She’s age 7 – about to turn 8 – and Laila Whyte has already figured out what many adults struggle with.
How do you take something bad and make it good? Or even make it bearable?
“An angry mob came out a couple of nights ago and they were busting glass, but I guess we kind of made the best of it – making it beautiful of what they did,” Laila said outside Hyatt House in uptown Charlotte late Sunday afternoon.
Paintbrush in hand, Laila joined members of the Charlotte Art League, who responded Sunday to the Hyatt hotel manager’s request on Facebook for help. The hotel was damaged Wednesday night as protesters took over uptown streets to protest Tuesday’s fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. Protesters smashed windows across a wide swath of uptown.
Protests since Thursday have been largely peaceful.
But the damage from Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s violence is still visible. Wooden boards cover up broken ground-level windows at Hyatt House and other businesses.
Those boards may look like scars of racial tension to some, but for Cindy Connelly of Charlotte Art League, they’re also a canvas.
“This would be our way of giving back to Charlotte after all the damage and the bad press that has happened,” she said.
Hyatt House manager Matt Allen plans to replace the windows once officials end the state of emergency declaration that’s been in place since Wednesday night. Once the boards are no longer needed, he wants to preserve the art. One idea is to sell it at an auction, with the proceeds going to charity. The boards could also go in a museum, Allen says.
The art partially represents “injustice in America,” says Jack Whyte, Laila’s father.
“We mainly were out here in the beginning to bring awareness,” he said, referring to police killings nationwide of black men. “This is wrong; they’re trying to hush it up.”
This would be our way of giving back to Charlotte.
Cindy Connelly, Charlotte Art League
Whyte says the activism in Charlotte has been a teachable moment with his daughter.
“I’m very honest with the reality of what’s going on today,” he said. “A lot of other parents, they tell me I shouldn’t have my daughter out here – it’s unsafe. But, I’m teaching her. She could be our next leader. … She needs to know what’s going on.”
Laila says she understands the reason protesters have marched and chanted and demanded change in Charlotte’s streets: “I learned that we need more good cops out in this world.”
And when she grows up?
“I wanna be a cop.”
Staff writer Steve Harrison contributed.