Grand Rapids Native Rob Bliss Creates Viral BLM Video in Arkansas
Grand Rapids native Rob Bliss has shared a new video in which he's holding a Black Lives Matter sign in Harrison, Arkansas.
Bliss, who is now a video director and owner of Rob Bliss Creative, began his career more than a decade ago in Grand Rapids with flash mobs and large scale events like the paper airplane toss at the first ArtPrize and a giant water slide on Lyon Street. His viral video from 2014 "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman" has been viewed almost 50 million times.
His latest video "Holding a Black Lives Matter Sign in America's Most Racist Town" has gotten almost a million views in three days.
Bliss tells Wood TV 8 that he shot the video outside of a Walmart shopping Center in Harrison and that he chose the city because it is often labeled one of the most racist towns in America.
His goal was to start a conversation; he says in larger, more progressive cities, racism might be viewed as a thing of the past. Bliss tells Wood TV 8,
If you do this in Brooklyn or Los Angeles, most of the people that you encounter are going to have the exact same feelings as you. But to do it in Harrison, I wanted to start that conversation where it doesn’t normally happen."
In the two minute long video curse words, racial slurs, and threats are yelled at him by passers-by. (Please be advised of strong language if you are watching at work or with small children nearby.)
Bliss says he thinks it's important for non-black allies to actively combat the behavior seen in the video and tells Wood TV 8:
“Would I be comfortable doing what I did if I were a person of color? Probably not, but because of who I am, I know that I can position my own talents my own existence to lift up others. I think it’s important for people in a position like mine to think about how they can use their own situations help others.”
While Bliss says the reactions he received were mostly negative, there were some people who encouraged him to keep going, including the person who hands him a letter at the end of the video.
In the description of the YouTube video, Bliss says that throughout filming he received "threats of legal action by racists who don't want to be exposed and want to see this video removed", and that he'd greatly appreciate any donations to his legal defense fund.