Guest post by Arianna Koudounas
I am a firm believer in the power of sidewalk chalk. It’s accessible and whimsical; nimble and poetic. In recent weeks, many – myself included – have found comfort in the cheerful as well as cautionary messages adorning Baltimore neighborhood sidewalks. The young – and young at heart – have extended great care for their neighbors and strangers alike in reminding us all that: “Spring Has Sprung” – “This Too Shall Pass” – “Wash Your Hands” – “Six Feet or More” and the like.
Taking a nod from these civic-minded chalk artists, I took to some pavement myself recently: this time in the name of democracy. Due to COVID-19, elections around the country have been delayed or adjusted in some form. In Baltimore, the Primary – for both U.S. President and Baltimore City offices (mayor, comptroller, council president, and City Council) – has been postponed to June 2. To help spread this message, I chose a high-traffic location to place my reminder chalking message of “Help Democracy Grow: Vote June 2” – Druid Hill Park’s beloved cherry blossom path.
This will be my first of many voting related sidewalk chalking messages, and I’ll be enlisting my neighbors as well. At a safe social distance of course! I live in West Baltimore’s Madison Park, and over the past year I have been organizing monthly Play Days to help forge deeper, yet more joyful bonds between those in my neighborhood and the surrounding communities. While the Play Days are on hold until it is safe to once again get large groups of people together, in the meantime I have been sharing out tips for maintaining the joy and sense of connection. Next up: chalking for democracy!
In the weeks ahead, we’ll be getting out the vote with all of the chalk we can muster for the Special Election for Congressional District 7, which will take place on April 28. Since the April 28 Special Election will be vote-by-mail only, it will be important to get those specific messages out there; for many of us this will be our first time voting by mail. I’m thinking chalking around neighborhood mailboxes and post offices will help drive home the message.
For the June 2 Primary, the state Board of Elections is recommending to the governor that the election be conducted primarily by mail, with limited in-person voting sites. Depending on how many in-person voting sites Baltimore City gets, in addition to reminders about how vote by mail works we might chalk around polling locations with creative designs that demarcate six-foot-long spaces, assuring voters that they’ll be able to keep a safe distance if they choose to cast their ballots in-person.
For the skeptics in the crowd who aren’t convinced voting really matters, keep an eye out on a sidewalk near you: “Democracy: Yes – It’s All It’s Chalked Up to B (and) More!”