‘Black or white, relax and have a beer’: Best friends invite community to chat over a brew

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC) — Best friends Benjamin Smith and Marcus Ellis wanted to do something small but powerful to help, following the death of George Floyd and the protests in Rochester, New York.

So they’ve set up some lawn chairs, and have camped out in front of Smith’s house in the suburban town of Pittsford, with signs simply saying: “Black or white, relax and have a beer.”

The two says they’ve gotten a handful of people to join them so far, and they have a big lawn to spread out and talk at a safe distance.

The two have known known each other for years. They met building cellphone towers together. They have very different backgrounds — Smith served in the Marine Corps, Ellis came from Long Island — but they’ve been best friends ever since.

“He’s my Robin,” Ellis said. “Batman and Robin, exactly what it is … I think we’re just goofy, silly, we love to have fun and don’t care what people say.”

But for both of them, the recent death of George Floyd and the following protests struck a chord. 

“I fought for a free America, a just America,” Smith said. “When I heard about the George Floyd incident, it really really upset me. That’s not what I fought for.”

“Another one down. It’s pretty sad,” Ellis said. “People have a right to protest, people have a right to share their voice, but there’s a right way going about things, and a wrong way going about things.”

They decided to do something small, but powerful. They put some signs at Smith’s house in Pittsford on Jefferson Road; asking people to come on down, and enjoy a beer.

“I came out black, he came out white, let’s have a beer.” Ellis said. “Alcohol brings people together, and we like to smile and laugh, so it’s perfect.”

Both of them have related messages:

“What makes change is good people,” Smith said.

“I’m equal, just like you. I bleed, you bleed, I breathe, you breathe,” Ellis said. “This is the proper way of doing something. unite, come together as a whole.”

Beer and camaraderie might be a simple message, but as our country faces many problems ahead, maybe this is the perfect way to start.

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