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'Black or white, relax and have a beer:' Friends invite community over to start discussion on equality

The duo's movement even caught the eye of one county music superstar who joined their conversation over Zoom.
World of Beers served up beer samples 

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Almost nothing brings people together like an ice cold beer. 

That's why two best friends in New York grabbed their lawn chairs and cracked open some cans as a way to get their community talking after the death of George Floyd and the nationwide movement it sparked. 

Marcus Ellis, who is black, and Benjamin Smith, who is white, set up in front of Smith's home with signs that read: "Black or white, relax and have a beer," according to CBS News.

The pair come from very different backgrounds, but met and became friends when they were working building cell phone towers together, CBS News said. 

"Batman and Robin, exactly what it is," Ellis told CBS Rochester, New York, affiliate WROC-TV. "I think we're just goofy, silly, and like to have fun. We don't care what people say." 

The death of George Floyd hit home for both men. Smith, who is a Marine, said he fought for a free America, where things were just, according to CBS News. 

"When I heard about the George Floyd incident, it really, really upset me. That's not what I fought for," Smith said.

"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." 

That's when the two got the idea to do something small, but very powerful: invite their community to become part of the discussion-- over some beers. 

And their neighborhood showed up.

Pictures of the two having a drink started popping up all over social media. The two said the widespread attention is awesome and they feel like they're making an impact across their community and the county. 

The impact of their actions was so big, county music superstar Brad Pasley joined them. While he wasn't able to crack open a cold one with them in person, he spoke with them over Zoom, People Magazine reported.

Their talk with him might not have been face-to-face, but it wasn't empty-handed either. CBS News said the county star sent Smith and Ellis hundreds of dollars worth of beer for their community chat.

The two friends said the call with Paisley meant a lot. 

Smith said through the protests and riots he felt like he was getting torn apart and he had a tough time with it. But, it's situations like this that help build things back up, he told CBS News.  

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