Dear America: A B-More Teacher And His Student Write A Nation

A teacher writes a letter to America.

Dear America,

Now that we have your attention, will you help us?  In the wake of Freddie Gray’s untimely demise while in the custody of Baltimore City Police, we’ve seen riots, protests, marches, burnings and assaults on police officers as well as civilians.  Demonstrations, some peaceful and some, not so peaceful, were all done with the intent of bringing attention to a group of people whom ultimately feel that you’ve forsaken and forgotten them.  In the past couple of weeks, you have watched us act out, without thoroughly understanding that what you were witnessing was more an act of us crying out.  Help!  Help!  That’s what you should’ve heard, if you were truly listening.

A week ago, news media converged on our town like they were covering an annual celebratory sporting event.  Media representatives from all around the world wanted to cover the story of events that were initiated and taking place in west Baltimore.  I was even approached by a journalist, while walking my students to the bus stop at Mondawmin Mall two days after the riots on Monday April 27.  I refused to speak because it angered me that it took our children cries and misguided pinned up emotions to get anyone from outside of our community to express any sort of “interest” in them.  My dear America, have you not heard the cries of your children, our children prior to these chain of events?  And after hearing these horrendous cries and pleas for help from our youth, do you not think it requires a sincere response from you?

In my classroom, I have a white board that I’ve dedicated to the remembrance of Freddie Gray.  In the center of the board, beneath his graffitied name, I wrote, “please, feel free to write your thoughts.”  To which one of my student’s first responses was, “I’m sorry you had to see that!”  A child apologized to you for the acts of her peers.  But where’s the apology to them, from you, I ask.  You can’t be so blatantly disconnected or disinterested that you don’t feel some sense of accountability and responsibility, could you?

It’s so much more that could be done for the betterment of our youth, if people really cared.  Immediately after the outcry, several celebrities made themselves available to speak to our young people in the city.  They wanted to help curtail violence and give them redirection.  I applaud them all for doing that, but I can only imagine if they believe that their celebrity could be of service and impactful to our children after the outcry, what could their celebrity and interest in our children have done before they cried out?  People think it’s solely money that we need to help ignite the transformation in the lives of our youth.  However, in my humble opinion, it’s not all about money.  Instead, I’ve concluded that the most valuable investment a person could make in our children is their time, and not necessarily their dollar.  So I employ you America, if I could, to invest back into your children, our children.  They need you.

I teach at Connexions:  A Community Based Arts Charter School, located at 2801 N. Dukeland Street Baltimore, MD   21216.  I’m inviting you and encouraging you to help.  If not our school, another school.  If not our city, another city.  Let’s not wait for another tragedy to happen before you decide to pay some attention to the downtrodden.  The cry you should’ve heard from last week is “We Need Your Help.”  How do you respond to that America?  Honestly.

I’ll like to close this editorial with the help of one of my 8th grade students from Connexions.  This young man is a budding scholar with great potential and an extremely bright future ahead of him.  One of the many gems I have the pleasure to teach on a daily basis.  His name is Manavin Johnson.  And this is what he’d like to say:

Somebody pray for Baltimore.
The cops killing us while we’re robbing convenience stores.
We need unification and less cops to be racists.
The future generation is hidden in our babies.
So don’t let them grow up in this twisted society.
If we divide and reside we’ll stay in poverty.
So put your hands together and bow your head,
Let’s wish away darkness and shine light instead.
It’s crazy the way they did Freddie Gray.
He’s six feet in the ground, he’ll see no other day.
Somebody pray for Baltimore.