Welcome, neighbors!
March 9, 2017 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Tricolored yard signs have begun to appear in communities around the USA and beyond. They carry a simple message “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” in three languages: Spanish, English, and Arabic.

"A Message Of Tolerance And Welcome, Spreading From Yard To Yard" (NPR)

The signs all stem from a single, originally black on white, hand-painted sign in front of Immanuel Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The church is located in a neighborhood that has become "home to people from Central America, the Middle East, and around the world. That's why we did it in three languages — English, Arabic and Spanish. Because those are the three most common languages spoken in our neighborhood."

Pastor Matthew Bucher put up his sign after he was "pretty disappointed" with the rhetoric about minorites and immigrants during the presidential primary debates. Later Bucher approached Melissa Howard -- a local artist with experience creating artistic signs for causes -- to create an improved version. The evolution of that idea resulted in the tricolor version that is popping up everywhere today.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with very few objections or acts of vandalism.

"Does a sign change anything on its own? No, it doesn't," Drew Schneider, who has helped distribute signs in D.C., says. "But it expresses that this is a person who believes this, and that's a great sign, literally and figuratively . . . "

"That's the thing with a symbol," Bucher says. "A symbol is something that stands for something else. . . . The sign is this symbol to us, of how we live."

Welcome Your Neighbors facebook page

Download and print your own sign --- in various combinations of three languages each: Spanish, English, Arabic, French, Somali, English, Arabic, Armenian, German, Hindi, Swahili, Amharic, Hebrew

A Look Around (google image search)

et, well, cetera
posted by Herodios (52 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Do the colors have some significance?
posted by Reverend John at 1:58 PM on March 9, 2017

I've seen them in Eugene, OR.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 1:59 PM on March 9, 2017

Needs to be in Russian, too.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 2:00 PM on March 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

They're all over Seattle - been wondering about them. Thanks for this post!
posted by lunasol at 2:07 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's worth bearing in mind that Mennonite churches exist along a continuum, and individual churches (and members) lean differently. (I fee like we talked about that in discussion of this article a while back.) I am thrilled to see Lancaster-based Mennonites living their values, and like this from The Mennonite: Make America ____________ Again: A photo essay. The south-central Pa. Mennonites I've met and seen over the years tend toward the more conservative side of things, but these are interesting times. IME, Mennonite women are forces to be reckoned with in their organizational ability and in their commitment to their work. No Disaster Relief Auction (or large-scale dinner, or summer garden, or roadside bulk goods shop) would run without them.

As an aside on the last linked article--it's about events in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Lloyd Smucker, the subject of their protest, grew up in an Amish home and *should* be able to hear the message about those who were once immigrants. The city goes Democratic, but the county surrounding is solid red. (Interestingly, the Mennonite Central Committee is headquartered in a small town in Republican territory.) I can only hope that my own rural Mennonite neighbors neighbors take up the cause.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:15 PM on March 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm volunteering at a place that is distributing them in English, Spanish, Arabic, French and Swahili. I wish they had Chinese, because that's a big population in my neighborhood.

I'm a little weirded out by the "OMG, even the Mennonites are getting political!" narrative, because the Mennonites I know have always been interested in social justice issues. They often avoid electoral politics, because they have ideological reservations about embracing state power, but it's not like they're unconcerned with what's going on in the world.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:15 PM on March 9, 2017 [23 favorites]

Also see Rebecca McCorkindale’s “Libraries are for everyone” poster series. Signs in more than fifty languages!
posted by Going To Maine at 2:18 PM on March 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Also from the Mennonite Central Committee: Statement: Welcoming immigrants and refugees as neighbors: "Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. decries the executive actions on immigration enforcement taken yesterday by President Trump as well as actions on refugee resettlement expected later this week....We encourage you to consider new ways you can welcome immigrants and refugees as neighbors in your community, and to make your voice heard on these important issues by contacting the White House and your members of Congress."
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:20 PM on March 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Chinese: MennoniteUSA: Each tri-color sign bears its message of welcome in three languages, and nine different language versions are now available—with Hindi, Somali and Chinese among the other variations that have been added by request.

Russian: why not request it?

Also, see the Dayton, Ohio link above.
posted by Herodios at 2:34 PM on March 9, 2017

Hindi - Chinese - Japanese [PDF]
posted by Herodios at 2:36 PM on March 9, 2017

Our local group asked if they could put a fourth bar with the message in Karen and got it approved. But my poster keeps falling out of my window so I'll be getting a yard sign later.
posted by PussKillian at 2:40 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bunch of those here in the Berkeley, CA, some on signs happy on the lawn, others smiling out from picture windows.
posted by notyou at 2:52 PM on March 9, 2017

I stuck one of these in my lawn a few weeks ago after learning about them on reddit. I live in a very conservative state (Orrin Hatch is one of my "representatives") in a very diverse part of the city. People in other parts of the city refer to this neighborhood as a "slum" or a "dump," but it's safe and clean and the people are wonderful, the only thing setting it apart is that a lot of the humans here reflect fewer photons than the local average.

I half-expected someone to vandalize the sign, or disappear it, but so far it's withstood the cosmic background bigotry, and the wind.

If anyone in or around SLC wants one, I can refer you to the place where I got mine.
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 3:11 PM on March 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I love that they have Canadian versions of the sign ("neighbour").
posted by neroli at 3:20 PM on March 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

Thanks - I just brought this up with my local Indivisible group.
posted by stevil at 3:22 PM on March 9, 2017

Can confirm these are everywhere in Cincinnati. A local Methodist church has also started selling a red white and blue version. Also in Cincinnati yard sign swag: drove around a friend's neighborhood the other day and saw these very simple signs that said


in giant black letters on white signs. They were everywhere! Apparently a neighbor printed up 1000 of them with his own money.

While I can't speak for anyone else, these signs make me feel a lot better whenever I see them, especially in unexpected neighborhoods.
posted by mostly vowels at 4:06 PM on March 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thanks for posting! We have one here in Montgomery County, MD, just outside DC. I had it in the front window and then finally moved it to the yard on Monday. It was a gift from my Pennsylvanian friends-in-law and I adore it. I hope it stays safe and unvandalized.
posted by juliplease at 4:14 PM on March 9, 2017

I see a lot around here in my suburb just north of Seattle; I would get one but I live on a dead end and nobody would see it but the UPS driver (who has an American accent). People coordinated getting yard signs of the printed on Next Door, which I associate more with panic-stricken reports of white vans than of such nice gestures.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:18 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

These are here in Pittsburgh too, and we also have another homegrown sign that says "welcome" in the languages of the largest immigrant and refugee groups here.

I have the latter in my yard after getting a bunch printed to distribute. A request, everyone: please if you locate a local group distributing them, if you say you're interested in a sign, go actually pick up, and pay for if applicable, the sign. I'd say about 50% of the people who signed up for one before I had them printed totally ghosted once they were ready for pick up.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:18 PM on March 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Portland! From Scout & Whistle, with all proceeds after printing going to IRCO.
posted by redsparkler at 4:19 PM on March 9, 2017

Most of my seattle neighbors have these but I want different language options.
posted by k8t at 4:27 PM on March 9, 2017

In my mind it's always Mr Rogers' voice reading those signs, and that's a good thing.
posted by SNACKeR at 4:41 PM on March 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

Hehehe, I've had mine since January: I've used them at a couple mini-protests.
posted by easily confused at 4:42 PM on March 9, 2017

We've got one in our yard - a member of our food co-op did a bulk order of signs.
posted by ryanshepard at 4:52 PM on March 9, 2017

I posted on Facebook that I was going to put in an order and invited my friends to order with me, but my awesome activist friend found a local, union, woman-owned print shop to print from the downloaded file instead!
posted by BrashTech at 5:02 PM on March 9, 2017 [9 favorites]

I have seen a lot of similar-in-theme "Hate Has No Home Here" signs in Chicago.

They provide a variety of language options, and provide the option to request signs in additional languages.
posted by burden at 5:18 PM on March 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Harrisonburg is a special community because of its diversity and prevailing tolerance.

Uh, let's not get carried away here.

Yeah, we're a refugee resettlement center, and that's cool. As it happens, the Refugee Resettlement Office is down the hall from my apartment. Nice people, with terrible signage. (The direction-giving type of signage. A couple times a week I wind up, still in not-quite-my-pajamas, accompanied by cats, buzzing refugees through the residential security door and escorting them through the building. It's like having a handy minimalist Good Deed for the Day appear on my doorstep. I smuggle refugees before breakfast. Also, it's either that or convince them America wants its refugees to go back downstairs, outside, around the building, and back upstairs. In the rain.)
But ... we've no shortage of white supremacists, either. Our local paper is owned by the grandson of the guy who invented 'massive resistance' as a state segregationist strategy. Remember that 'Primate Obama' editorial? That was us. Oh, and the Klan meets at Shoney's.

Excellent news though. No idea the signs had spread beyond Harrisonburg.
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:56 PM on March 9, 2017 [12 favorites]

The Minnesotan version is All Are Welcome Here. They have English, Spanish, Somali, Hmong, and Arabic.
posted by advicepig at 6:00 PM on March 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've seen them in my neighborhood. I love that this got posted because I was wondering where they were coming from. I don't really have a yard (that the public sees) to put one in, but I'm wondering if I could like, hang it off a fence or something.

Sounds like it'd be nice if there was some kind of, I dunno, shuffle options so people could pick which languages work best in their neighborhoods?

Though it does occur to me to wonder why the safety pin thing didn't take off and this has.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:07 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Saw this in a neighborhood yard two days ago, love it. There's another multilingual Raleigh NC version, "Welcome to Raleigh, Y'all", that's in our front yard as I type.
posted by mediareport at 6:24 PM on March 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

They have popped up in my town (New Paltz, NY) and one of the attorneys I work for had a bunch printed up at the local print shop for people to take (with a suggestion to "pay it forward" by donating, if possible, to the print shop to print more). It's a beautiful way to show support and solidarity.
posted by exlotuseater at 6:26 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh I was wondering where these - and the Hate Has No Home Here ones - were coming from. I've seen both around Chicago, along with at least one other major sign-type that I'm forgetting. The Hate Has No Home Here signs are even available in a bunch of language mixes that are a little unusual (e.g. the one with Amharic! Although arguably we ought to have Amharic, Chinese, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish to cover the top 5 in my neighborhood, judging by the local language census data.) It's pretty cool to find out that so many similar sorts of signs have sprung up organically in cities around the country.

Some people in my neighborhood seem to be putting their march signs up in their windows, which seems like a good idea too. I'm unfortunately a bunch of stories above the ground, so I haven't done that or tried to chase down any of these signs, but I'm always glad to see them while out and about (especially given how immigrant-heavy my neighborhood is.)
posted by ubersturm at 6:58 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've seen a lot of these in our SE Michigan county. Knowing similar messages are being displayed all around the country really makes my day.
posted by klarck at 6:59 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not long after the election, these posters (specifically, the black and white one with the woman in glasses) began showing up in the storefronts of Boston's Roslindale neighborhood (along with companion signs with the slogan in Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese).
posted by adamg at 7:11 PM on March 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'll chime in with my yard sign: In this House, We Believe.
posted by queseyo at 8:06 PM on March 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

It does.
posted by queseyo at 8:21 PM on March 9, 2017

I'm a little weirded out by the "OMG, even the Mennonites are getting political!" narrative, because the Mennonites I know have always been interested in social justice issues.

Nthing this ... In Canada the Mennonite Church is the #1 sponsor of refugees through our Sponsorship Agreement Holder program. (Next are the Anglicans, and after that students in universities and colleges, who all fund World University Services Canada WUSC with a couple bucks per term) -- at least this was the case until the recent big push for sponsorship of Syrians, there may be some shifts at play.

Anyway, for me, Mennonite is synonymous with refugee rights activism.

I think these signs are awesome. I remember a similar initiative post 9/11.
posted by chapps at 8:48 PM on March 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

All over my street in Buffalo. The city as a whole is very welcoming towards refugees and our proximity to the border is making it a good place for people to find help gtfo'ing to Canada.
posted by tippy at 9:00 PM on March 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

My Canadian town has the lawn signs all over.

Mennonite is synonymous with refugee rights activism.

Yes, most definitely. My father-in-law & his siblings and my wife's grandparents (all European refugees) owe their lives to the work of Mennonite Brethren churches and the MCC. And my in-laws paid it forward by sponsoring refugees & helping First Nations families at different times (the Vietnamese family they helped in the early 80's still keep in contact, for instance). The extended family has been extremely active in housing projects for New Canadians and building schools in war devastated countries... It more than makes up for all that Dutch Blitz, Schmaunt fut, the bad tipping and, sadly, all the Fox News. Like any religion there is a spectrum of belief and can include the noble and the backward.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't have a yard, but this sign is SO going on my front door tomorrow as soon as I get home from work.
Also, I dearly wish there was a t-shirt version of that wonderful "In this house, we believe" sign.

[edit] Hooray, there IS a t-shirt version!
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:28 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

They are everywhere here in Austin, too. These "Kindness is Everything" signs might actually be more popular, mind, but both are very common all over town.

My household keeps talking about getting one for the yard but we're all exhausted and keep forgetting to track someone down that sells them. We still have a faded rainbow heart chalked on our walkway (and sealed with hairspray, which keeps chalk intact much longer than otherwise) with LOVE on it, from the LOVE TRUMPS HATE message we chalked the day after the election.
posted by sciatrix at 3:44 AM on March 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I get that their heart is in the right place, but it's "estamos contentos de que seas nuestro vecino".
posted by signal at 5:19 AM on March 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have one of these signs in our yard, and passed one along to a member of our daughter's choir.
posted by Gelatin at 6:11 AM on March 10, 2017

(I should add, we live in Indianapolis, where it was also common, prior to his skipping off to the Vice-Presidency, to see blue-and-yellow signs saying "Fire Mike Pence -- your rights may be next.")
posted by Gelatin at 6:31 AM on March 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Apparently an amazing proportion of Spanish signage in Anglophone public space is just ... wrong. E.g. rudely using the imperative instead of infinitive. And the error doesn't get corrected, because the signs are sold to Anglophone managers to address Spanish-speaking employees, etc.

Grammatical error probably speaks to sociocultural conditions of production here too. I mean, the congregation photo on Immanuel Mennonite makes it look like there's maybe one native Spanish speaker and she's seven, but still, it would only take 20 minutes to be a big white dork and walk down to the local Venezuelan restaurant to run it past the manager (or buy a guanabana shake, consult your server, and tip heavily).

Or maybe they did, and no one had the heart to tell them.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:33 AM on March 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hmm. As I work out where to get a yard sign in the next week or two, anyone mind telling me if there are glaring errors on either of the non-English variants on these Austin-based Kindness is Everything signs? My Spanish is definitely not good enough to pick that stuff up, but enough of my neighbors are Spanish-speaking that I'd like to have an inclusive sign if it doesn't obviously have a bunch of errors in it.

Backup plan is probably going to be "ask my wife's coworker to check" but I figured I'd ask you all while I'm scoping out my local options and poking at my budget.
posted by sciatrix at 8:16 AM on March 10, 2017

easily confused had these available for a small show-of-solidarity action at a neighborhood mosque. They actually worked to get the attention of a couple (white!) people who came over and spoke to easily confused for quite a while.
posted by ezust at 8:16 AM on March 10, 2017

@sciatrix - the Spanish sign is missing the "we believe" phrase which seems a little odd.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:16 AM on March 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am now yearning for a sort of crowd-sourced translation-checker for stuff like this.
posted by desuetude at 11:49 AM on March 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

>Though it does occur to me to wonder why the safety pin thing didn't take off and this has.

You could analyze variables like plural vs. singular (though people could pin themselves to friends, I guess ...), mostly worn on outfits (which however can circulate on buses etc.) vs. appearing on streets (but only abutting privately owned real estate), mocked on Black Twitter vs. implied audience of native other-than-English speakers, sentence statement (similar to a Black Lives Matter t-shirt) vs. ease of misappropriation ('to me, the safety pin represents white power, and so when this immigrant followed me down a dark alley ...'), and of course, how self-explanatory is this object, cross-culturally:

Multilingual sign: the medium is the message.

Pin: my new neighbors are low-key punk rockers and/or mend invisible holes in their clothes.
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:50 PM on March 10, 2017

Welcome, Welcome, Emigrante

I mean, the congregation photo on Immanuel Mennonite makes it look like there's maybe one native Spanish speaker and she's seven, but still,

There are 100,000 Mennonites in Mexico, 70,000 in Bolivia, 40,000 in Paraguay, 25,000 in Argentina, a whole bunch in El Salvador...

Native Spanish speakers look all kinds of ways. A lot of them look awfully Mennonitey. Just sayin'.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:14 AM on March 11, 2017

How about some music to go with this?
posted by lagomorphius at 7:30 AM on March 11, 2017

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