Not Our Riot

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Love Project

Like you, we’re still reeling, alternating between shock and sorrow in the wake of Monday night’s riots around the mysterious death (and preceding arrest) of Freddie Gray, 25. Reporters have tallied the arrests: 235 (201 adults, 34 juveniles); the number of wounded officers: 20; the car fires: 144; the building fires: 15. One Baltimorean remains in critical condition in connection with a fire. Yesterday morning, 500 National Guard troops were deployed—after Governor Hogan declared a state of emergency Monday night—but that number was expected to reach 1,000 by the end of Tuesday. The first two Orioles vs. White Sox games this week got postponed to a doubleheader and today’s game was converted to an off-limits-to-the-public game that feels like it counts a whole lot less; the Ravens have cancelled their draft party planned for Thursday and promised refunds to all ticketholders. What can’t be counted so easily are the questions on the lips of everyone we know, the broken hearts in households around the city that we love (and well beyond it) and the days or weeks or months it may take till the residents of Baltimore—of every race—feel completely safe again.

As we mourn the misbehavior of hundreds (such a small fraction of our big town)—the tragic subtraction they’ve introduced, by brick-throwing, fire-starting and other force—we want to make an effort to tally hopeful signs around us as well. After all, we’ve received dozens of emails and texts, Facebook and phone messages from friends around town and around the world checking to make sure we’re okay. We’ve learned of many, many local peace marches, cleanup initiatives and free lunch offerings. We’ve read endlessly poetic social media posts from friends and acquaintances articulating the exact way we feel about this senseless aggression—aggression occurring at a time when the vast majority of Baltimore seems to want nothing more than to connect and heal. Even the Bloods and the Crips have come together in a truce to urge everybody toward peace. (See the video here).

Below are some more hopeful highlights—ways to get involved or get inspired—along with some of poignant reflections we’ve found from fellow city dwellers and workers on social media. We’ll keep you updated as we continue to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off (as only true Baltimoreans can). We welcome your constructive comments below.

Free Concert
Listen to the BSO play a free concert today, April 29, at noon outside the Meyerhoff.

Free Eats, Arts and Support
#BaltimoreLunch trended on Twitter yesterday as businesses offered meals to school-age kids stuck at home. Also yesterday, Bagby Restaurant Group offered complimentary meals to officers, firefighters, National Guard soldiers and emergency workers. The White Marsh Volunteer Fire Department is accepting donations to help police and firefighters in need.

The Contemporary, Area 405, Baltimore Design School and Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse provided a safe place for kids to be productive while out of school on yesterday. Today, the Creative Alliance hosts a free “peace art project” for families and a community dinner from 4-7:30 p.m. You can visit Baltimore Uprising for more information about food donations.

Cleanup Crews
The city has invited citizens to dial 311 for help with riot-related cleanup, but many citizen groups are pitching in as well. Yesterday, Jim Triplett and Stephanie Barber invited us to a 10 a.m. meet-up at Pennsylvania Ave. and North Ave. “Let’s get together and help affected communities/businesses remove debris. Bring heavy duty trash bags, gloves, brooms, dust pans, trash cans, containers, and anything else that would help!” messaged Triplett. You can visit Baltimore Uprising for more information about cleanup initiatives.

Prayer and Peace for All
“Style” contributor Marion Winik and neighbors held a small peace rally in the Evergreen neighborhood yesterday morning. At 6 p.m. yesterday, a community vigil at the Patterson Park pagoda invited people of all faiths to come together in prayer. Same time: The Creative Alliance sponsored a neighborhood peace march. Yesterday evening Kerry DeVilbiss of the Baltimore Development Corporation Living Classrooms organized an old-school “Stoop Sitting” rally for peace. Oh—and not forgetting the spontaneous drum line that beat victoriously down North Avenue at dusk.

Positive Vibes
Sunlight and Yoga will host a healing mediation on April 30 at 7 p.m.

Bold POVs
Two local writers we know and admire posted about events in Baltimore in national publications today. Here’s Jennifer Mendelsohn, STYLE columnist, at USA Today.

And Baltimore’s D. Watkins at The New York Times.

Standout Posts and Quotes
“Like many of you, my heart is broken. Baltimore is the city of Frederick Douglass, Billie Holiday, Thurgood Marshall, Eubie Blake, and Bea Gaddy. We are better than violence and destruction. Today is a new day. I keep coming back to some words that Dr. King said in Chicago on April 9, 1967. He said, go out this morning and, first, love yourself. We are commanded to do that. Next, love your neighbor as you love yourself. We are also commanded to do that. Then, above all else, love God. And when you get all three of these together, you can walk and never get weary. You can look up and see the morning stars singing together…and the lamb will lie down with the lion.” —Keiffer Mitchell, Baltimore politician

“For the first time, Julia asked to listen to the news instead of music on the way to school. She wanted to know what was happening now in Baltimore. Last night she asked if this was the start of World War III. Julia is eight years old.” —Brian Kamoie, assistant administrator for grant programs at FEMA

“Baltimore has way more good people, way more hard-working people, way more family-oriented people than not. Mobilize all the good folks, organize and support all who are providing job training and literacy. Good citizens do not want their children in harm’s way, or their homes and neighborhoods and workplaces destroyed. Focus focus focus. Our society can do this. Look at the tragedies around the world. Now look at us. We can unite and focus on education, job training, job opportunities. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Going backwards is not an option. Forward and upward is the way. Our society puts people in outer space, surely we can educate and train people for the workplace.” —Mimi Zannino, licensed massage therapist and poet-in-residence, Maryland State Arts Council

“What you are seeing is a flood of howling ghosts from Baltimore’s past. You are seeing what a slave revolt looks like. How long did you expect people to keep asking and begging you nicely to stop killing them? My heart breaks watching this because it’s so damn avoidable. Put a [expletive-deleted] leash on the cops, stop trying to exterminate Black people and I guarantee you will not see scenes like these anymore. —Justin Sanders, University of Baltimore Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA student

“If we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It’s just that it would require everyone saying, ‘This is important, this is significant.’ And we don’t just pay attention when a CVS burns. That’s how I feel.” —President Barack Obama

“Today, when I picked Alex up he said that at school today he had to write down what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said Professional Sports Player (of course), Lawyer or Politician. Well, after we watched some news coverage of Baltimore he said, ‘I decided to be a politician so that I can prevent something like this from ever happening again.’ I have never witnessed something so sad in my life as seeing these individuals with no hope, no future, no care for anything that they will destroy their own neighborhoods. We need to stop the riots immediately but then our politicians need to address the root cause of the problems that are plaguing our beloved charm city. ‪#‎voteforalex ‪#‎lovemyson ‪#‎prayforbaltimore‪#‎stoptheviolence ‪#‎stopthehate ‪#‎alllivesmatter” ‪—Gina Zuk Gerber, vice president of Abel Communications

“White privilege is being able to choose to not think about the reasons behind last night’s riots and why people of color are targeted all the time; it is being able to comfortably remain silent and hope it all goes away, to put on your blinders; it is being angry about broken windows but remaining silent about brutality and death; it is being able to choose not to talk to your white friends and family about racism, our role in it, and how to end it. Think about and pray for our brothers and sisters of color today and every day, and act. And speak out. I know I will continue to make mistakes, but I remain committed to taking the right path in seeking justice for all.” —Heather Moyer, senior content producer at Sierra Club

“I think it behooves us to remember that teenagers are immature by design; generally have difficulty grasping cause and effect; are fearless to a fault; and tend to sincerely believe that they are invincible. For better and for worse, it is all part and parcel of adolescence. I think we can all agree that being a teenager is confusing and difficult. They make mistakes. I cannot even begin to understand what young people are facing as a direct result of unfathomable systemic disadvantage. We have failed so many of them. And, today, unbelievably, we closed their schools early, halted their public transportation, cornered them in riot gear, sensationalized them in the media, and are now getting ready to serve them to the National Guard. Shame on us.”—Deanna Haggag, executive director of The Contemporary

“Even Governor Hogan (who said Baltimore did not have a problem after Walter Scott) is able to make the distinction between the peaceful protestors and the rioting across Baltimore. He stated the protests on Saturday lasted for six hours and were 95 percent peaceful. Why can’t the national media do this? Too complex a concept??” —Cara Ober, founder of BmoreArt

“Why does the destruction of property get more outrage and media coverage than the destruction of human life? ‪#‎PrayerWontHelpBaltimore ‪#‎DoBlackLivesActuallyMatter ‪#‎FreddieGray‪#‎Baltimore” —Posted by Jermaine Bell, MICA grad and designer

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that yesterday’s scheduled Orioles vs. White Sox game was postponed to a private game today. Yesterday’s and Monday’s games have been scheduled for May 28 as a doubleheader. The game scheduled for 7:05 p.m. today was moved to 2:05 p.m.

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