In a world desensitized.
In a world where killings are rampant,
Wars are never-ending,
Freedoms are violated,
Children are treated as commodities – taken, exchanged, and sold;
Human beings are lacking empathy for their fellow human beings for a host of various reasons.
There is a fundamental lack of cohesiveness amongst us all.
The eccentricities that make us unique have become our motivations for division.
Our human-to-human connection is shattered in this age of advanced technology where we can obtain information from a simple Internet search rather than experiencing the issues first hand and activating our internal community response.
This is our world. Desensitized. Under duress.
Baltimore has known injustice.
Baltimore has known death, prejudice, racism, welfare, poverty, the impoverished.
Baltimore is a city under duress.
But Baltimore was not always like this. Baltimore has a wide breadth of accomplishment. She bears a great depth of history and knowledge and culture on her back. She is more than what meets the eye. She is more than Fox News reports. To some, she now resembles her cousin Ferguson, no less affected by the same injustice.
THE UNIQUENESS OF BALTIMORE:
A (BRIEF!) NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED HISTORY OF BALTIMORE and BALTIMORE’S COMMUNITY RESPONSE DURING TIMES OF CIVIL UNREST
- The city of Baltimore was founded in 1729.
- After the adoption of the Constitution, Baltimore became home to America’s first cathedral, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Construction on the Cathedral began in 1806, and completed in 1821.
- Baltimore is home to the first architectural monument in honor of George Washing, standing at 178 feet tall. (U-S-History Baltimore).
- The Washington Monument that stands tall in the District of Columbia was modeled after the Baltimore version, which was erected in 1829. (U-S-History Baltimore).
- Maryland sided with the Union, despite being a slave state during the Civil War and maintaining the continued practice of slavery.
- The Peabody Institute, which was established in 1857, is an extension of Johns Hopkins University. This historic establishment is situated in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore city and is the oldest conservatory of Music in the nation. It is also amongst the most prestigious institutions in the world; along with Julliard in New York City, NY; Eastman in Rochester, NY; and Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, PA.
- The Baltimore Riot of 1861, better known as the “Pratt Street Riots,” resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and 12 civilians. These riots were the effect of Confederate sympathizers attacking union troops of the Sixth Massachusetts Militia as they march alongside unarmed Pennsylvania state militia.
- The Inner Harbor was the second largest port of entry for immigrants flocking to the United States behind that of Ellis Island.
- The Battle Monument of the War of 1812 stands in memory of the Battle of Baltimore, and inspired the poem for the lyrics of the National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key (U-S-History Baltimore).
- The economic depression best known as the, “Panic of 1873,” caused great struggle and frustration amongst residents of Baltimore. In an attempt to equalize its own financial conditions, the B&O railroad lowered worker’s wages by ten percent. As a result of the wage cuts, ongoing distrust of the capitalist system, frustration with the industry’s leaders, and poor working conditions; the worker’s united and went on strike.
- The “Great Railroad Strike of 1877” prompted Gov. John Lee Carroll to call upon the National Guard (a militia in the late 1800’s). The citizens of Baltimore attacked the National Guard outnumbering them before federal troops and marines were deployed to restore order. Penn Station was set afire, 10 rioters were killed, 25 were injured, several guardsmen were also injured, but as a result unions were soon formed to protect the rights of the people, both present and future.
- On February 7, 1904, the “Great Baltimore Fire” broke out and devastated downtown Baltimore – destroying 1,500 buildings in 30 hours, leaving more than 70 blocks of the downtown area burned to the ground. Damages estimated at $150 million dollars (in 1904 dollars). (A Howling Inferno: The Great Baltimore Fire, Johns Hopkins, Jan 12 2004) The city later rebuilt itself and improved upon its firefighting techniques and equipment.
- The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1916, is the only major American orchestra initially established as a branch of the municipal government. Although originally publicly funded, the BSO reorganized and established itself as a private institution in 1942.
- The National Brewing Company was conceived in Baltimore and remains located in Baltimore’s Brewer’s Hill neighborhood in the city. It is most notably recognized for its introduction of the nation’s first six-pack of beer during the 1940s – they currently brew both Colt 45 and National Bohemian.
- Baltimore’s black population grew from 23.8% in 1950 to 46.4% in 1970, making blacks almost exactly half of the entire population of Baltimore City. (Alabaster Cities: Urban US since 1950, John R Short 2006, Syracuse University Press p 142; ISBN: 0-8156-3105-7)
- The “Baltimore Riot of 1968” was incited by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. The riot reportedly cost the city $10 million ($68 million today). Roughly 11,000 National Guard troops were sent to quell the crowd. Public order was not restored until April 12, 1968. (Baltiomre ’68 Events Timeline, Baltimore ’68 Riots and Rebirth, University of Baltimore Archives).
- Effects of the 1968 riot remain seen on North Avenue, Howard Street, Gay Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. The city has yet to restore the areas most affected as in previous times of need, although the damage was far less costly than prior riots and the 1904 fire.
- In the 1970’s, the Inner Harbor became the focus of the city, sparking reconstruction and revitalization efforts.
- The “1974 Baltimore Municipal Strike” began when waste collectors went on strike, after seeking higher wages and better conditions and being denied. Groups later to join the strike consisted of: sewer workers, zookeepers, prison guards, highway workers and so forth. The Baltimore strike remained prominent among the wave of strikes across the nation. All striking workers were members of the nationally recognized American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. (US flooded by a great wave of strikes, montreal gazette, associated press, 17 july 1974).
- The police stood with their fellow public sector strikers and sparked the “Baltimore Police Strike” of 1974. At this time, Baltimore was classified as being in a “semi-riot state.” The Baltimore Police Department went on strike, seeking better wages and fundamental changes to the police policies they were to abide. (Cops storm jail rebels: Baltimore in semi-riot state, Chicago Tribune, July 14 1974)
- Established in 1979, the Baltimore School for the Arts is a public High School, located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore city. It is nationally recognized for its success in preparing the youth for careers in the arts.
- In 1982, Baltimore introduced the first Artscape; the largest annual free music and arts festival in America. Since conception, it has grown exponentially in both square footage and attendance – boasting a host of international visitors the world over.
- Arena Players Inc. is the nation’s oldest continuously operating African American theater, and it is located in Baltimore.
As the world has watched an edited version of the events play out in Baltimore, Maryland; if there is nothing else taken away from this emotional outcry, hopefully a sharp look into the history of the people and the communities will be deliberated upon, to better understand the cause behind the effect. From this in depth look, we then as a nation of the descendants of migrants (however be the case), as a people of the United States, as one nation must enact change throughout, for a united nation.
As a Baltimore native who grew up here as a child, has remained emotionally close and aware of the issues even when physically absent, and currently resides between both Baltimore City and New York City; a unique outlook allows for an enlightening point of view.
Baltimore has suffered long before the April 12th  arrest of Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr. His unlawful arrest and his subsequent slip into a coma after sustaining a nearly severed spinal cord injury inflicted whilst in police custody, culminated in his death on April 19th .
Baltimore, otherwise known as “Charm City,” and the city of ‘neighborhoods,’ has suffered long before his arrest – boasting incredible artistry and charm, rich history, historic monuments, prestigious institutions, but also; third world poverty levels, severely impoverished neighborhoods, unbalanced education systems, and lead lined water pipes throughout the inner city school systems (to name a few) – one might ask how does the city remain so charming? The people of Baltimore are resilient, strong, creative, loving; and nothing can break their spirit. Absolutely nothing.
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but when the village is structurally damaged, unbalanced, lacks proper funding, remains divided, remains impoverished, lacks assistance, lacks empathy, and lacks understanding; how can a child develop to meet the full potential he once possessed? It is unfortunate that we lose our connection to one another, as we grow older. The ‘neighborhoods’ boasted by Baltimore, are exactly that which has created a vast division amongst the population in the city. Children are born to remain in their neighborhood, never venturing to their neighbor’s streets. Never taking in the full experience that is Baltimore, but steadily forming opinions about others based on their class, city locations and neighborhoods. Children are not born to hate, or to condemn; they are not born with classist views. This is all learned behavior. This is the information fed to our children. Education is the first step to empathy when empathy has been removed during childhood.
As Mr. Freddie Gray is mourned and celebrated, the actions taken by the children of Baltimore, inclusive of all participants far and wide, are proof that he did not parish in vain. Mr. Gray’s death is the beginning of a revolution and Baltimore has been overdue a beautiful revolution.