Thursday, April 30, 2015

Leaders Step Up To the Plate in Baltimore

Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby
Perhaps nothing illustrated the welcome of a quieter Baltimore today more than the strange sight of the Orioles playing a daytime game against the Chicago White Sox in a stadium with no fans in the stands.

As a New York Yankees fan, I've watched dozens of games in Camden Yards on television over the years but it was truly strange to hear the crack of a bat as the O's hit a three-run homer and not hear the crowd erupt in cheers.

Despite the gates of Camden Yards being closed to fans for another day because of safety concerns, a number of Oriole's fans did show up to line the gates which offer a view of home plate; though said gate is 600 feet from home plate.

More than a few of the orange-clad faithful were heard to complain on NPR radio that the park should have been open on such a beautiful spring day, but given the unfortunate situation on Monday night, maybe it was for the best - and the O's did win 8-2.

Earlier this evening I watched Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby being interviewed on CNN and came away impressed.

While I've been to the city a number of times over the years, I don't really know it's internal politics very well, but I can say that out of all the city leaders I've seen speak in the past few days (including the mayor and police commissioner) Mosby seems to have the most comprehensive understanding of what is actually happening in Baltimore.  

Mosby represents the city's 7th District in West Baltimore and has quickly emerged in the national media spotlight after he totally schooled Fox News television reporter Leland Vittert on the deeper socioeconomic causes of the unrest that shook the city on Monday night.

It's been so impressive to see how quickly members of Baltimore's hardest hit districts have come out in large numbers to show the nation and the world that the vast majority of the city's residents oppose the destruction of property, incidents of looting and isolated displays of violence against police that took place Monday night.

A Unity Line of citizens in West Baltimore [Photo Getty Images]
Everyday average citizens from all walks of life came out in the street yesterday to pick up debris, sweep up streets, throw away trash and perhaps most impressively; stand shoulder to shoulder in what have been called "Unity Lines" - literally forming lines of citizens creating human barriers between groups of restless protesters and the police.

I saw one woman who works as a librarian in a local elementary school standing next to her teenage daughter. The mother said she was there to lead by example by showing her students and faculty members watching on TV at home that their librarian was out there in the streets trying to bring calm to the city; and also to teach her daughter a lesson about civic responsibility and the importance of social activism.

Even though the Unity Lines were there to keep the rowdier groups of younger protesters from attacking the police or escalating violent confrontation, the librarian's daughter said she wasn't there to protect the police; she was there to protect her community.

It was something that really moved me.

"Baltimore Mom" Toya Graham stops her son's foolishness
Like the now infamous "Baltimore Mom" Toya Graham seen in the video that's gone globally viral of her chasing down her son to keep him out of the unrest taking place near a mall on Tuesday April 28th.

As my dearly departed "Gram" would have said; she "'bout snatched him bald".

In doing so this recently laid-off care giver perhaps single-handed, altered the false national media narrative of African-American parents in Baltimore (and elsewhere) as absent, unsupervising and non-caring. 

Perhaps the human condition in this nation would be a better place if more parents (of all races mind you) went "Baltimore Mom" on their wayward kids; I'm not the only one who's been out in public and seen some unsupervised kids acting the fool who could have used a "Baltimore Mom".

Maybe she should have a show?

Speaking of shows, earlier this morning Washington Post Op-Ed writer Jonathan Capeheart was a guest on a segment of The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss his observations of the unrest that's gripped Baltimore.

Among other things, Capeheart talked about something I tried to express in my previous blog entry; that the media was devoting the bulk of it's coverage to the tiny fraction of the protesters responsible for setting fires and throwing rocks at policemen and were ignoring the vast majority of Baltimore citizens who were engaged in peaceful protests over the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

Even as six BPD officers sit uncharged on paid leave, innocent until proven guilty I guess; unlike the violent way they treated Freddie Gray the weekend before last when they began chasing him for reasons that still haven't actually been made clear.

During Capeheart's radio appearance, a couple callers made some truly eloquent observations about the situation and the segment is really worth a listen if you have a few minutes; just click the link to hear it.   

I'm gonna keep this short by my blog standards (I really need an editor...) by just reiterating how impressed I am with average citizens stepping up to take control of the city and responsibility for their community.

By doing so they're proving a lot of the mainstream media coverage on Monday wrong by showing that the vast majority of folks in Baltimore do NOT condone the destruction of property and that most people continue to be engaged in peaceful demands for accountability and justice for the death of Freddie Gray.

And as Councilman Nick Mosby has said, this unrest was about more than Freddie Gray.

As he pointed out, the unemployment rate in Western Baltimore is a staggering 30%. 30%.

The Baltimore Police Department also has a lengthy and controversial history of violent incidents of police brutality against communities of color; incidents which have cost the city well over $5.7 million in settlements since 2011.

Think Monday's unrest was simply about Freddie Gray?

Read Mark Puente's September 28, 2014 Baltimore Sun investigation entitled "Undue Force" that chronicles just some of the most disturbing examples of police brutality and violence against citizens of Baltimore.

Maybe President Obama should have read Puente's article before he stood at a podium at a news conference and dismissed the hundreds of outraged youth in Baltimore as "thugs."

No one is excusing arson, looting or violence against police or anyone else, but it didn't just flare up in a vacuum out of thin air - and some of the "thugs" in Baltimore are wearing police uniforms.

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