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Baltimore: The City That Burns – Part 2 (Hurt & Healing)

I was born and bred in northeast Baltimore City. Freddie Gray was killed by police after being arrested bodily intact and showing up at the precinct with a crushed vocal box and a severed spine. Police took him on a high-speed joyride while handcuffed and he died 7 days later while in a coma. Police still have not issued the findings of their investigation after 13 days. This looks like they’re trying to get their story straight instead of justice being received by the family and the city.

After peaceful protests on Saturday, riots broke out. On Monday students in local schools coordinated an attack on police officers. About 20 students were cornered by police who shut down mass transit after making schools close early, so the kids were stranded. Fires broke out in Baltimore and people lost their minds acting like the city was burning from Cedonia to Edmondson Village and “can’t believe this is happening to us! I thought we were better than this!” comments were flying about. As heartbreaking as this indeed is, here is some truth about Baltimore. I am no expert. These are just my thoughts on it. DC is my home now, but I will always represent for Baltimore and never deny being from her.

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Click here for part 1.

Funny how cable news is just now discovering this and acting like they’ve always cared about it. “How dare the rioters destroy this beautiful city?!” (Carson Daly and Donald Trump said this.) First of all, the “beautiful city” you visited was the Inner Harbor and at best north to Penn Station before 2002, when you finally felt comfortable enough to go to Charles Village. You didn’t venture further west than Lexington Market and no further east than Canton. I know, because when you want to “show off” Baltimore, that’s where you go – the high tourist areas. Growing up, I never saw much coverage on the other parts of the city of which I was so proud. (I used to go toe-to-toe with cousins from the DC-area about how much better Baltimore was than PG County.)

Second of all, if you’re that concerned about Baltimore, why just speak up now? Baltimore has been the butt of jokes for a long time. The Wire was filmed there and they didn’t use sets for the backdrops of the ‘hood. They just started filming in West Baltimore. The Wire was real life for a lot of Baltimore, but some of y’all just watched it with perverse pleasure never thinking that it could be reality for some people and that something should be done about it.

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So what can be done about Baltimore? Nina Simone sang “Oh, Baltimore, ain’t it hard just to live?” Growing up, I often thought similar words with the city not seeming to want to do better except for a few residents fighting to make a change. They still fight.

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However, what you can do before condemning the riots, which are borne out of a long-simmering rage at problems Baltimore has with police and other areas that are now thankfully laid bare for the world to see (maybe some change will come), is actually go to a protest in Baltimore. Sit back and listen to what the protestors (and even some rioters) are saying. This goes for both the critics of all things Baltimore right now AND FOR THE RESIDENTS OF BALTIMORE AND THE SURROUNDING COUNTIES.

(Some of y’all are making me sick with your comments like some of these problems are new and like your experience of Baltimore City extends beyond Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium. And some Baltimore blacks, please just can the respectability about it already. Baltimore ain’t never been meek or mild and that ain’t changing today to make the city look nice for strangers looking at it through the lens of cable news.)

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What you can also do is honestly pray for Baltimore. The Prince of Peace will have to intervene here and, thinking about it growing up, I can’t remember too much when prayer was uttered and believed in while working to improve the city like you didn’t pray. I remember much talk about how bad it was getting in Baltimore, but nothing about working to make it better (except for a few – and I thank them). It was like we didn’t like the negative commentary about Baltimore, but perversely reveled in its reputation as a ratchet city. I have friends who won’t ever challenge me to a fight simply because I’m from Baltimore…and – I won’t lie – I kind of like having that assumption made about me.

However, maybe now we’ll actually care about her and elect responsible leadership who cares about Baltimore too and not a mayor who refers to the citizens for whom she’s responsible as “thugs” (along with the governor). Maybe now pastors will stop angling for the spotlight to become the religious face of Baltimore and join the Nation of Islam, the Bloods, and the Crips in repairing the city. Put those huge church buildings and followings to good use and be the hands and feet of Jesus, Rev.

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May God bless and preserve and change Baltimore for the better. RIP Freddie Gray. May some good come out of this. I just hate the cost at which it came. Here’s to a better Baltimore, Baltmer, Bodymore, Baldamore (how I say it), Ballamore (how I also say it), Balmore, and Charm City.

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