were all forced to face the bigger picture of the reality of police brutality and systemic racism in America. 

When considering all the great protests that have transpired in history, an important link that almost all have is signs. Signs have been used in historical protests for hundreds of years and serve an important purpose. When protesting, a sign adds a visual element and unifies the people protesting their message. An article entitled “The Signs Protesters Carry” by the Rolling Stone says “They have brought with them their anger and aspirations, their dreams and demands, their

clarion calls for justice. They can be heard in their chants and seen in their sheer numbers, but the 

messages they bring are perhaps most vividly illustrated by the signs they hold aloft as they march.” This powerful quote supports the claim that signs hold the power of the movement, and continue the spread of its message. The article goes on to explore the signs that we find ourselves with today. Signs that were used during the black lives matter marches across America this summer ranged from political cartoons, rally calls, or simply the word “Black Lives Matter”. 

Whether the slogan is funny, heartbreaking, or witty the focus of what is being conveyed is very clear.The images the collage consists of are from many different backgrounds and events but all share one thing in common and that is the context. Like the thousands of other towns that faced this momentous call to awareness of the plight of black people in America, so did the citizens of the small Massachusetts community of the Brookfield's. The citizens of the Brookfield's that took part in the local events in support of BLM came from different backgrounds of age, socioeconomic status, and race; they all shared their community in common, and the desire to bring awareness to what is happening in America today. The specific context of the artifacts each carry its own story in contributing to the larger context of BLM in this small community. The theme of this artifact is the physical contribution on the community scale. This relates to the larger scale theme of the exhibition, being, facing the bigger image of race relations in the United States in a small community. The signs give a perspective on this story by serving as an example of something produced by a community to come together and rally under a unified message. There have also been developments in signs as a medium, in light of recent protests. As the nation sees a surge in protests signs are also evolving. According to an article In TheWashington Post, although signs have been around since the American Revolution, we are seeing an even bigger influence now as pop culture has mixed with politics. 

The first image is from the first local protest that the community held in North Brookfield. The image depicts a line of people stretching a quarter-mile of people all marching towards main St in north Brookfield, many with signs in hand. The second image is a closer look at an example of what signs for a protest looked like, a simple message, with big letters. The third picture was submitted by a local organizer for the Local BLM protests with the caption “A couple of pix from N Brookfield. I noticed the other day on a town Facebook page that some people are STILL upset that this ever happened in our town. As far as I'm concerned it was one of the best days in town history.” Image 4 depicts a small child raising the American flag with a sign containing only a simple message of unity and community in these times. It is these images that hold the heart of the spirit of the protests that took place and in these images, a moment is captured where the people of this community stood together with signs in hand. 

The significance this artifact bears is very important. The signs not only signify not just words, but actions behind them. The signs also signified an enormous call to action not just for other citizens of the town but also joined the voices across the country in support of the bigger message. The signs compiled together also represent the community taking control. All of the signs were not only created and displayed to represent the movement but also symbolized a union between the people who stood along with them. 


Bort, Ryan. “The Signs Protesters Carry.” Rolling Stone, 15 June 2020,

Gibson, Caitlin. “Today's Protest Signs Are Sharper, Meaner, Funnier - and Live on Long after the Rallies.” The Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2019, s-are-sharper-meaner-funnier-and-live-on-long-after-the-rallies/.

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Ethan Hines, Student, Fitchburg State University

ALFA Mentor

Gail Hoar


Photos solicited by author from social media


“Signs of Hope,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed February 23, 2024,

Output Formats