I grew up on Garrison and Laurel after moving from Liberty Heights and El Dorado. Moving from Chester St. and Collington Sq, my grandparents on my mother’s side (Ma and daddy) were at Hillsdale and Oakley. My aunt, not too far away on Granada and Oakley. My grandparents on my dad’s side (Granny and dada) were at 1817 Edmondson Avenue between Monroe and Fulton. I am comfortable sharing that address because it’s boarded up now. When I drive back to Baltimore, I would always drive by there. No kids playing red light green light down that part of Edmondson now as my brother and sisters did then. It wasn’t a great neighborhood, but it wasn’t dead and buried like now. Many who claim to love Baltimore know not of this location though those like it have been romanticized by the HBO series The Wire. Corners if you will. Those people don’t know that Baltimore.
I went to elementary, middle and high school at Roland Ave and Northern Parkway. Here I was exposed to areas within the city such as Roland Park, Homeland, Guilford as well as places in Baltimore County I normally would not be exposed. This familiarity was augmented playing travel baseball for Pikesville where we played all around the city and state. When I needed a ride home in high school, the question concerning the safety of the neighborhood I lived in would arise before. The neighborhood of middle class, black homeowners next to the Cylburn Arboretum? It’s a dead giveaway of not knowing the environment within which you claim to live, and assuming a particular environment based on race and perceived socioeconomic status. In other words, they didn’t know that Baltimore.
When I moved back to Baltimore, I lived in midtown with a friend of mine from that same elementary, middle, and high school on Monument and Calvert St. Black, Ivy League grads, working in finance. To me, there was nothing like growing up in the city, living there as a grownup, and providing a shining example of Baltimore making good. I then moved to Scott St. and Washington Ave in Pigtown. I’ve been gone 10 years now. Can you still get the good crabs at Monroe and Pratt where poor white people live side by side with poor black people?
I am thankful I was raised in our city with the perspective that I have. I, and many others like me, are burdened with having to be the nexus from a world that we often feel purposefully has little understanding of the obvious to a world whose powerlessness often results in actions that seem to be irrational and self-defeating.
We will start with this: while tragic, this has little to do with Freddie Gray. Think of him as Gavrilo Principe or Guy Fowkes. He just lit the fuse. In the latter’s case, literally. The wishes of his family can’t stop what has started. Second, police brutality in general is not a racial issue. Police brutality in Baltimore and urban America is a racial issue. Police brutality in rural America (the majority of the country) will see generally white people brutalized by generally white police. Police brutality in urban America will look like some black, but mainly white police against few white, and mostly people of color.