I have basically spent this whole past week just forever in my feelings. Nothing but irritated and pissed. It’s one thing to have you city make national news, it’s definitely different when the neighborhood you were brought up in is the reason the city is basically on lockdown. And why morons would stop talking like they know how it is in Sandtown when they’re going off info they learned from HBO and reports written by people who are also not from Baltimore. Yes, reading relatively objective reports about the plight here is nice but your 20 minute read is not going to trump my personal experience, no matter how much you want it to. I was born and raised there. You could got to an Ivy, take a bunch of classes, get a degree and you’ll still have no idea compared to my actual, lived experience. That is just how it is. Baltimore is a whole lot more than Old Bay and Hon bullsh*t. That’s not even really Baltimore, that’s a White-washed, gentrified view of Baltimore because they don’t like that Baltimore is 64% Black and only 12% White. With effort from the Mayor(s, plural because Dixon was bad, O’Malley was awful, we haven’t had many good Mayors that actually care about Baltimoreans more than yuppie outsiders), there has been a healthy move to Whiten up Baltimore as much as possible.
I think the only White person that has been interacting with Baltimore and actually was not a douche about all that has been happening is the Manager for the O’s and why he closed the game to the public:
He gets it. He wasn’t being a douche, he was comfortably understanding by saying that this is beyond baseball and that he’s not going to say more than that because he has no way to relate to the experience of the people rioting and protesting. See? He made a comment that wasn’t disrespectful, agitating, exploiting, or White-Saviorist. It is ok to say, “Look, I’ve no bones in the game, all I know is that this is a big problem and that’s for sure. Baseball is just a game, this is a burst of a bunch of problems.”
Basically, this Baltimore club song is basically how I’ve been feeling all this week
This is more accurate to Baltimorean culture. We’re not really into outsiders telling our tales and speaking for us. At all. We don’t like exploiters, people who don’t genuinely care and just are talking about Baltimore because they’re tired of talking about Ferguson or to look like they’re up on current events. Everyone who is not from Baltimore wants to do a think piece about Baltimore, a city they have zip idea about. If all you knew about Baltimore was basically stuff that starred White people (or, if it was negative, Black people) such as The Wire, Hairspray and Old Bay, then maaaaaaaaybe you should just go back to watching Game of Thrones or something.
Everyone has been getting on my nerves, especially non-local media. I haven’t bothered to look at CNN, FOX News (how did you manage to come to Sandtown and not get your media truck firebombed? Not even catch a rock to the temple. Or a cracked camera?), even Wild Hunt – who asked me for my take – I’ll touch on that in a minute – tried to get in on the calamity as if they’re New York Times or they actually care. Even us Baltimoreans know we’re just activist groups heat of the week, flavor of the day. I haven’t even looked at The Root, which is a Black publication that usually is pretty on the level about things but again, I’m sensitive because as I said before, I’m from that neighborhood so I take it very straight to heart. Like, Mondawmin Mall? I grew up near that mall, my paternal grandfather’s house would have only been maybe 5 or 6 doors away from where the rioters started to break apart and scatter. That mall also started to gentrify a little, which served in part to getting its windows dropped. Remember, we don’t like exploiters. I’m pretty sure they’re clear with that now and if not, Baltimoreans are very good at strong reminders.
The only media people that contacted me was just Wild Hunt. Merely because I am in Baltimore, I’m close enough to the destruction. The person contacting didn’t even know (how, I don’t know because I made it very clear that I am more than just a Baltimorean but also from that neighborhood in the last post), that I am a native Baltimore and from the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood and gave me among the smaller snippets whereas some random person in bum-f*ck Maryland gets a whole paragraph cited and another person in New Jersey. I am probably the only Black person (aside from a quip from Ray Lewis) that was even mentioned in the article. Dude, the writer even wanted to include my MLK quote with snarky part to White liberals, the only reason why I’d post the quote interestingly edited out (I wonder why…oh wait, MLK quotes attract White folks like metal to magnets!) and I had to get a bit snippy to get it out. I told her to mention that I wrote about Whitewashing and gentrification. That didn’t make it to the final cut. It was just labeled “impassionate” (nice word/code for “angry”). I’m actually from here but I get among the least mention. And Wild Hunt doesn’t really try to be that “Oh, here are non-Pagan current events”. Maybe they should try to stick with more Pagan life stuff. The only reason why I agreed was because it isn’t like the writer was going to try hard to find someone else who was Black and from Baltimore…or from Baltimore…or possibly even Black. Now, it isn’t that any Black person can automatically talk about what happened in Baltimore (I mean, Don Lemon should have proved that), but at least there would be a higher likelihood of the person saying “Institutionalize racism” in opposed to saying the super soft “Ohhhh, those pooooooor Black people being murdered. Gives me a sad”.
And speaking of media inaccurately depicting Baltimore, how about that low key Whitewashing between “peaceful protester” and “rioter”. This is what the City Paper posted:
This is one of many, maaaaaaaaaany times where when you would see people talk about “peaceful protesters” they usually would pan to crowds mixed with White folks…or just pan to the White person in the crowd just standing there amongst the Black folks. But if they’re trashing cop cars and wrecking stuff, it’s All Black Everything. Quick tip: Stop centering White people to make any movement “relevant” or worth caring about. Minorities get edged out of their own movements all the time, it really isn’t fair. This movement isn’t about them. At all. If you have to see a White person somewhere in there to justify a movement, then that’s pretty bigoted. They’re not affected at all by racially charged murders. It’s nice they care but no one needs to put them at the forefront to validate a movement and to depict a “peaceful protester”, that is certain. That is sneakily dehumanizing the Black protesters as barbaric unless there is a White person to symbolize order when really there were definitely White looters. They can be just as bad if not worse because they’re not acting out from being oppressed for decades, just taking an opportunity because they figured even if they hit a ton of stores, media will just show a news reel of a Black folks doing it instead.
This article in the City Paper, which is a surprise for me because CP doesn’t tend to reflect the city it represent but even a broken clock is right twice a day, written by Helena Hicks, titled “Helena Hicks Talks about Institutional Neglect in Freddie’s Gray Neighborhood” accurately depicts the problems in Sandtown-Winchester. I strongly agree with this elder, who also participated in the 1955 sit-in at Read’s drug store in Baltimore as a college student, I recommend reading because as I have said this whole time, to best understand how things are, ask someone who actually is from the area. And the most striking part is that, despite Hicks and I come from two different generations, we have many of the same complaints.
“Sandtown-Winchester has just been left to its own devices all these years, and the devices unfortunately have been destructive ones.”
Anyone from there would tell you this. It’s nicknamed “Crazytown” for a reason. It practically the wild west there. A prison without bars, a concentration camp without electric fences.
“[Since the 40s] You had the gangs starting, you had the murders, you had a drug cartel. There’s never been any justice for people who have committed murders there. As for the Western District police station, it was well known you buy those cops off for $5. It’s had a history of violence, and violence over drugs, since the 1940s.”
Heeeeey, didn’t I say in my last piece I remember drugs being sold on the steps of the Western District police station? Thought I was exaggerating, huh? This, everyone, is the reason why I absolutely abhor the drug trade in all forms, all who participate in it and why I have a therapist. And PTSD. And why the current drug laws gives me the shakes, they’re growing so soft. It was pretty bad there. Still is. What everyone saw on Monday is only an iota of what I saw growing up.
“In the years since, virtually no resources have ever been put into the neighborhood, and it became a drug neighborhood. My sister, Lillian Jones, fought to have something different for the kids in those projects, and the Lillian S. Jones Recreation Center there is named for her. But she died, and the center just fell apart.”
I wasn’t raised in the projects, but I was raised across the street from them on the 1500 block of N. Mount St. I can attest to how bad it got. It was swarmed in drugs and, in turn, cyclical problems such as violence. And anything that has any strain of good in it doesn’t last long. Ever. I remember when the rec. centers got closed. I remember Central Rosemont, which got replaced by PAL, a recreation program that the police thought up (and failed), and then got shut down completely. My mom helped create the protests against City Hall about the shutting down of rec centers, which helped extended the life for a while until the City just stopped caring and did what it wanted.
“The city has consistently done nothing to help this area.”
Didn’t I just say that?
“There is no active drug rehabilitation program. You have nothing in terms of education, nothing to build self pride or desire to rise above the situation there.”
My mom did the smart thing and moved my sister and I out there when we were in our pre-teen. For me, I have a burning hatred of the people who made Sandtown such a terrible place with the strength of a million suns, so that has convinced me to never put myself back there. I just didn’t (and still don’t) want to go back there. I built self-pride in how smart I am, and that was tough in and of itself. That’s why I’m so cocky about my intelligence. And with a very, very, very obscenely low bullsh*t threshhold, as my steady readers have probably noticed. Especially from people who were raised from a higher social station than I was.
“You don’t have any job training programs. People don’t finish school, they don’t make any money, they have nothing to do with their time. Torn-down houses. No food stores. Vacant houses. Open drug markets. 24 hours a day.”
Even the old Stop, Shop, and Save that I grew up with, the only actual market in the area, just closed recently, if Google Maps showed me correctly. Actually, Google Maps has not even been behind my house on the teeny street since 2008. Lolz. Even Google doesn’t want to know.
“We set up child day care in Sandtown. It ran well for a while, and then we lost funding and got kicked out. Nothing has worked because the city won’t invest permanently in that neighborhood. It once had responsible citizens, and it still does, but you don’t have enough of them and they have no direction and no City Hall support.”
Yeap, that sounds about right. If it’s a good thing for Sandtown, the plug will get pulled on it faster than fast.
“There was the Empowerment Zone in the 1990s, and then it dissipated. The developers got a hold of that. It was all about how they could use the neighborhood and the money that was coming in on federal grants to supposedly help that area. The federal grant money dried up; it never did a whole lot of good anyway.”
I was raised in the 90s. Basically, people got greedy. Tried to gentrify Sandtown a little (basically go, “Let’s move in White people, that’s the only way we think a neighborhood is worth saving!”), and something on the calculator must have said, “You’re going to have a lot of dead White people, just leave it alone.” That and greedy people are greedy. The money was seen to help the area but the people in charge most likely saw the money as a free payday.
“The police have been a part of the problem and not the solution in that area since I was a child. Former Mayor Martin O’Malley didn’t help. He started the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, so half of the people who were hanging around got locked up….Plus, they put the bottom of the barrel down [in Sandtown]. Not good teachers, not good police – and if they get anybody good down there, they don’t last.“
Bolding is mine. I have been telling people this time and time again: There’s no room for good guys down there. The reason why the cops are so ruthless down there is because the people they have to get are more ruthless than them. Even though in the different neighborhood, Oliver, the police didn’t murder the Dawson family. Here in Sandtown, things are downright atrocious, there’s no room to play by the rules. Absolutely none. If there were, they would quickly be called “loopholes”. It’s not fair to the people caught in between but that’s simply just how it is. And how it will be, none of this media circus will affect a thing, sadly. Trust me on that. It’s just a heinous cat and mouse game.
“It’s possibly to do something constructive in Sandtown-Winchester, but you’ve got to get City Hall to understand the mess they’ve made, take responsibility for it, and start planning to go in another direction….Nobody is looking at how we got here and what do we need to do to turn it in a different direction. They just concentrate knee-jerk reactions to whatever’s happening in the present.”
Like a riot. A loud one at that. Classic move of City Hall. Media is already giving them a heaping of help by milking this “Black Lives Matter” stuff in hopes for a Pulitzer or to look progressive. Just focus on the now, not the future and definitely not the past.
“Marches won’t do it.”
Are you me? Ye gods, it sounds like something I would say.
“I don’t have any faith in these ministers leading things. They’ve been there all this time and haven’t done anything. They just want a platform. You need to understand the history.”
Sounds nearly like me.
“There are people who know what’s going on and could be asked for help. But City Hall is not going to ask for that. [Mayor] Stephanie Rawlings-Blake doesn’t think anybody over 50 knows anything that she can use.”
The mayor also has a tendency to think the same of folks who can’t pass a paper bag test. A White person tell her that she’s on fire, she’d run for the fire extinguisher. A Black person tell her she’s on fire, she’d just remark, “The weatherman said we’d have summer temperatures today. You just are confused.”
“They think nobody knows anything but them, and they have the answers and they’re going to resolve it.”
Their solution: A neighborhood is only worth saving if there are White people living in it. Time to gentrify! Then we’ll pump in much and desperately needed resources.
“And they’re not. It’s just going to get worse and worse.”
Basically what I’ve been saying.
“History repeats itself, and we’re about to repeat something very bad if we don’t get in there and do something fast.”
Yes, it can get worse than this. Way worse.
“I’ve tried to pass the baton, but many young people don’t see any future. And I understand why they don’t see it: They don’t get many examples of good things that are happening, so they don’t believe that it’s possible….I think there is some hope. But it’s getting harder and harder to find people who believe that and it’s been harder and harder to point out where there is some reason to hope.”
Sounds about right. The future of Sandtown is pretty bleak. And I’ve seen little to convince me that it will get better for the residents of Sandtown ever. That’s the super sad part. It would only be possible if people actually cared and tried to break the cyclical damage and hurt there. Buuuuuut that’s not happening for a while. Once the cameras are off of Penn-North, and the rest of Sandtown, it’s back to business as usual.