Sid Rumma of Ada’s restaurant in Portland prepares bowls of pasta to be given to people on their way to protests Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Sid Rumma, a partner at Ada’s pasta restaurant on Congress Street in Portland, couldn’t participate in the Black Lives Matter protests, but he could offer bowls of spaghetti to those protesting.

“I’m just trying to be helpful,” he said as he prepared free midday meals on Wednesday, the second day he and his team at Ada’s have offered to feed and nourish hungry protesters in advance of the afternoon’s public demonstrations. “I’m not able to participate, but I was thinking, how can I be helpful – not only to the protesters, but to anybody in need in the whole community. With all that is happening beside the protests, these last couple of months have been crazy,” he said.

Rumma estimated he served 25 meals on Tuesday, and expected to serve many more in advance of Wednesday’s protests. The Portland restaurant is among the many businesses, organizations and individuals who have supported protesters by offering food, water, first aid and other necessities during this week of intense protests in downtown Portland. MaineTransNet is helping to raise money for bail for those who are jailed, and groups like the Students of Color Coalition at the Maine College of Art are putting chalk in the hands of protesters and residents alike so people can express their rage in a rainbow of colors.

“There is so much strife going on right now and so many people fighting to be heard. Writing something on the ground is my way of contributing, and it’s temporal,” said Athena Lynch of the MECA student group, which is working with Love Lab Studio of Portland to distribute chalk around town.

Julia Lennon of Ada’s restaurant in Portland steps outside to give away bowls of pasta to protesters passing by shortly before protests began in Portland on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Molly and Rick Wood, co-owners of Rick’s Lobby Cafe in Post Office Square across from Portland City Hall, distributed snacks, water, masks and medical supplies to protesters on Wednesday afternoon. As a white woman of privilege, it’s the least she could do, Molly Wood said.

“We’re just doing whatever we can, because black lives matter and I am a white person. I have privileges that others don’t, and I need to do my part, whatever I can do,” she said.

On Wednesday, Rising Tide Brewing Co. announced that it is splitting the profits of sales from its annual Pride T-shirt with EqualityMaine, which always benefits from sales of an annual fashion accessory; and the Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, which was co-founded by Alain Nahimana, whose death over the weekend shocked the community and set the stage for a week of grief. Although unrelated, Nahimana’s death and George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police in Minneapolis convinced Rising Tide that “it was an appropriate time to expand our donations from the proceeds of the shirt to a wider part of the community,” said Rising Tide co-owner Nathan Sanborn.

He said he wasn’t surprised that Portland business owners and others have stepped up to help.

“I think Portland is a pretty progressive city overall, and I think a lot of business owners are feeling the same way. Certainly, the ones I am friends with have expressed the same sort of pain, anger, frustration and heartache around the issues of injustice that we all have to step up and respond to,” Sanborn said.

A man waves a thank you to the staff as he takes a bowl of pasta from Ada’s. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Many businesses and other organizations in Portland offered messages of support for Black Lives Matter protesters and the cause of equality. The Honey Paw restaurant closed Wednesday to support protesters and to give employees the chance to join them, posting on social media, “Black lives matter. We stand in solidarity with the people of color who have been the targets of inequitable policing, and with the peaceful protesters who demand change.”

Portland Stage, Maine Historical Society and Mad Horse Theatre Company also issued messages of solidarity. Roux and Cyr Gallery on Free Street, which sustained vandalism during the protest, placed plywood painted with the words “Peace and Unity” over broken windows and asked protesters and others to share messages on the board’s empty space.

The Portland Museum of Art, which is hosting a digital event on Thursday night to encourage empathy, said on its website, “Over the last month, we have witnessed terrible acts of injustice which have affected the Black community. The deaths of #GeorgeFloyd #AhmaudArbery #BreonnaTaylor #TonyMcDade and others underscore our country’s deep societal issue of racism. We believe we are capable of change, and support anyone who advocates for equity, justice, and basic human rights for all.”

Space Gallery posted a crawler on its website that said, “In solidarity with the call for social media blackouts to help center the voices of people of color, SPACE is canceling scheduled programming this week and putting our feeds on mute for #blackouttuesday.”

The downtown arts space also put a tub of chalk out front on Congress Street, to encourage protesters and others to write the names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade across the urban landscape.

“It’s incredibly impactful to see the names of people killed by police marked all over the city,” said Lia Wilson, engagement manager at Space. “People say their names and communicate, ‘This cannot happen anymore.’ ”

The chalking project grew out of a collaboration with Wee the People, a community-based program co-founded in Boston by racial-justice educators Tanya Nixon-Silberg and Francie Latour. They present workshops for kids in Boston and across New England, using children’s books, art-making, puppetry and other activities to discuss racial and social justice, as well as immigration, gender identity, homophobia and Black Lives Matter.

Indigo Arts Alliance, Space and several other community and arts organizations hosted a Wee Chalk the Walk community chalking day last Sunday in East Bayside, a family day of action that was part of a national network of similar events in response to the impact of COVID-19 on people of color, as well as the killings of minorities by police. As the protests mounted throughout the week, Space, MECA, Indigo and others left bins of chalk for people to use during the protests, and there is another community chalking event scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Congress Square Park.

“Our chalk is not going away,” Kelsey Halliday Johnson, Space executive director, wrote in an email. “We will continue to leave it out for adult protestors and families alike, as it is what we feel we can do. We truly want to keep this going and bring people into this project, as we want to ensure that the graffiti in our community continues to just be in chalk and not in permanent materials like spray paint. Things are escalating because of the erasure of black lives. Saying their names does not just mean those we have lost, but those we live with, collaborate with, etc. Let us all do the work at this very critical movement, and every day, uphold the black leaders around us.”

This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. June 4 to include the names of the people who initiated the chalking project.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: