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In Portsmouth, 'Love Blooms Here' community event aims to 'outshine hate'

Flowers and messages of supporter were left at the door of Temple Israel on Feb. 24, 2023 - one of the places targeted with hateful graffiti earlier this week.
Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
Flowers and messages of supporter were left at the door of Temple Israel, one of the places targeted with hateful graffiti earlier this week.

Crowds of people dropped off flowers at Portsmouth businesses and a house of worship Friday that were targeted by hateful graffiti earlier in the week.

The bouquets were meant to make a visual statement — that love trumps hate.

Clifton West Jr., of Black Lives Matter Seacoast, and Josie Pinto, of Reproductive Freedom Fund of NH, prepare to hand out a bouquet of flowers Feb. 24, 2023 in Portsmouth, NH, as part of a "Love Blooms Here" event in response to hateful gaffiti and hate crimes.
Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
Clifton West Jr., of Black Lives Matter Seacoast, and Josie Pinto, of Reproductive Freedom Fund of NH, prepare to hand out a bouquet of flowers Feb. 24, 2023 in Portsmouth, NH, as part of a "Love Blooms Here" event in response to hateful gaffiti and hate crimes.

“We know that these are not one-off incidences in New Hampshire and in New England," said Jo Kelley, the city's assistant mayor and the owner of Cup of Joe Cafe and Bar, one of the businesses vandalized. "We’re seeing them more and more and more. And so I think if we can do events like this more and more and more, it’s going to show victims and it’s also going to show the community at large that we’re bigger than they are.”

The event, "Love Blooms Here," was organized by a group of nonprofits and volunteers. They included Lovering Health Center, New England BIPOC Fest, Reproductive Freedom Fund of NH, Black Lives Matter Seacoast, The Flower Room and Flowers by Leslie.

Jo Kelley, right, speaks with supporters outside her business in Portsmouth, NH on Feb. 24, 2023.
Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
Portsmouth Assistant Mayor and Cup Of Joe owner Jo Kelley, right, speaks with supporters outside her business on Feb. 24, 2023.

Kelley, who is Portsmouth's first Black assistant mayor, told members of the crowd assembled at her cafe that community leaders would not sit silently by when confronted by hate speech or hate crimes.

"So our goal really is to always outshine hate," she said. "We know that silence doesn’t work. We need to be more vocal than they are. They’re proud of who they are. They’re proud of their mentalities, their thoughts. They march proudly in our streets. And so we feel we have to be louder than them.”

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Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.
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