Do you know what it feels like to live in a place that looks war torn, ran down and disemboweled? A place where lives are devalued by the very ones sworn to protect and serve you? Do you live next door to a worn down abandoned property where fires are prone to be set forcing neighbors to flee from the only comfort they know? Vacant unattended properties are eyesores, but norms, and backyards are used as dumping sites for passerby’s. Is the term “food desert” part of your vernacular? If you answered “yes” to all of these assertions, than you know Baltimore City. Even before the death of Freddie Gray.
“Why are yall destroying your own community?” You ask, as if you really care.
The riot that took place on Monday afternoon was spearheaded by high school kids who tweeted “do yall want to purge Mondawmin?” Mondawmin is a mall located in West Baltimore and it is also a bus hub frequented by hundreds of students on a daily basis. There’s always a crowd of children congregating at the mall after school is dismissed. It’s where they meet. And they’re always up to acts of mischievousness. Now granted, what took place on Monday was unprecedented and a little more than juvenile mischief. But I’m almost certain that it would be safe to conclude that they themselves honestly had no idea what they had initiated and the serious ramifications of their actions.
I teach at a school right down the street from Mondawmin Mall. Many of my students access public transportation at Mondawmin Mall to travel to and from school. As a matter of fact, on Wednesday (the first day students returned back to school since the riot on Monday), myself, along with the majority of our staff escorted our students to the bus hub at Mondawmin for their own safety and to assure the National Guard and Police Officers in riot gear canvassing the mall that our students weren’t a threat to them. As we walked, I avoided the rocks strewn on the ground that I reckoned were used days prior to be hurled at the police. I frowned my face in astonishment when I noticed the armored Humvees decked with snipers in front of the high school that’s been deemed Ground Zero. I heard the officers give instructions to each other which prompted them to respond in unison when people walked towards them. Shield in hand, gun on hip, they said, “to your left,” and “behind you.” I felt uneasy in the presence of such militarized force, so I can only imagine how our children were made to feel, internally. Nevertheless, we walked on. Baltimore is a different place. And the people of Baltimore are different folks, especially our youth, apparently.
Not surprisingly, based on the many different media outlets and their contrived depiction of us we’ve been vilified through the press. “Look at them destroying their own community.” Unfortunately, though it may be news to many (doubt it very seriously), but the destruction of my community did not just persist with the most recent riots. But I think yall knew that.
Drugs have destroyed my community. Mass incarceration has destroyed my community. Unemployment has destroyed my community. Poor education has destroyed my community. Systemic racism has destroyed my community. Shid, rioting is just a byproduct of all the things that have destroyed my community. It’s a form of expression of suppressed feelings and emotions. Don’t overlook the reasons why I’m mad and then try to declare my response anything but a reciprocity.
For the record, I’m not mad at the energy expressed by our young people. I applaud their spirit to fight and to push on without fear. And I personally understand their anger. However, I will say that their emotional efforts are misguided. Their fight must be done with intent of securing and sustaining a better future than their present. And that will not be accomplished doing what transpired on Monday. Lord knows, I don’t want to see anyone get killed for looting a DTLR for a pair of Jordan’s. And even though that is so frivolous to me, for many of our young people who were in the streets on Monday, to them, that’s a “come up.” Prompting me to inquire “do you just want to come up or are you interested in staying up?”
We have much work to do. It shouldn’t take a tragedy such as the death of Freddy Gray to cause an implosion, but since it has ignited an emotional response from our community within and the world as a whole, let us plan better moving forward to do, not what makes us feel better momentarily, but what’s best for us persistently. Because, GOD forbid…
I been to many places, but I’m Bmore’s Own! Cornell Dews.