GrahamSpencer’s Creative Team Responds to Historic Social Unrest

I feel just like a dogwood tree
Yeah somebody came and carved a cross out of me
Then they carried me down to Jerusalem 
And the people there give me to the carpenter’s son

Well he carried my weight up a Golgotha plain 
And the skies turned black – lord it started to rain 
The police with their hammers drove his hands into me
And they made him part of a dogwood tree. 

— Terry Allen, “Dogwood” 

At GrahamSpencer we had planned to present a case study this week on new work we’re proud of. But, it occurred to us that would be tone deaf and disrespectful. So, our team nominated me to say something representative of our thoughts on current affairs instead.

A lot has been said by some very smart, famous people over the past days since the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. There’s no point in going over well-trod ground, but we do have something to add. 

As mostly caucasian people at GS, we are aware of our privilege. We’re sorry that it took the senseless killing of another black American to remind us of that. And we’re keenly aware of how much more empathy and mutual respect we need in this nation at this moment – and in the future … empathy for each other, regardless of who we are … and in some cases, especially because of who we are. 

As a caucasian, I take for granted the simple blessing of not feeling threatened when I walk down the street. I don’t worry that another person  might weaponize racism and call the police because I’m minding my own business watching birds in Central Park – or that another human might kneel on my neck for 9 minutes and murder me. I’ve given a lot of thought to what living in constant fear must feel like. 

The 2016, White House photographer Pete Souza shot the image at the top of this page. The image both inspires and devastates me. I never want that boy to lose his innocence and the hope and wonder you can see beaming in his eyes. None of us want that.  

Tuesday, I spent a good part of the morning thinking about how to respond to the fact that there was going to be a protest of Mr Floyd’s death and police brutality at Haskell Park that night, one block away from our downtown Rockford HQ. Should we board up our windows? Chain up our parking lot?

At the end of the day, together, our GS team decided all we wanted to do was say what needs to be said, right here, right now: what we think is helpful. You can see our response in the photo below.

We all deserve to live, we all deserve to walk down the street, we all deserve to breathe and we’re all a part of the same tree. 

Let’s commit to a world in which love is the dominant force and the symbology of the cross can truly mean what it’s supposed to mean in almost any religion or cultural setting: hope, forgiveness, fulfilled lives and love – not a burden that must be borne by only some of us. 


Jay Graham & GS Team