GREENSBORO, N.C. — Monday morning, the face of downtown Greensboro and South Elm Street had changed.
Businesses throughout the 200 and 300 block had been boarded, or were soon to be boarded up due to smashed windows; some businesses were closed, while other’s were operating in an adapted capacity.
The sidewalks, however, were a different story.
People had seen what happened to their city over the weekend play out on TV and online. However, they had to see where things stood on Monday.
Saturday night, after hours of peaceful protests, a small group of people broke away and began smashing windows and looting businesses along the 600 block of South Elm Street.
On Sunday, after another day of peaceful protest, a small group of people engaged with Greensboro police and began smashing into businesses along the 200 and 300 block off South Elm Street.
The images were hard to see and created even harder conversations for parents to have with their children.
“I’m going to be honest dude, I have no idea how to have this conversation,” said Frank Mickens, an African-American father of three who lives in Greensboro.
He and his wife watched what happened over the weekend online.
Monday morning they all got in the car and drove to downtown Greensboro.
“It’s one thing seeing it on Facebook, seeing the live report. But my wife really thought we needed to come down here for our kids to let them see the impacts, the outcomes of hatred, and hurt and anger.”
Dressed how you would imagine people look going to the park, but instead, they were walking past broken businesses and small piles of glass on the sidewalk.
“You know they’ve never really seen this stuff. So, I’m pointing out buildings that have the boards on them. They ask what happened, and we’re trying to tell them the story to not scare them,” he said.
This father and mother, who have lived through trying times in their lives, were now using this defining moment in their children’s lives to teach a message.
“Let them see the impacts, the outcomes. To see the impacts, from hatred, hurt, and anger. … So here’s what happened with a man named George Floyd. After that, people got angry, so now the question is, how do we react?” he said.
They stopped at places of broken windows and boarded up walls to have the difficult conversation surrounding George Floyd’s killing, social justice, race equality and why people do what they do.
“There’s been a lot of tension and a lot of hate. There is so much to love. The thing that really hits me are the positives. We build on the love that we have, so we can approach the anger that we have,” he said.
The most poignant moment for the family is when they passed by the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.
A portion of it was tapped off, with a tarp over a hole where a window was smashed in the weekend violence.
“Don’t you find that sad that a symbol of equality and love was just vandalized,” Mickens asked his children as they stood outside the center.
As he did so, he made an effort to show them that there is hope through faith in God, through community love and through peacefully standing up for what is right.
About the violence in the protest, Mickens said, “[If] I’m so mad … I want to throw a rock through a window, what should I do? I should find peace with God.”