Lawn signs a success for Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum worldwide, but one Alberta Avenue resident is doing her part to continue the conversation.

Liz John-West says it all started when she attended the Black Lives Matter rally at the Legislative grounds. “It’s the first time in history that a movement has captured the attention of so many people.”

Soon after, she was watching the CBC National News and discovered that Alicia Turner, an Ontario resident, had created Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter lawn signs to demonstrate her support.

“I thought, what a great way to keep the issues in the forefront of the community,” says John-West. “I contacted her, she was thrilled and made a website.”

To be clear, John-West isn’t part of the Black Lives Matter or Indigenous Lives Matter movement. “I’m just the person who made the lawn signs, I’m not part of the organization. I’m just Liz, a private citizen doing her part to keep the conversation going.” 

She started making the signs in August, and made a total of 500 signs. “About 300 were gone in one month. Steven Townsend [president of Parkdale Cromdale Community League] was the first one to buy the signs. These signs have gone all over Edmonton.”

Townsend says, “When I heard that Liz had these signs available, I knew I had to get one. This message of Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter needs to be heard and understood. It has already sparked some conversations with neighbours who were at first triggered by the words on the sign, but after an open dialogue, better understood the expressions.” 

Townsend says another conversation was when a mother walked by with her four children. “One of the kids noticed the sign and said to their mother, ‘Look Mom, our lives matter.’ It was right then I realized how important the signs really are and the impact they can have.”

Out of the 280 neighbourhoods in Edmonton, 45 of them have signs now. Outside of Edmonton, Sherwood Park, Ponoka, and St. Albert have them. The success is due to the power of social media. 

“These young people put it on Instagram and it just went crazy,” says John-West. 

The signs are affordable: $15 for two or $7.50 for one. But she doesn’t want cost to be a barrier, either. “It’s whatever people can afford.” She explains some people will donate money so that others who can’t afford to buy signs can still have them on their lawn. The Nook Cafe and Earth’s General Store currently stock some signs for people to purchase.

The lawn signs are, as she says, “a very minor way to make a huge issue known. It creates the conversation. It helps people unpack the issue. The hope is that the lawn signs would move the conversation forward.”

And perhaps the continuing conversation can bring change. “The whole community is rallying behind [the movement].”

John-West hopes to sell the remaining signs in the next few weeks, and then reassess if she wants to buy more signs in the spring. 

In the meantime, the success of the lawn signs is telling. “It speaks to how people are responding to the issues. People know they want to do better.”

To buy any remaining lawn signs, visit Proceeds cover the costs of making the signs. Any extra money will go to buying more signs if there’s a demand or to Camp Pekiwewin.

Featured Image: Liz John-West is hoping to continue the conversation around racism with the lawn signs. | Geoff John-West