The Curfew, The Curfew! Let’s Not Forget The Curfew

Even my dog understands the 10:00 PM Curfew now in effect in Baltimore City.

Normally, we would go for our last walk of the night—around our yard—anywhere from 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM. But since Tuesday night, we’ve been taking our last walk a bit earlier, making sure to be inside by the “witching” hour. With no frantic, tail-wagging pleas to go out just one more time. And we do not even live in the epicenter of #BaltimoreUpRising—we are clear on the other side of town.

But my roots remain in West Baltimore. Including the corner of North and Pennsylvania Avenues where, nightly—since Tuesday—the glass front of the Enoch Pratt Free Library Branch 17 has been a backdrop for the defiant residents who won’t leave the area until 10:30 or 10:45 or 11:00 PM, as shown on MSNBC coverage of these “events.”

I bring up this branch of the library because it was MY library when I was a child. I couldn’t wait until I turned 5 years old so I could get my first library card there! I cannot tell you how many joyful hours I spent in that library, between the ages of 5 and 10, first being read to by the librarian (who I learned only in young adulthood was a longstanding member of my church), and later searching the stacks on my own for the books that enabled me to dream and to learn and to grow. It was in that library where I chose to read The Grapes of Wrath and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and so many others that were “above” my age level but that spoke to me of other times, other worlds, other ideas and feelings and experiences.

And so, as I watched one-on-one interviews with residents of that area of West Baltimore this week, I began to realize that the people who live there today are just as knowledgeable and intelligent and sensitive as the people who raised me up in that same part of town 50 years ago!

We are not thugs. We are not animals! We are human beings! With the same ordinary lives; with the same dreams of a better life, a better community, a better world.

A teenage boy standing near Fulton and North Avenues spoke eloquently about the need to deal with the deeper issues facing Baltimore and all cities across this nation: lack of opportunity because of joblessness and the reduction of essential community services like after-school programs and recreation centers; the high rate of incarceration of young black men—which further reduces the chances of young people because their records make it that much harder to become employed, to vote, or to do anything that people of means are able to do. And then this young man brought his father into the conversation with the reporter, reinforcing his son’s desire to work in positive ways for his community.

The little boy who was helping to clean up the debris around the burnt-out CVS, stated simply that he wants that store to look the way it did before. He doesn’t want Baltimore to be seen in such an ugly way, with all the trash and debris.

That corner—across the street from “MY” library—once was the site of “MY” favorite movie theatre, The Met, where I saw the original animated “Lady and the Tramp” and other Disney movies. It boggles my mind to see how much my roots have changed….

But then, I see reports that the violence that began on Saturday outside Camden Yards Stadium was in part sparked by the patrons of the ballpark calling the protesters names. You know those names. I will not repeat them. I heard them from classmates in my lily-white junior high school in the community where I moved when I left West Baltimore.

Funny, I never see too many people of color in the seats of Camden Yards; the only times I’ve ever gone there were for group-rate games, with my former job or my church, or a friend’s organization. I grew up going to the old Memorial Stadium to see the Orioles play.

Now we have this damned curfew.

It is prom season in Baltimore. This coming weekend, high school juniors and seniors from all over the City were planning to attend the culminating social event of their teen lives in venues near the Beautiful Inner Harbor of Baltimore. They have just been told today that their parties have been “cancelled.” Oh they can have their proms…. They just can’t have them downtown.


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