5 Questions: The Damen Avenue Noisy White Trash Sign Ladies

By Geoff Dankert | Thursday, February 23, 2012

Deborah Bayly with one of her "White Trash" signs. Credit: Geoff Dankert

You may not know Deborah Bayly or Kelly Martin, but if you’ve spent any time in north-south traffic, you’ve probably seen the protest signs hanging from the second-floor balcony of their home in the 2900 block of North Damen Avenue. What’s since become a venue for breezy screeds opposing war, gun violence and education policy started more than a decade ago as a statement against rapid development of the neighborhood near Hamlin Park. RVJ asked Bayly and Martin about the impetus for their first controversial sign: “Condo Buyers Beware: Noisy White Trash Lives Here.”

What happened? 
Bayly: [A condo developer] was obnoxious…. He kept going down and asking [the neighbors] to sell to him. He came to us once. When I told him to get lost, he couldn’t understand. He said, ‘We’re improving the neighborhood.’ I said, ‘No, you’re not improving the neighborhood. You think that getting rid of working class and poorer people and bringing in people who have more money is improving the neighborhood. I think that’s exactly the opposite.’

So you decided to call yourselves ‘Noisy White Trash?’
Bayly: That’s right. Since the people who developed this area seemed to think they were getting rid of people and improving the neighborhood, then since we were white we thought ‘Well, we must be some of the white trash that they think it’s an improvement to kick out of here.’

What was the reaction? 
Martin: We were kind of surprised that we got any reaction.
Bayly: I would be working in my garden and people would drive by and wave and smile and give thumbs up and holler out their windows ‘we like your signs.’ It was amazing. Just constant at the beginning.

After the initial signs, you started to branch out. Why? 
Martin: Because the gentrification of the neighborhood had already happened.

What other signs are coming? 
Bayly: I have one other one that’s never going to be un-current. It says, ‘Pay Extortion To Park.’

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  • Anonymous

    I love these ladies. The condo developers aren’t about kicking out “poorer” people – mostly they are trying to eliminate stable people. Stable people and stable communities aren’t vulnerable enough to exploit and make money off of. 

  • EarlyMedievalSerf

    The ‘poorer’ people on Damen ave. like my former neighbor bought their cottage in 1978 for $22,000 and sold for $400,000 in 2004.  The ‘poor’ people laughed all the way to the bank as they bought new homes in the suburbs.

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