Amid the protests in the United States following the killing of George Floyd, interracial best friends Benjamin Smith and Marcus Ellis wanted to share a message of unity, so they posted up on their driveway in Rochester, New York with some beers and a simple statement — "Black or white, relax and have a beer!" A photo of the pair went viral, and their message was received by Brad Paisley, who surprised the two with a Zoom call and said he wanted to take them up on their offer.
News 8 WROC reports that Paisley called Smith and Ellis on Saturday and told them that he would be exponentially increasing their beer supply. "Man, I am so thrilled to meet you, face to face like this," the "No I in Beer" singer said. "I’m so inspired by you, and we thought we should deliver more beer than you could possibly drink… This is going to be a popular destination on this street." Before the call, Paisley had bought out the nearby AJ's Beer Warehouse, and hundreds of dollars worth of beer shipped directly to the friends' house.
Today, I had a chance to catch up with two great guys, Benjamin Smith and Marcus Ellis. These two best friends have set up camp at Smith's house in Pittsford on Jeff. Road, saying "Black or white, relax and have a beer." #ROC @News_8 pic.twitter.com/N5fP2qtxWH— Dan Gross (@DJG_Music) June 3, 2020
Along with his alcohol-fueled gift, Paisley also performed "No I in Beer" for the group and stayed on the call to chat with party attendees for around a half-hour. "I’m trying to hear out my friends in the black community, that’s what you guys are doing; together, the same thing," he told Smith and Ellis, joking, "I’m all ears, always have been, I’ve had big ears my whole life. Ellis said, "It means the world, from space and back, it means a lot."
This is surreal. Remember Benjamin Smith and Marcus Ellis? The two best friends who offered: "Black or white, relax and have a beer" on their driveway?June 7, 2020
Smith, who served in the Marine Corps, and Ellis, from Long Island, New York, met years ago building cell phone towers together and have 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, and fun to have fun, we don’t care what people say."
Smith told News 8 WROC that Floyd's death "really really upset me." "That’s not what I fought for," he said. "I fought for a free America, a just America."
"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."
So they decided to share their small act of peace, setting up on the driveway with their beers and signs. "It’s insane," Smith said of their viral message. "It’s such a cool feeling that we’re making such a big impact across the community, and what seems to be across the US." Ellis added, "It's awesome. It feels so great."