Part III: What’s Really Going On?
On May 31, 2015, all the news reports were about the surge in violence in Baltimore during the month of May—a homicide rate not seen in decades, and nonfatal shootings increased, too. That day, and over the past week, I’ve had conversations (via Facebook) with a few friends from Baltimore about this latest crisis. I asked them if I could share some of what they had to say, and three of them agreed to have their voices heard.
From Bernadette Lyles:
My view comes as an insider standing on the outside perspective, for lack of better words! lol I am West Baltimore born and bred.
“DON’T BE FOOLED!!!!
THE CRISIS IN BALTIMORE….
It is really sad to hear about the increase in violence and murders in our city! Something has to be done. But please don’t be fooled by everything you hear on the news! Is gun violence and murders a problem in our city? Yes! The media would like us to believe that in the wake of the uprising that occurred after Freddy Gray’s death and the attacks on Our Police, gun violence has increased and basically our city is out of control even more. Some even [alllude] to the fact that there is even a slower response from BCPD as a result. Fact is…things are the same! Our city is in turmoil! And it is now that the media finds it necessary to report EACH AND EVERY Shooting to somehow make a point! Think how many times you heard about or witnessed a shooting, looked at the news to find out more about it, and there’s no report of it. The point I’m trying to make is our city has been messed up! It’s only now they are using it to make a point!! We have to do better! People who have never led before need to step up and save Our City! It’s being reported that May has been the deadliest month in a decade! And that makes me sad!! My issue is trusting who’s doing the counting and the reporting! 40 murders!!! One is too many! It just seems to me, that there’s a tone of exploitation over a bad situation to get a point across!! IJS”
Bernadette added, “My view comes as an insider standing on the outside perspective, for lack of better words! I am West Baltimore born and bred. I can honestly say the stats are way off!”
From Kathy Jachimski Chance:
“Baltimore stresses me out because every day I hear of very violent murders like this morning I heard 2 people were shot in the head. Maybe execution style! It breaks my heart that my city is not the land of pleasant living anymore! Be very safe friends! Lack of leadership seems like a big problem there!”
Kathy, who now lives in Florida, sparked an impassioned group conversation on Facebook, which I took part in. But we also continued our conversation outside of the group:
Kathy: “Even tho I live in Florida I still am Baltimore thru and thru! And it upsets me very much hearing about all the murders, crime, drugs, everything! I like being proud of my heritage when I wear Orioles, Ravens, or Baltimore but all I hear are jokes. When all that protesting was going on, most people in Florida didn’t understand and I had to listen to some real garbage about Baltimore!
Baltimore and Maryland have so many things to offer and a lot of people don’t take advantage of. The mountains, the ocean, sports, small quaint neighborhoods, how beautiful Baltimore looks in the fall when the colors come in. I like Florida a lot for its advantages but Judy Garland said it best ‘there’s no place like home’…. And I hate my city being the butt of jokes, making headlines for all the wrong reasons and mostly disrespecting the charm, beauty and history of a great city that has a lot to be proud of!”
Me: “I can only imagine the stuff you had to endure in FL (like the pot calling the kettle black!). Your love and pride for Baltimore show thru in so many of your posts, and that’s why I want your voice heard. I want to stress that altho the violence is a part of our city, Baltimore is much bigger and better than this!”
Another friend of mine, Cynthia Edwards Winston, issued a challenge to our Morgan Park community, from her current home in Raleigh, NC: What are you doing, or what can you do for Baltimore? One of our friends echoed the need for churches to step up and play a leadership role. I emphasized the need for us to vote for better elected officials to represent us—someone with a clear vision and a plan of direction for the City.
And on Real Time with Bill Maher, last week, our own John Waters threw out a challenge of his own: the people of Sandtown-Winchester need to unite with the people of Pigtown. And he’s right! The “crisis” in Baltimore has more to do with lack of socioeconomic power than it does about race. Can you imagine what a force that would be?
What’s really going on? My simple answer is: Nothing and everything is going on. We continue to live a “Tale of Two Cities”—or more accurately, an amalgam of many cities in one metropolis. The “haves” live in Guilford and Roland Park, Harbor East and Federal Hill; the “trying to have” live in Lauraville/Hamilton, Morgan Park, Charles Village; and the “have nots,” while concentrated in parts of West and East Baltimore, also exist in North and South Baltimore. For the most part, the daily lives of ordinary Baltimoreans have not changed.
Yet there are pockets of hope, revolution, and growth springing up everywhere. This weekend, there were Prayer Walks in Cherry Hill and Sandtown-Winchester. Well before the current “Crisis in Baltimore,” families of Baltimore homicide victims organized support groups and have held annual remembrances of their loved ones. There have been neighborhood clean-ups and task forces and renewed efforts by the City to provide summer jobs for youths.
Even the governor, Larry Hogan (a Conservative Republican in a Liberal Democratic State) was so inspired by the spirit of giving and rebuilding that Baltimoreans have shown in the wake of the riots that he announced he will sponsor a Day of Service—of volunteerism—for his staff (mandatory) and State employees (voluntary) over the coming weeks.
I am still struggling with the question of what I can do for Baltimore. Writing this blog about the City I adore is one commitment I made and have honored this year. But I know it’s just a drop in the bucket of what I can and should be doing.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am beginning a new project here: a pictorial look at Baltimore---especially West Baltimore---past and present. You really have to see what this City looked like before 1968 to have any appreciation for what we have lost. More details on this project will be coming soon.