The death of George Floyd in Minneappolis in May as well as the deaths of other Blacks at the hands of police, sparked protests around the nation. While not advocating for violence, Markman felt some were desperate to have their voices heard.
“It was scary watching mass destruction on TV and people getting arrested for wanting a free society,” said Markman. “It was definitely hard to watch it play out. I spent a long time thinking of how I could have an impact.”
After seeking the help of classmate Jenna Tiso and 2020 CHS graduate Abby Dziura, Markman found a way to safely join the fight against racial injustice. In late May/early June of last year, the girls formed Unity, an online store where people can purchase activist items for charity.
In creating stickers and car decals around Black Lives Matter and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) themes, the students have split their proceeds between the Innocence Project and the Black Trans Femmes in the Arts Collective (BTFA).
“As a society, we didn’t see a reason for us to be divided and wanted to lift people up in a time like this,” said Markman.
After Markman approached Tiso with the idea, the friends felt that they needed a graphic designer and spoke with Dziura about teaming with them.
Before graduating, Dziura was active in laying out the school newspaper, The Rampage. As a sophomore, she worked as the Student Life Editor and then served as the Editor in Chief during her last two years.
“Designing is something that I enjoy doing in my free time,” said Dziura. “For this (Unity) project, I was happy that I could use my experience to help people.”
To make designs for stickers and car decals last year, she mostly used Adobe Illustrator on her computer.
“It took me a couple of days. I would send my drafts to the girls and then go back to work on them,” Dziura recalled.
“I didn’t know Abby that well when we got started, but we had participated together in the production of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” recalled Tiso. “It was nice to get to know her and work on this project.
“We looked at groups who were in need at the time,” she added. “We wanted to give back to the Black community.”
The girls estimated that it took about two weeks to set up the Unity store. On their web page, www.shopunity.store, stickers and car decals range in price from $2 to $5.
“We tried to get it out as fast we could to start raising money,” said Markman.
To spread the word, the friends used social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, as well as word of mouth.
“Parents and other people were very supportive,” said Markman. “We actually got orders from multiple states. It was cool to see interest coming in from different places.”
As of press time, Unity has raised $140 each for the Innocence Project and BTFA.
For their efforts, the Unity team has been recognized by the community. This year, Cheshire Youth Services put together a calendar where they shine a spotlight on projects created in 2020 by students.
With February being Black History Month, Markman, Tiso, and Dziura were chosen as the first honorees.
“We didn’t go into Unity with the mindset of being recognized, but it is nice to see people take notice of what we are trying to do,” said Tiso.