Winooski Strong T-Shirts and a Black Lives Matter Flag for the Onion City | Culture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Winooski Strong T-Shirts and a Black Lives Matter Flag for the Onion City

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"Winooski Strong" T-shirt design - COURTESY OF CRAIG MITCHELL
  • Courtesy Of Craig Mitchell
  • "Winooski Strong" T-shirt design

This Friday, August 7, the City of Winooski will raise a Black Lives Matter flag in the traffic circle, and local businesses will sell "Winooski Strong" T-shirts to benefit organizations that fight for racial justice.

Local DJ and community organizer Craig Mitchell, Sarah Johnson of Waterworks Food + Drink, Ali Nagle of the Monkey House and Downtown Winooski solicited contributions from local businesses for the printing of 1,000 T-shirts, nearly all of which have already been sold through preorders. Mitchell said they are ordering more shirts, which will be for sale around the city starting on Friday.

Through Burlington creative agency OKAY!! OKAY!!, Mitchell connected with Eliza Phillip, who designed the "Winooski Strong" logo for the front of the shirt. The back of the shirt lists the businesses that contributed to the campaign. The shirts are printed by New Duds in Colchester, which donated the cost of screen-printing.

"Lots of people came together to make this happen," Mitchell said. He initially planned to ask the city to install the BLM flag for a weekend, he said, but officials offered to purchase a new, permanent pole for it — and a backup flag in case something happens to the first one.

The Winooski School Board recently accepted eight demands by students of color, who shared their experiences with racism in Winooski schools at an emotional board meeting on July 15, as Seven Days reported. Winooski is the only school district in the state where nonwhite students make up the majority. The demands include an action plan to hire more teachers of color, the replacement of the school resource officer with two trauma specialists, and the establishment of a committee to evaluate the district's curriculum and practices.

"It's very exciting, what's happening right now," Mitchell said. "Everyone had three months of pandemic to sit around and watch TV and say, 'Oh, wait, people of color were not lying.'"

Proceeds from the shirt sales will benefit the Loveland Foundation, the Black Perspective, Loving Day Vermont and Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington.

Mitchell has lived in Winooski for six years and is enthusiastic about the city's progress.

"I love it," he said. "Besides the fact that it's the most diverse city in the state of Vermont, I love the fact that they're so open to new ideas."

Organizing the campaign has been a lot of work, Mitchell conceded. But he's happy with the progress the city is making.

"It was invigorating," he said. "It's like a big cup of coffee."

Correction 8/5/2020: This story has been updated to reflect the organizing role played by Downtown Winooski.

To find out more, contact Craig Mitchell at craiglift@gmail.com.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Onion City Unity"