Good Neighbors

‘Black Or White, Relax And Have A Beer:' Two Best Friends Start A Movement From Their Driveway

They wanted a way to bring people together in a fun and constructive way. Wait until you find out which well-known celebrity is supporting their cause!

Benjamin Smith and Marcus Ellis have been best friends for over a decade. They met at their old job in Rochester, NY, where they worked together building cellphone towers.

Smith, who served in the Marine Corps, is white, and Ellis, who's originally from Long Island, is black.

While the two come from different backgrounds, it has never stopped them from enjoying each other's company.

"He's my Robin," Ellis told WROC-TV about Smith. "Batman and Robin, exactly what it is. I think we're just goofy, silly, and like to have fun, we don't care what people say."

The recent death of George Floyd had a profound effect on both of them, and as protests erupted around the country, they wanted to do something to commemorate Floyd's death and push for change – but, they wanted to do it in their own way.

So, Smith and Ellis set up some lawn chairs in Smith's driveway, cracked a few beers and invited their neighbors over for a chat.

They set up a pair of signs in front of Smith's house that read, "Black or white," and "Relax and have a beer."

Smith and Ellis set up two signs in Smith's yard to encourage people to stop by. The signs read "Black or White," and "Relax and have a beer."@DJG_Music

As their idea begin to spread on social media, people from the community started showing up.

"I fought for a free America, a just America," Smith said. "When I heard about the George Floyd incident, it really really upset me. That's not what I fought for."

"Another one down. It's pretty sad," Ellis said. "People have a right to protest, people have a right to share their voice, but there's a right way going about things, and a wrong way going about things."

Smith and Ellis are proving that it doesn't matter what your background is; we're all in this together. @BlackOrWhiteRelaxAndHaveABeerHome

The project even caught the attention of country singer Brad Paisley, who reached out to Smith and Ellis over Zoom. Paisley also bought all of the Budweiser and Bud Light at a nearby convenience store and had it delivered to help them with their cause.

"Man, I am so thrilled to meet you, face to face like this," Paisley said during the Zoom call. "I'm so inspired by you, and we thought we should deliver more beer than you could possibly drink."

While the atmosphere in Smith's driveway can sometimes feel more like a party then a political statement, the men hope the folks who join them don't lose sight of the reason behind what they're doing.

"Through the rioting and protests, I felt like I was being torn apart, and it was rough," Smith said, holding back tears. "And this is what builds it back up."

What a simple, yet effective, way to share their message with the community. Thanks to Mr. Paisley, it sounds like they'll have enough beer to keep the conversation going for a long time!

Folks have been stopping by from all over to town to crack a beer and share some conversation with Smith and Ellis. @BlackOrWhiteRelaxAndHaveABeerHome

How can you start something good?

Inspired by Smith and Ellis' great idea?

Why not work to start a similar dialogue your community? You can set up lawn chairs and invite people over for brews, or host a dinner party in your home. We love this conversation guide with steps on how to create meaningful and non-judgmental discussions about race.

Let's #StartSomethingGood together!

The Conversation
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