On June 7, starting from the parking lot of Coffee Park Airstream on Reynolda Road and looping around the West End Historic District of Winston-Salem, a socially-conscious convoy of 140-200 cars decorated with signs that read, “Black Lives Matter,” “Defund The Police,” “How Many Weren’t Filmed?” and other similar messages, took a Sunday drive around town to bring the movement from downtown to inside the bubble of the predominately white side of the city.
“This is the City of Arts and Innovation,” said Angel Fant, the co-organizer of the drive-by Protest Against Racism. “You gotta know that we aren’t about to just march in the street. If D.C. was able to get the “Black Lives Matter” painting on the street, what do you think we are capable of? We are going to come at it with art, and all kinds of ways. This is just the beginning.”
Angel, along with her daughters, Tenijah Renée and Danielle Fant, are apparel designers—the first from Winston-Salem to have their work shown at Paris Fashion Week—who created the social justice fashion line, No Punching Bag. The drive-by protest took place from 5 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m. with the Fants leading the pack behind several Winston-Salem Police Department officers on motorcycles, with the almost 200-car procession tailed by WSPD patrol cars.
“We weren’t getting to the people that we need to when we do it downtown,” Tenijah Renée said.
“Because everyone is going to the same area marching, it’s almost like you are marching to each other, rather than to populations that may be racists,” Danielle added. “We made people uncomfortable because this is an uncomfortable topic and uncomfortable situation. It’s everybody’s problem.”
Angel explained that they had been to five protests that happened in the arts district of downtown Winston-Salem last week. She said that the socially distant drive-by worked two-fold: it engaged those who have been purposefully absent from the marches, and it engaged the immunocompromised and the high-risk population for contracting COVID-19.
“When we were stopping, and when people were held up, it was symbolic in the fact that this is the time we are in—we are not moving until we make this right—that put people in that same position,” Angel said. “All of us are, pretty much, victims of what happened long ago. Some of us have been trained up that way, and we are continuing this cycle. But it is going to be up to us to change the future. And we have to do it ‘by any means necessary,’ as Malcolm X said.”
Tommy Priest, the owner of Coffee Park Airstream, facilitated the drive-by protest by hosting the movement in the parking lot of his business, as well as by helping organize the route. Priest said he was “blown away” by the support the drive-by protest received.
“What I saw here was in solidarity with protesters and freedom fighters in Louisville, Kentucky, that are fighting for justice for Breonna Taylor—and now, fighting for justice for the killing of [David McAtee], who used to serve the cops barbecue!” Priest said. “This is not what democracy looks like.”
Priest said that also he spoke with participating elderly folks, who told him that they had wanted to get out and march in solidarity but couldn’t due to COVID-19’s threat to their compromised immune systems.
“They were so thankful for the opportunity to participate in direct action, and that is what this movement is about currently,” he said. “We are in the direct action mode and now, are pivoting towards putting a list of our demands together.”
He said the next step in this movement— not moment— is a call for unity of other local social justice groups such as Hate Out of Winston and Black Lives Matter Winston-Salem.
“If we do that, then we can hold everyone accountable that is in charge,” he said. “In fact, we can change that leadership if we need to, because we all have the power of the ballot.”
No Punching Bag wants to continue the momentum and has announced another drive-by “Protest Against Racism” happening again this Sunday, June 14, at 5 p.m. The line up location is at Research Parkway North in Winston-Salem. (Follow the Facebook event page for more information.) Angel said the route—which would not be shared publicly due to safety concerns—would be different and announced during the line up. Angel said there are many others who look like her that don’t think anything will change.
“I want to put some faith in them,” she said. “When we go into East Winston, we want these people to believe that we have the power to make real change, and this is not a temporary thing—this is not a trend. It is no longer blacks against racism. Now, it’s the world against racism—it’s what is right against racism.”
“We want people to know that we aren’t going away,” Angel added. “This needs to change; it has gone on long enough.”