Baltimore has been in the news because of Freddie Gray’s death. Because of the rioters who burned down the CVS. Because of decades of simmering anger.
There are other places to read, comprehensively, about why the riots happened and what should be done and whether the National Guard was called in too soon or too late. Plenty of sources for finger pointing and blaming.
I don’t know that I have anything to add.
I love Baltimore. Pivotal moments in my life are intertwined with this city.
I was born in Baltimore. Two of my children were born at Mercy Hospital. My first ‘real’ job (a company check rather than a personal check from, say, a babysitting job) was at the Maryland Science Center right in the Inner Harbor. I’d drive down on Friday afternoons, right after school, excitement building as I went ‘into the city’ while everyone else was on the other side of 95 driving away. After work, at night, I’d stand on the roof and look out over everything (until someone called the police about ‘a jumper’ and I was reprimanded). Then I crouched on the roof to survey and wonder.
Before grad school I lived over by Morgan State — a white face floating in a solidly black neighborhood. That was the same year that I taught 9th grade English at Catonsville Alternative School. It was, I believe, good to experience these things together.
My husband and I had our first date at Pazza Luna in Locust Point, a gourmet restaurant operating inside a row home.
After marrying, I moved in with my husband to a 1200 square foot home in Federal Hill. My husband rehabbed the inside in his spare time, ripping out the stairs and rebuilding them when he got home from work around 11 pm. (Sorry, neighbors).
We moved to the ‘burbs, but soon we were back, driving down Pulaski Highway to Hopkins. I’d do that drive countless times over the next three years. I still make that trek every 3 months. Here’s a picture from our first window (before the new Children’s Center). The cupola is, to me, civilization. It is within the chapters of my novel about Baltimore burning because of that.
So when I began writing, again, it seemed natural that the critique group would be down in Baltimore. Parallel parking and walking past liquor stores, Natty Boh neon, Ravens logos.
I love Baltimore. Rioting is wrong. Destructive. Painful. I don’t condone the looting and the throwing and the burning.
I also do not condone slapping a quick Bandaid on Baltimore and trying to shove this problem under the rug. It’s out. National news. International even. Decades of history erupted in poisonous lava. While our sore is open, I invite our leaders, our citizens, our neighbors, to clean it out. Make changes. Create good from this angry outburst. Address the root of the problem, beyond the temper tantrum.