THE BLOG

Baltimore's Untold Story

05/03/2015 06:05 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2016

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
-- Maya Angelou

In the past few days, the world was bombarded with images of enraged Baltimore youth. But let us not forget that unrest has its roots in one thing: wanting to be heard. The greatest crime that can happen in Baltimore right now is to forget about it once the shock value has resided and to allow the narrative of Baltimore rooted in violence, bolstered by media an entertainment, as a true picture of Baltimore communities, instead of looking at the deep hurt that exists and the relentless residents that keeps trying to help it heal.

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The young people in these events are part of a large school system and city that face the great challenges that are exacerbated by high poverty, crime, drugs, unemployment, a long history of mistrust between communities, police violence, and a teen homicide rate that tripled in 2014. These are not excuses but realities that are faced every day. As of July 2014 there were 84,975 students in Baltimore City Schools. I can assure you there weren't 84,000 students at the riots or even the peaceful demonstrations. Thousands of students and teachers wake up every day to learn, to excel, to not let the sadness around them engulf them. There are people here every day that choose hope before fear and even when they fall short their belief that all children of all colors deserve equal opportunity compels them forward.

Meet Mr. Erik Bandzak, the Alternative to Suspension Coordinator for Baltimore City Schools, who was so inspired by Hampstead Hill Academy's work with restorative circles that he reached out to The International Restorative Justice Institute in Philadelphia to provide a more affective community driven methods of decreasing suspension and increasing safety and learning. He can't do it alone. Talk to Ms. Rolanda Ford, a para-educator at West Side Elementary right around the corner from where the riots took place, about the peace rally her school organized and no city official or media came to. She can't do it alone. Talk to Mr. Rob Glotfelty, Science teacher at Patterson Park Charter School that mentored 10 middle school students to the world championship in Robotics. He didn't do it alone. Talk to Mr. Mathew Ebert, principal of Crossroads Academy, that resides in a somewhat vacant old school building, how his team of great teachers educate middle schoolers for today's world without much needed computers.

Talk to Kasheif Stanley, 23-year-old life long resident of Baltimore, who lives three blocks from the East side fire, and woke up early to help cleanup and show his young brother, Khalil Stanley, 14 year old student from Carver Vocational High School, that "something positive can come out of a negative." They can't do it alone.

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Meet Ms. Monique Smith-Pierson who was on her way to work when:

#BeMORE: Monique's Story

Catalina, one of our contributors saw Monique Smith-Person's #MommasOnTheWay post this morning and is at #MondawminMall, helping with the clean-up efforts. Here's what Monique had to say about the awesome community response. {apologies that the cell phone video cut-off the last sentence}. Send us your #BeMORE stories so we can share! hello@coolprogeny.com #BeMORE #Baltimore #BaltimoreMoms

Posted by (cool) progeny on Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Brian Burns, a Mortuary Science student at CCBC born and raised in Park Heights zone 15, a young man she mentors, asked her to help him do something positive in response to the riots.

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"When a young person asks you for help, you act." She took off work and organized one of the cleanup efforts on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 that were heeded by many across the city. Her son, Robert Harrington Jr., a marine who happened to be on leave, wanted to come help his community. His father donated the company truck and supplies for the cleanup.

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Meet Jonathan Lee, Brandon Howard, and Rob Kowalske from CityFam the organizers of a prayer vigil to encourage everyone to not judge these children but to embrace them with kindness, to help them.

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The violence that has occurred in Baltimore since last week is condoned by few but understood by many because it did something that nothing else in Baltimore has been able to do -- get your attention. Freddie Grays death and the long standing history of police brutality did not. These teens are not an isolated case.

Young people have been part of every social movement from anti-war to civil rights to immigration and labour and have become masters of mobilizing through social media. According to the Kinder and Braver World Project:

...youth are often framed in the mass media as, at best, apathetic, disengaged, and removed from civic action. At worst, youth (in the U.S., particularly youth of color) are subject to growing repression: increased surveillance, heightened policing, stop- and-frisk policies on the streets, overbroad gang injunctions, and spiraling rates of juvenile incarceration.

It may be human nature or our society's addiction to inflammatory reality TV that once again young black men and women of Baltimore become the great Other classified by such objectifying generalizations as Those, Them, They, instilling fear. The frustration voiced by these young people is rooted in a long history of segregation that began from the zoning laws of the early 1900s coined by the Maryland Law Review as "Apartheid Baltimore Style.."

I understand from an outsider's point of view -- and even from a Baltimore resident point of view -- that reacting appalled and wanting to judge is a gut reaction. But Baltimore doesn't need any more judgment or negative reactions. It needs kindness with action. It needs understanding and compassion with action. It needs to be heard and listened and its needs acted upon, with restoration and healing.

Please go beyond fear. Fear paralyzes. Kindness moves. Driving across a vacant city the morning after the unrest, the city was eerily quiet since most schools and government offices closed. But, what was more alarming was that the areas where all the chaos took place were clean, although the media made it seem like every part of Baltimore was burning all night. Baltimore residents of all ages, races and neighborhoods stepped out as one and cleaned up the mess. Their armor of choice: a house broom.