WILLIAMSBURG — A simple snowman wouldn't cut it for Brooklyn high school students in this year's holiday window competition on Grand Street, who said the impact of this year's election compelled them decorate in a more meaningful way.
Art students from Progress High School in the Grand Street campus filled up the window of Empire Locks at 648 Grand St. with messages like, "Dear Latinx families, you will always be loved and cared for," "Dear disabled, person I will protect you" and "Dear LGBTQ people you are loved and accepted."
They decorated the window as part of Grand Street Business Improvement Districts window display competition, though their project lost to another window decoration by just three votes.
"It's Christmas time, the tradition is to hand out gifts. It's supposed to be a time where everybody comes together," said Michael Rodriguez, 16, an junior at Progress. "The message on the gifts is we're all equal and we all need to come together."
Like many Americans who didn't support President-elect Donald Trump, the Progress students said they felt his message about immigrants, Muslims and women were hurtful.
"My little sister and brother's father is an immigrant. I don't know what they're going to do," said Tanaycious Gaymon, 16, a tenth grader, of her half-siblings.
So with a window display extending words of solidarity, they hoped pedestrians passing by would feel supported no matter who they are, they said.
Passersby who see the display might think, "If they care for us, how many other people care for us?" said tenth grader Markeeba Livingston, 15. She'd crafted the message, "Dear Muslim girl. Bedazzle your hijab and WEAR IN PROUDLY! You are always safe."
Empire Lock owner, who prefers to be identified by her artistic name, Aura I Am, said she'd been overjoyed to see the holiday display.
"I expected something nice and artistic you know, but I love the originality and positive message. A lot of people love it too," Aura, who has run the shop since 2013, said. "I just kind of felt the love coming through the art. I just felt loved."
While students hoped they'd touch shop-goers on Grand Street, they also were realistic about their display's impact.
"This project might make people feel better about themselves, but there's still discrimination in America," Gaymon said.