Editor’s note: Due to inclement weather, this event has been postponed to Thursday, Sept. 3 (same time).
People can change the world without leaving their driveways.
That is one message behind Chalk It Up, a town-wide event to be hosted by the Hopkinton High School Diversity Club on Wednesday, Sept. 2.
On that day from 2-4 p.m. community members are encouraged to use chalk to create messages of diversity, inclusivity and kindness on their driveways and sidewalks.
They can share favorite quotes, positive phrases or artwork. Community members can email the creations to firstname.lastname@example.org for widespread sharing. A drone also might be utilized to capture the images.
Participants don’t have to go farther than their own homes, which keeps people at a safe social distance. But the message will reverberate through Hopkinton and beyond, organizers hope.
“We want to make a town-wide statement: We hear you, we see you, we’re in this together,” said Freya Proudman, a 2018 Hopkinton High School graduate and one of the event organizers.
The statement is particularly timely in Hopkinton, organizers said.
An Instagram account titled BIPOC at Hopkinton has stirred controversy and calls for action. Posters anonymously wrote about incidents in Hopkinton when they were subjected to bias, including use of the N-word and derogatory comments about sexuality.
Hearing about these incidents has been a “huge wakeup call,” Proudman said. Clearly, she said, Hopkinton is “not immune to racism.”
Events such as Chalk It Up, Proudman said, will help with “opening a dialogue.” This is not a “one-off event,” she said, but should be part of a community-wide ongoing effort.
“We need to start a conversation that’s very overdue,” she said.
“Everyone has the right to feel at home in Hopkinton,” Proudman added. “Everyone has the right to feel loved and supported by the Hopkinton community.”
The first step, she said, is “embracing and celebrating diversity.”
Chalk serves as both a means to a message and part of the message itself. For the day’s event, chalk stands for Challenge preconceptions, Help each other grow, Active against racism, Love our diversity, and Kindness is the start.
Organizers hope the use of chalk will inspire all ages, including children, to become involved. “Everyone loves sidewalk chalk,” Proudman said. “You can’t be too young or too old.”
Involving children matters, said Shazain Khan, a 2020 Hopkinton High School graduate who is helping to organize the effort.
He hopes the event will encourage parents “to talk to their kids about this,” he said. “These are such pervasive issues.”
“I’ve always had a passion to empower the voices of those who felt the need to be silent,” Khan said. “Without that conversation, we can’t possibly progress as a society.”
The date of the event — Sept. 2 — also has significance. That would have been the first day of school, before the required number of schools days was reduced by the state and extra time was added at the start of school for teachers to plan for a year that will combine in-person and remote learning.
“It’s a way to focus on positive traits to start the school year,” said Lisa Winner, an adjustment counselor at HHS and licensed mental health clinician who is helping to organize the event.
Creating messages across the town at the same time “is a really nice way to bring the community together,” she said.
The event is supported by a variety of community organizations, including the Hopkinton Fire Department, the Hopkinton Women’s Club and the BIPOC Instagram account.
“This is a very traumatizing time period,” Winner said. Seeing people of color hurt or killed in numerous incidents that have come to the national forefront “has been traumatic.”
She described the event as “a nice way to work through feelings, to talk about them and get support.”
Proudman hopes the day will be a fun community event that also speaks “to a much bigger picture, a much bigger message.”