Bold posters inscribed with “Black Lives Matter” prompted a raucous symphony of honks from passing traffic at a busy Arlington intersection.
The conductor directing the clamor at Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive on a weekday evening last week was Bob Edgar, who is no stranger to advocacy.
Edgar and his son Leteane Monatsi, along with a handful of supporters, have been drawing attention for weeks — in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd — by waving flags and signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” “HONK” and “Together We Rise.” In light of the death of civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the pair also added a sign saying, “Honor John Lewis.”
The father and son duo, both in motorized wheelchairs, are committed to spreading their message and have protested at the intersection since the death of Floyd on May 25 and plan to keep coming out to the intersection for many months to come. They’ve been at it despite sweltering temperatures and the ongoing pandemic.
“We thought the best way to express our feelings was by coming to this street corner,” said Edgar. “Our whole intent in doing this is really to keep the issue of Black Lives Matter in front of people in this area.”
When the pair initially started coming out to the street corner during the evening rush hour, Edgar said they had “no idea how people would respond.” However, the most common reaction to their demonstration was to honk in support. From there, the pair added a bold “HONK” sign to encourage the response.
“We call this the Million Honk March,” said Edgar.
He said on an average day they will hear hundreds or even thousands of horn honks, ranging from a single honk to “going berserk.”
Edgar and Monatsi have gained some recognition since they began appearing at the intersection. As they go to and from their house, people will stop them on the street, eager to talk about issues, according to Edgar.
“It’s rewarding because we’re doing something that we think is a modest contribution,” said Edgar.
Edgar, a retired Howard University professor, has taken part in many movements over the years. He got his start protesting the Vietnam War, and then began working on South African issues and anti-apartheid demonstrations.
Edgar wants people who drive by to think about what their “Black Lives Matter” banner signifies at this moment in history, and what the country has gone through to get to this point in time.
“It’s not only about Black lives mattering now, but it’s about the history of our country,” said Edgar. “We’re addressing historical legacies as well as the present.”
Photo by Madeline Taylor