Since their debut in 2015, the myriad LinkNYC kiosks that popped up all over the city have been many things: Futuristic street furniture, free wi-fi hotspots, USB charging stations, billboards, purveyors of New York history and money pits. Now, they're joining in with the demonstrations for social justice sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Beginning on June 2, they have been recalling the lives of African-Americans who have died at the hands of police, or vigilantes deciding to take the law into their own hands, by displaying their names in stark white lettering on black backgrounds. The list, which includes Floyd, is by now long, familiar and depressing: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor—all of whom have been inscribed into the dark history of the United States through no fault of their own.
The campaign, which was launched as part of #BlackoutTuesday, takes advantage of the most noticeable feature of the nine-foot towers that were installed to replace aging payphones: Their large digital screens. Though the names, each running for 15 seconds, were played continuously on the first day, they are currently being alternated through the weekend with the usual LinkNYC mix of advertising, fun facts, MTA info and public service announcements.
Even so, they remain grim, and necessary, reminders of America’s intractable problems with race.
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