We live in troubling times… unrelenting and heartbreaking racism and violence against people of color, a global pandemic that has killed over 100,000 people in this country alone, and an economic downturn that has put 40,000,000 Americans (including some 9,000 Tompkins County residents) into unemployment. Isolation has begotten cynicism. The images of violence and racism against people of color beget rage and anger. The economic malaise and the absence of national leadership invite hopelessness.
Since March, most Americans and most of our Ithaca and Tompkins County residents have fought against the scourge of COVID-19, wearing masks, practicing social distancing, isolating themselves, and their families whenever possible. It has been daunting … closing businesses, suspending commerce, changing the way we interact with each other and the world around us. But, so far, we have persevered and the results are beginning to speak for themselves. Through careful planning and shared community action, we have beat back this pandemic wave. We are reopening our downtown one step at a time, working with our business partners to bolster their chances for survival, and bring back the jobs and the community tax revenue we so desperately need to function as a society.
Racism and violence against people of color… this is a different story. The sad and horrific stories compound … a combination of mind-numbing cases of violence coupled with continual and omnipresent systemic racism that remains part of the daily life of many of our fellow residents. Now we are at a point where frustration and anger turn into protest, all across this country including here in our community.
Downtown was designed to accommodate and to welcome protest and community dialogue. As we built the Commons, we wanted a community space for expressions of both celebration and protest. It is heartening to see so many community members joining together to condemn hate and to call for an end to violence, and the insidious scourge of racism.
Protesting is important and valuable. When normal and status quo won’t solve our problems, extraordinary measures are required. Protests elevate the message. But, let’s be clear, just as the pandemic required coordinated community action to slow the spread, so too will violence and racism. Beating COVID-19 required plans and actions steps at all levels of government and in each and every household. That same level of response is now needed to address this disease of violence and racism. Without such a response, the progress we need will not occur. We look local, state, and national leadership, to step forward. We look to the people of our community to dig deep and tackle this challenge just like they tackled and prevailed so far over the pandemic. And, we, here in downtown, will dig deep with the rest of our community.
In Downtown, we have the space for both protest and celebration. There has been a dearth of celebration in 2020. Let us all work to beat back racism and violence just as we continue to best COVID-19 and then we will have occasion for community celebration.
Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director
Looking to further your support? Here is a listing of black-owned businesses in downtown Ithaca you should frequent as our community reopens: Adrina Dietra, Alta Spa, Bramble, Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine, God With Us Barber, Mane and Wigs, True Dat Barber Shop
ABOUT THE DOWNTOWN ITHACA ALLIANCE: The Downtown Ithaca Alliance is a 503(c) not-for-profit organization charged with the revitalization, development, promotion, and management of the Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District (DIBID). The organization represents the stakeholders, residents, businesses, and property owners in DIBID. For additional information, visit downtownithaca.com.