SEIU-Represented Syracuse University Janitor Who Cleaned Racist Graffiti ‘Replaces It With Kindness’ - Keri Courtwright Has Started Putting Up ‘Inspirational Quotes To Counter The Racist Markings She’s Removed’
(SYRACUSE, NEW YORK) - Keri Courtwright was working her usual night shift at Syracuse University (SU) last week when she was asked to clean up some racist graffiti.
When the janitor read the words - a hateful description of Asians - she felt angry.
As she scrubbed the black marker off the wall of a university building, she wondered what she could do to fight the ugliness.
The answer that came to her in that quiet, empty hallway was simple: Spread kindness.
So before she began her shift earlier this week on Monday, Courtwright armed herself.
She printed out dozens of kind, inspirational quotes and cut them up.
They are big enough to see, small enough to avoid trouble.
She put the quotes and scotch tape on her cart and set about her work.
“I ‘can’t deal with that level of hate,’” Courtwright said. “I ‘had to do something.’ ‘Something to get the good energy back out there.’"
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 200 United, the Union to which Courtwright is a Member of, posted the following on its Facebook Page: SEIU 200 United Member making a difference and fighting racism on her campus. Nice work, Keri!
Courtwright, 35, has cleaned up graffiti before in her 13 years at Syracuse University.
She knows there is hate in the world and words to clean up, but what’s happening now at SU is something different, she said.
“It’s an ‘angry type of hate,’” Courtwright said.
And she can feel the fear and confusion on the campus.
Courtwright has a Facebook group, Pay It Forward CNY, where she helps people in need connect with people who can help them.
She already posts a positive note there every day and people seemed to appreciate it.
So why not post positive notes around the university as she cleaned, she thought.
The university has been struggling with several incidents of racist graffiti and is investigating reports of a White Supremacist manifesto being mass-distributed to students.
The problems on the hill have caught the attention of the mayor, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the National Media.
So Monday night, as Courtwright emptied garbage cans and wiped down toilets, she taped up the notes on doors, bathroom mirrors and paper-towel dispensers: “A lot of people just need someone to be kind today;” “Kindness changes everything;” and “We are different and that’s beautiful.”
Before Courtwright walked out into the dark at the end of her shift, she’d left behind 30 messages of kindness for people to find.
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