After noticing signs of divisiveness and fear in recent weeks, one woman came up with a plan to prevent society sinking into intolerance. Turning to a traditional symbol of welcome, she took guerilla action on the streets of London
I am a dual American and British citizen, and the daughter of Venezuelan immigrants. Over the past year I’ve shed tears watching all my home countries – to put it lightly – lose it.
But in that time, I’ve also learned an important lesson: it’s not enough to hope that someone else will fix what’s broken. This planet is home to all of us, and it’s up to each of us to take responsibility, and action, for keeping it together. We cannot let society sink into divisiveness and intolerance.
So I decided to do something to help people feel welcome, wherever they are. I decided to launch a guerrilla campaign for kindness, tolerance and understanding. I called it A Welcome Thought.
I pulled together a group of friends and collaborators designers – artists and entrepreneurs – and on the Monday after the US election we put hundreds of place cards all over London, each with a simple message: “A place for…”
We cannot let society sink into divisiveness and intolerance
Everyone, you, immigrants, Muslims, cat lovers. The card can be addressed to anyone, by anyone.
It’s an invitation. After all, place cards are traditionally a symbol of welcome. These send a public message that everyone – of any race, creed or colour – belongs here. And they give people an easy way to help others feel more at home too: in local pubs, on public transport, anywhere that could be more welcoming. All anyone needs to participate is a sheet of paper, a printer, and this simple template to make their own place card, fill it in however they like and put it wherever they want.
It began as a small, humble project but it’s gaining momentum. Within a few days, people from across the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Greece and Zambia got in touch to get involved. Word is spreading on social media, and finding one ‘in the wild’ is a special moment. After stealthily leaving a few in cafes and shops, I’ve sat back and watched people smile or get a little teary, share it with their neighbor or fold it back up and drop it off at another table. One was left at the gate of Boris Johnson’s house as a reminder who this place is for. Everyone.
I know what it’s like to feel unwelcome, and luckily I haven’t felt it very often. My hope is that what started as hundreds of welcomes in one city turns into thousands all over the world – that a sense of belonging will spread across London and far beyond. Because to build a better future together, all of us need to feel we belong.
To build a better future together, all of us need to feel we belong
Images: Danko Stjepanovic and Robbie Dale