Like tens of millions of people worldwide, Lakeshore Avenue residents, Robbin Green Yeh and her husband, Ray Yeh, watched in horror as the brutal murder of George Floyd unfolded before their eyes and they knew they had to do something. As owners of The Uptown nightclub, they would ordinarily have put up posters and hosted fundraising campaigns, but due to social distancing requirements they are currently closed. Speaking by phone, Robbin was quick to add that they are “closed”—not “boarded up”—because they trust the community to respect what they do and that trust has, in fact, been rewarded.
Looking online for other options, Robbin discovered a gallery titled “Justice For Our Lives,” which consists of open source digital portraits (by Bay Area artist, Oree Originol) of people of color who have been killed by U.S. law enforcement dating back to 2014. As of early June, there were eighty-four portraits in the gallery, which the Yehs turned into the poster now displayed in Uptown’s front window. To reach a broader audience with a bigger impact, they also printed larger copies that were laminated and mounted on poles. Assembly of the resulting “Know Justice. Know Peace” memorial was very much a group effort that included Ray and Robbin plus Uptown’s manager, Julio Palacios, and Robbin’s sister, Brigid Wilson, along with her children, Zaria and Giannis.
On June 7, all eighty-four images were neatly arranged on the Yehs’ front porch to ensure social distancing. Neighbors Richard and Lisa Young assisted in hauling them across the street, and another neighbor, Shamieka, helped arrange and drive the posts into the ground. No formal gathering was planned, but as the memorial took shape, a small crowd gathered. Three weeks later, fresh flowers are strewn on the ground and Robbin, who says she wants to keep a low profile, quietly watches as people regularly come to pay tribute and sometimes to pray—fulfilling her ultimate goal:
Keeping the issue of police brutality and institutional racism (especially in the police force) in the forefront of people’s minds so that we don’t lose momentum in the fight for equal justice that was re-invigorated by the murder of George Floyd.
On a sad note, Oree Originol has since added an eighty-fifth portrait, and—according to a Facebook post—shortly after the installation was complete, an unknown individual added a red flag in memory of Erik Salgado who was killed in East Oakland by CHP officers who shot forty rounds, also injuring his pregnant girlfriend. Moreover, Robbin also shared the Washington Post‘s Fatal Force Database that keeps a running tally of individuals who have lost their lives at the hand of the police—1,021 in this year alone.