Dear Baltimore: Kevin Liles Open Letter To His City

Dear Baltimore,

Even for a city that has known its share of hardship, it has been a tough week for Baltimore. Once again, we’ve lost a young black man before his time. Once again, we’ve been provided reasons that don’t make sense and we’re left without answers. While the majority of our community has responded with peaceful and necessary calls for truth and justice in response to the senseless death of Freddie Gray, a small number have lashed out in anger, shining a negative light on Baltimore, its people, and destroying businesses and property that serve as cornerstones of our neighborhoods.

We know your frustrations. We’re from the same neighborhoods. We know the poverty, the history repeating, and the struggle just to get by. But at this time, we are asking you to not get lost in frustration and despair. Every dollar that must be spent on ending violent unrest is a dollar taken away from priorities like body cameras for police, after-school programs for our children, and community programs that support fellow citizens in need.

Instead, we encourage everyone to come together to focus their energy on constructive initiatives so we might honor Freddie Gray and build a legacy worthy of his memory.

1. Transparency is necessary in the search for truth and justice. We acknowledge it will take time to gather facts, understand the truth behind Freddie Gray’s death, and take actions that deliver justice. We much prefer the whole truth in two months to a half-truth delivered in two weeks. But that good will and patience will only be possible in exchange for transparency in the process. Without transparency, the community will not have trust in the process. Without trust in the process, the community will struggle to believe justice can be realized in this case. We are all citizens of this great city, and we demand to be treated with love and respect. We call on our leaders to do all they can to uncover the truth, build trust, and mend the divisions in our community. Trust in our justice system is the path forward for healing.

2. To heal together, we must rebuild together. Too many of our neighborhoods experienced destruction of property and businesses out of frustration, a lack of trust in our judicial process, and an underwhelming response to this crisis by our elected leaders. To help our city rebound quickly and fully, we are announcing Operation Rebuild Baltimore. This effort is not just about clearing the debris that fills our city streets, cleaning the ashes that cover our blocks, or refilling the stores that were looted because of misguided anger and energy. This is about laying a solid foundation for our next generation of leaders to build on. While they may be wrapped in good intentions, the band-aids are not working. Poor infrastructure leads to unstable ground for our future leaders to grow. Our communities are tired and uninspired. There is too much at stake – our children, our city, our future – to allow hope to be shattered by the misguided acts of the few. Baltimore should be the example of what great cities can do with solid foundations, infrastructure and leadership. Let’s rebuild brick by brick, mind by mind, and heart by heart. We will rebuild because we must. This is our home!

3. Solve Baltimore’s problems at the root. Baltimore has underlying, systemic issues with our education system, insufficient opportunities for economic and social mobility, and a lack of investment in the poor and middle class. We don’t do nearly enough to support programs around early childhood, education reform, and job training. That’s the foundation of rebuilding Baltimore and cities across the country, and breaking the cycle of poverty that plagues our communities. As citizens of the greatest nation on earth, it is inexcusable that some parts of our urban cities are worse than some third-world countries. How can our children realize their potential if all they know is poverty, inequality, and injustice? The covenants of America, Black America and our institutions that stand for liberty and justice have been broken. The promise of equality and justice under law in our nation’s founding documents is inconsistent with the reality too many feel today. Let this crisis be an opportunity and a call to action. Now is the time to stand and be counted in the fight for our city and country’s future.

In the end, we must come together and accept the responsibility to be a Better Baltimore. We are a proud city – one of resilience and unwavering faith. But in order to get better, we must do better. We must educate and empower our families, our communities, and ourselves. And that starts with each of us as individuals. As we struggle to get through these difficult times, we encourage each of you to believe in yourself and your ability to be a difference-maker in your family, neighborhood, and city!

Finally, as we rebuild together, keep Freddie Gray and his family in your prayers. Support them and allow them time to heal for their devastating loss. Together, we will rebuild a Baltimore worthy of the memory of Freddie. Let his sacrifice provide us with all the resolve we need to build a better future and a Baltimore that he – and all of us – would be proud to call home.

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