There are 40,000 Little Love Letters circulating worldwide. Crafted on business-size cards, they feature a print of an Elizabeth Cassidy painting and, on the back, an affirmation. The cards are the brainchild of Cassidy, an artist and writer who has lived in Glen Head for the past 20 years.
Quick to refer to herself as a rebel and a “black sheep,” she admits that she is in reality a peaceful activist. And her compulsion to create, and then use the cards to spark a peaceful revolution, evolved from her own experiences.
“I lived through volatile times in our country that included assassinations and war,” Cassidy said. “Kennedy, King, Lennon — those assassinations knocked the wind out of me.”
A tall, attractive woman, she often expresses herself using her hands, with nails painted sky blue. Her hair is cut fashionably short and her jewelry is eye-catching. It isn’t hard to understand why her nieces and nephews call her the “cool aunt.”
Cassidy lived in Manhattan in the 1980s, during the AIDS crisis. It left a mark on her. “I lost so many friends from AIDS,” she said, shaking her head. “Society looked away back then. It was a very cruel time in our country.”
She was distraught over a wide range of tragedies last year — deaths from suicide bombers in Brussels in March, the killing of police officers in Dallas in July, and too many atrocities to count in the Middle East. But what finally motivated her to try to find a way to do something herself was waking up to the news of a massacre in Orlando. “The mass murder at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12 last year,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “I saw the number 49 and wondered, how could anyone hate that much? I thought of my friends and family that could have been there. I became very angry.”
She came up with a few ideas about what she might do next.
Cassidy has many talents. Growing up in Syosset, she took art classes in high school, and then studied advertising, design and fashion illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. After graduating, she moved to Glen Cove and worked in advertising in New York City. She wrote jokes and did stand-up comedy herself at venues like Catch A Rising Star and performed with comics including Anita Wise and Judy Gold. They later appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “Seinfeld.”
Cassidy was hired as a joke writer for WNBC radio. She was enjoying herself, and decided to try to give her career another boost. “I have the rejection letter that I received from ‘Saturday Night Live’ framed,” she said, smiling.
She left the comedy business and moved to Locust Valley in 1992, Oyster Bay and then Glen Head, working in advertising once again, this time for Fortunoffs. She became a blogger 10 years ago, writing for a couple of sites but eventually began painting again instead.
After the tragedy in Orlando, she wondered whether she should return to blogging and write about what she was experiencing emotionally. But she decided against it. “I’d just be another angry voice,” she explained. “I thought, why not take my art and do it on a small scale?”
Between 2012 and 2016, Cassidy had several of her paintings displayed in art shows in Huntington and other parts of Long Island.
She decided to have four of her works printed on business-size cards. Then she had inspirational words printed on the back — sometimes the wisdom of Gandhi or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but more often words of her own.
In July 2016, a business, Little Love Letters: A Peaceful Revolution, was born. Now she had to decide what to do with all the little cards.
“I thought, I’ll leave the Little Love Letters around where people will find them to remind them to love and respect each other again,” Cassidy said, adding that she started leaving them in grocery stores. “Then I put them on Facebook, encouraging people to leave them in public places like the subway, restaurants and doctors’ offices so people could find them and know that someone was thinking about them.”
The cards, which feature 18 different images and messages, could be ordered on a website that she created for her business. Customers would receive between 30 and 50 of them, paying only $5 for shipping and handling. Two hundred people immediately contacted her to request cards.
The business took off. People all over the world began to contact her. “They’d say they found one of the cards and it was the right card for them,” Cassidy said. “The stories I hear either make me smile or break my heart.”
She decided to create greeting cards as well, to support the cost of mailing the smaller cards. And each greeting card includes an identical business-size card. Her artwork is on the front of the larger cards, with an inspirational message inside on the left. Otherwise, the cards are blank.
“I didn’t look at the greeting cards initially as birthday or anniversary cards,” she said. “They’re about love, compassion and acceptance, but I now think they could be appropriate for occasions. To me, they are art cards and suitable for framing.”
She has received donations from people along with the money for shipping.
Cassidy hopes to be in a position soon to donate some of the proceeds from her business to Planned Parenthood and the Ali Forney Center in Harlem, a nonprofit group created to protect LGBTQ youth.
These days she isn’t painting much or taking part in art shows. “The shows I do do are used as a way to get people to know what I’m doing, and why, with Little Love Letters,” she explained. “But I do get up every morning and draw instead of waking up and putting on the news. I feel guilty not painting every day, but when starting a new business, you don’t have the luxury of sitting in a studio and painting.”
The little girl who once drew with crayons on the walls — to her mother’s dismay — said she believes everyone is capable of being a conduit of change. “We have to get over being afraid and jump in,” she said. “Look, this came from incredible sadness, but my art and words found my cause.”
To find out more about Little Love Letters: A Peaceful Revolution go to www.Littlelovelettersapeacefulrevolution.com, and www.Apeacefulrevolutiongreetingcards.com.