Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Requiem for Eddie Gray - The Blue Line in Charm City

by Gregg Chadwick

 From Birth - Baltimore April 2015
Photo by Lara Davidson*

"Schoolteachers, Johns Hopkins employees, film crew people, kids, retirees, everybody went to the city jail. If you think I’m exaggerating, look it up. " - David Simon on Baltimore's anguish. 

"Are you going to tell me the story of my life, or am I going to tell you yours."

- Baltimore Resident to me in a coffee shop near City Recreation Pier in the Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore in the late 1990's. Homicide: Life on the Street's police department scenes were all shot there.

Eddie Gray's death at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department is sadly not an isolated event. To understand the current situation in Baltimore, it pays to read the thoughts of David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish: Freddie Gray, the drug war, and the decline of “real policing” in The Marshall Project. David Simon's history with Charm City is long and nuanced. The groundbreaking 1990's television drama, Homicide: Life on the Street was inspired by Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, a non-fiction book written by Simon when he was a Baltimore Sun reporter. Simon went on to create HBO's powerful Baltimore based police drama The Wire. Simon's experience following a Baltimore Police Department's homicide unit as a journalist and a dramatic screenwriter lends credence to his deep discussion of the systematic failures of the Baltimore Police Department in its decades long "war on drugs." Simon writes:
" In these drug-saturated neighborhoods, they weren’t policing their post anymore, they weren’t policing real estate that they were protecting from crime. They weren’t nurturing informants, or learning how to properly investigate anything. There’s a real skill set to good police work. But no, they were just dragging the sidewalks, hunting stats, and these inner-city neighborhoods — which were indeed drug-saturated because that's the only industry left — become just hunting grounds. They weren’t protecting anything. They weren’t serving anyone. They were collecting bodies, treating corner folk and citizens alike as an Israeli patrol would treat Gaza, or as the Afrikaners would have treated Soweto back in the day. They’re an army of occupation. And once it’s that, then everybody’s the enemy. The police aren’t looking to make friends, or informants, or learning how to write clean warrants or how to testify in court without perjuring themselves unnecessarily. There's no incentive to get better as investigators, as cops. There’s no reason to solve crime."
Baltimore's brutalization of its black community has deep and ugly roots and as Jesse Williams wrote on Twitter: 
Maryland governor just said "The violence began yesterday at 3pm." This sums it up: Violence against Black people does not count.

The violence and unjust incarcerations of people of color in Baltimore have ramifications that are just beginning to play out. Simon explains - Why Now? What has changed?:
"Because the documented litany of police violence is now out in the open. There’s an actual theme here that’s being made evident by the digital revolution. It used to be our word against yours. It used to be said — correctly — that the patrolman on the beat on any American police force was the last perfect tyranny. Absent a herd of reliable witnesses, there were things he could do to deny you your freedom or kick your ass that were between him, you, and the street. The smartphone with its small, digital camera, is a revolution in civil liberties." - 
As I write this on April 29, 2015, Baltimore has woken up from a weekend of peaceful protests, punctuated by acts of rage against the Baltimore Police and the city that doesn't seem to hear the voices of its citizens. Last night on David Letterman, the Baltimore based band Future Islands played an emotional version of their new song "The Chase." Lead singer Samuel Herring expressed,"This song is gonna go out to the people in Baltimore. Let us not discount their voices — or the voices of all the people in the cities that we live and love." 

Today, members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra gathered in front of Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to give a free concert "in support of our community." The musicians, who donated their services, invited "friends, BSO family and all who love the great City of Baltimore" to the event. On Sunday - May 3, 2015 - a long-scheduled performance of Brahms' German Requiem, will be played at Towson United Methodist Church in Baltimore at 4 pm in memory of Freddie Gray. The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance reports that the concert will include "a plea for peace and reconciliation." 

Crowd forms for impromptu lunchtime concert by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
April 29, 2015

Scott Malone 

*From a poignant group of photos taken by MICA Professor Nate Larson and a group of photography students who took to the Baltimore streets near MICA on Tuesday, April 28 to document and help with the clean up efforts. Please visit BMore Art for more on art and activism in Baltimore:


 Mural by NETHER in Baltimore, Maryland
photo courtesy XXIST