Americans love their lawns, and COVID has certainly made folks “lawn care crazy” striving for that perfect lawn that is so much part of a suburban lifestyle.    Quick facts…between years 2009-2017, sales of lawn and garden retail were over 47 billion dollars. The average household spends about $503 on lawn services (mine is double that).  Getting rid of those pesky weeds has proven profitable to the  Scotts Company, whose grass and weed products alone cash in over 2.5 billion a year.

I reside in a neighborhood where perfectly manicured lawns are king. Homes in the Newstead neighborhood of South Orange were built during the 1950s.  Many are large ranch-style houses with plenty of lawn space surrounding entire homes, a buffer to really getting to know or not know your neighbors.  South Orange’s racial and ethnic population is about 40%, although that percentage is significantly less within the Newstead neighborhood.

I generally walk the neighborhood during the summer months. This year because of COVID, I started my 2.5-mile walk during the beginning of Spring and as can be expected, so has many of my neighbors.  There is always a fair amount of renovations happening in the neighborhood with lawn care and gardening ticking up this year.  Every day I experienced subtle changes in the growth of trees, shrubs, and the blooming of flowers. As the days grew warmer, folks added patio furniture and tree swings in their front lawns in search of ways to cope with the pandemic.

One particular feature that I noticed starting in May was the practice of celebrating birthdays and graduations with lawn signs and banners.  The cancelation of so many school graduations, birthdays, parties, and events has reinvented the lawn sign as a new welcoming form of self-expression for households to celebrate (love the kindergarten graduates).

However, throughout the summer, there’s been a growing number of lawn signs protesting the hate and divisiveness we see in our politics, social media, and cable news.  I am pleasingly amazed at the number of Black Lives Matter signs that I am witnessing on beautifully manicured lawns in a predominately white neighborhood. These colorful signs support equal rights for all, making it clear there is no hate in this home, encouraging people to vote, asking for justice, and showing gratitude in supporting the plight of essential workers.  These self-expressive or protest signs have pushed aside the usual political lawn signs we are accustomed to seeing.  More recently, I have seen some signs for Biden, none of Trump, but then in this neighborhood, you could be harshly judged. Best keep it to yourself or think about moving out.  In the USA, lawn or yard signs were popularized by John Quincy Adams in 1820 during his presidential campaign run.  Since then, lawn signs have been used as a tool for political elections, community campaigns, advertisements, and more recently as a new medium to proudly express or protest your views (as if we don’t do enough of this on social media).  The average cost for just one sign can run you anywhere from $12 – $30 with shipping.  As part of my COVID online shopping addiction, I wasted no time purchasing one that reflects my views and preference for colors that I proudly placed on my not-so- perfectly manicured lawn.

However, there is a burning question in my head…is this a fad?  Will these signs fade and eventually be gone, or will we see new forms of self-expression or protest?  Secondly, are these signs just a small gesture of support, or are we genuinely committed to addressing the hate, bias, and injustices we are seeing everyday happening to People of Color, women, immigrants, LGBTQ, and the disabled.

I am the ultimate optimist and will record as believing that there is more to these lawn signs. People are fed up with the inequality and the hatred escalated by a segment of this nation’s population and what is happening to our constitutional norms, and it’s spilling out onto their lawns.  Hmmm, who knew that lawn signs could be a well-founded coping mechanism for injustice.

The photos on my blog are a small sample of signs of protest and self-expression of all types of which I’ve had the pleasure of taking pictures of on my daily walks, including the one on my lawn that I so proudly stand by.

                                                                     Click the center of the photo to see the full view.

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