Friday, March 5, 2021

Inspiring Good People to Act

On a sunny but chilly Saturday afternoon, the Bellefonte community came out in force to show its support after a Pride wall mural was vandalized.

Dozens of people turned out to quickly repaint the mural on the side of Jake’s Cards and Games, 131 West High Street in Bellefonte. The mural was vandalized on January 8 with messages of hate from a white supremacist group that recently left stickers throughout downtown State College.

The vandalism took place in the wake of the Capitol riot in Washington, D.C., on January 6. Someone used stencils and spray paint to deface the mural with the website of the white supremacist group Patriot Front in numerous places, as well as an image of the United States with one of the group’s slogans, “Not stolen, conquered.”

Bryce Taylor, the owner of Jake’s Cards and Games, says he was upset when he learned about the vandalism.

“My guys went to open the store, saw it, and said, ‘There’s something you should see.’ I took some pictures, talked to the police and put it on Facebook. It really took off. … I didn’t expect the response; it was overwhelming,” Taylor says.

Bryce Taylor, owner of Jake’s Cards and Games, says the community response “was very timely, based on what’s going on in our nation. It gave the people something really positive.” (Photo by Geoff Rushton/StateCollege.com)

Shortly after his post on social media, it spread like wildfire. Taylor was overwhelmed with Facebook and text messages. Soon, there was a plan in place to repaint the mural. While Taylor was upset with the hateful graffiti, he wasn’t about to let the message of hate stand. As he reflects on the event and the week that followed, Taylor says he was “encouraged” by all the well-wishes and outpouring of support.

“I think it was very timely, based on what’s going on in our nation. It gave the people something really positive. But there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Taylor says.

Jake’s Cards and Games has been a part of downtown Bellefonte for a decade.

On that Saturday in January, the Centre County community turned out in force to repaint the mural.

Taylor brought the leftover paint and brushes. Just like that, the graffiti was gone in around an hour.

Everyone took turns painting. One of those to lend a hand was Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins.

“I strongly condemn racism,” Higgins says. “That’s why I showed up. Sadly, racism is everywhere.”

Bellefonte school board member Donna Smith also picked up a paintbrush and helped. She calls the experience “lovely” and “inspiring.”

“This act was an unsuccessful attempt to intimidate and spread hate to our community. Fortunately, the effect was the opposite – it inspired good people to react with kindness and support. I love it when evil backfires,” Smith says.

Bellefonte resident and Centre County Jury Commissioner Laura Shadle was upset when she heard about the graffiti, but inspired by what took place in the alley the very next day.

“My initial sadness somewhat subsided after seeing such strong community support for restoring the Pride wall and denouncing white supremacists,” Shadle says. “We all must take part in building a more inclusive Centre County, and we won’t be intimidated when doing so.”

Taylor says that the experience was “inspired.”

“The community really came together,” he says. “We had it done in 30-40 minutes, which was just an amazing thing to see.”

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Chris Morelli is a Bellefonte resident and a staff reporter for The Express in Lock Haven.