What’s the Black Agenda for Baltimore City?
From the Afro-
Around 1979-1980, as the Reagan era was being ushered in, I remember the Baltimore Sun beginning a series on the paper’s front page on the rise of hate groups in America, complete with a photo of a burning cross and a hooded Klansman. I remember as a young Black boy, despite the protection and love my family provided, feeling really unsafe.
To be clear, Black people, people of African ancestry in America, have never been safe in this country. From “Black Wall Street,” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Bronzeville in Chicago, to the golden age of Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore, no community, no matter how magnificently self-reliant has been impervious to structural racism. To be Black in America is to be generally imperiled in some measure, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
The specter of a Donald Trump presidency gives few of us in Black communities comfort that our plight shall be improved, and for good reason. In Trump’s America, new dangers seem to be revealed everyday (and I argue all Americans are imperiled for various reasons, whether they realize it or not).
So, what now?
I’ve been suggesting publicly (on First Edition) and privately for a while now, our battles may be waged more effectively in our cities and local principalities, as opposed to a national campaign of some sort. Especially given the seemingly intractable legislative gridlock and dysfunction in Washington (although that could magically loosen given a Republican House and Senate and the nation’s first Black president moving out of the White House). As well as the fact our challenges our legion and vary by region among other circumstances; housing, public safety, health, public school education, environmental justice, just to name a few.
But, on even a basic level, is there a discernible Black agenda for Baltimore City? And when I say a Black agenda, I mean an agenda inclusive of people of color, the marginalized and the poor.
Recently, outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake suggested in media interviews she is leaving Baltimore in better condition than she found it. I suspect many in the communities named previously would disagree.
However, on Dec. 6, Catherine Pugh will be sworn in as the next mayor. Has she been presented with an agenda representative of and specifically crafted for the majority population in the city? If such a document exists and has been presented to the new mayor, I don’t know about it and nobody I know, knows about it. What I do know is, in Baltimore, if you don’t ask, you don’t eat and if you ask for too much you’ll probably get ignored.
Here’s a suggestion; perhaps we should be focused on the pursuit of equal protection under the law and law enforcement reform (especially in wake of the devastating DOJ report outlining routine civil rights violations of Blacks in Baltimore).
The process of completing and implementing the “consent decree,” between the city, the Baltimore Police Department and the DOJ has been delayed. Given we almost assuredly are going to be confronted with U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, that process should be expedited, not sat upon.
We should initiate a “truth and reparation commission,” focused on justice for the myriad victims of the zero tolerance policing policy implemented (officially) from 1999 to 2007.
We should also begin exploration of a path towards the rehabilitation and repair of the city’s egregiously broken bail bond system.
Perhaps, this can serve as the beginning of a series of conversations between communities and the city’s public servants that will lead to action and policies to help protect and relieve some of Baltimore’s most vulnerable residents in fundamental and sustainable ways. It’s a start.