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Message of hope: Ringwood man tries to bring unity to divided town

There is a decades-old tradition in Ringwood of people painting messages on a large stone embankment on Greenwood Lake Turnpike.

News 12 Staff

Jun 16, 2020, 12:48 AM

Updated 1,441 days ago


There is a decades-old tradition in Ringwood of people painting messages on a large stone embankment on Greenwood Lake Turnpike. For years people have painted anything from birthday wishes for a friend to signs of support for local school sports teams.
But over the past few weeks, the messages have gotten contentious when Black Lives Matter supporters and opposing groups have been repainting the stone with competing messages on a nightly basis.
One Ringwood resident said that he finally had enough of the fighting and came up with a message both sides can get behind.
When Kevin Corlett started spray-painting on the rock Sunday evening, drivers passing by saw the Marine veteran in his buzz cut, USA shirt and Trump bracelet and made some assumptions.
“They think that I’m just going to paint something Nazi [related], something racist,” he says.
But this was before they saw the message that he was painting, a quote from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“I had to do something,” Corlett says.
Corlett has never painted the rock before. But he says that his stomach was in knots as he watched a bitter back-and-forth play out on the wall over the past few weeks.
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Black Lives Matter supporters would paint their slogans and then others would paint over it with American flags and other patriotic slogans, only to have those messages covered up again before the paint was even dried. Corlett says that he felt stuck in the middle.
“They’re going back and forth between the flag and Black Lives Matter and I can’t sit and see any American flag desecrated in any way, shape or form,” he says.
But Corlett says that he was shaken by the death of George Floyd last month in Minnesota and says that he recognizes that the protests over police brutality have valid points.
“And now I find myself in this place where I have black friends and I’m now trying to put myself in a position where I feel what they feel. Something as simple as when I get pulled over, I’m not afraid of anything,” he says
Corlett says that he has had some tortured conversations with friends on both sides and that it was the MLK quote uttered to him by a longtime friend who is black that stopped him in his tracks.
“I didn’t want him to hear me choke up when he sent that quote from Martin Luther King,” says Corlett.
He says that he knew that he had to paint that quote on the rock.
“I don’t want my friends who wear badges to be afraid to go to work because they’re going to get stabbed…and I don’t want my black friends who get pulled over to be afraid they’re going to die because a tail light is out,” he says.
Corlett says that he hopes that both sides can come to an agreement and to stop fighting.

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