I spend more time on social media than on this blog. I could be more consistent here as I am there. So here are a few of my thoughts and notices re recent events from Freddie Gray’s death, to the marches, and the riots in West Baltimore as shared on social media. [Edits as needed]
April 29, 2015
The mixed blessing in Baltimore is no shots were fired.
People set up community activities yesterday. Schools were closed. The libraries were open. Performers took to the streets. Community organizers moved as many people possible at 9 PM to meet the curfew. There was a little scuttle and tear gas at 10:30, but not what we saw Monday.
All that to say Baltimore has always had a certain “can do” spirit. It’s just been beaten out of them due to extreme poverty, neglect, and systematic racism. Add drugs. “The Wire” was the warning shot sent by the series’s creators to show the impact of all this on urban communities. Unfortunately it wasn’t received in a way that made leadership pro-active. “The Wire” became just another entertaining gritty HBO series. Some people will argue that it hurt the city — as you can see it is always referenced when you say “Baltimore”.
But I believe the true B’more spirit will prevail. And they need help.
April 28, 2015
Quote of the Day: “If our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could, but it requires everybody saying this is important … and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns. And we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.” President Barack Obama
…which I believe connects in some way with what was discussed during this interview with David Simon by the President in March:
This one went viral: Certainly We Can Be More Better than we’ve been!
As the 2nd innauguration of President Barack Obama is about to take place in Washington, DC, THE MAN is going to Baltimore, MD for a FREE screening and discussion led by Clayton LeBouef.
DATE/TIME: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 2 PM WHERE: Enoch Pratt Free Library (Central), 400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD, Tel. (410) 396-5430
The script, written by Rod Serling (best known as the creator of the classic television series “The Twilight Zone”) is based on the novel of the same name by Irving Wallace, and directed by Joseph Sargent (“Something the Lord Made,” “Warm Springs,” “Taking of Pelham One Two Three”). The film was intended to debut as a television movie, but received a short theatrical release in 1972 with an opening run at Baltimore’s Charles Theater.
The presentations of THE MAN is part of a preservation campaign to rediscover and redistribute “lost films.”
Baltimore CityPaper isn’t like DC CityPaper. One gets the impression with all the city has to cope with in terms of unemployment, crime, grit, and staggering infrastructure that there are people there who still believe and still like Baltimore. They don’t want to be defined by “The Wire” alone. Whereas the DC version borders on a snarky disdain for the city (perhaps even envy for not being the setting for “The Wire” which employed a number of DC talents).
Just on Google search by-lines alone: Baltimore CityPaper: Citypaper offers Baltimore, Maryland’s best coverage of news, culture, ideas, music, arts, theater, movies and events.
DC CityPaper: Weekly. Offers news, editorials, reviews, classifieds and personals. Includes a calendar, advertising information, employment opportunities, …
Which one would you read for pleasure?
Just a few weeks ago, the Washington Post featured Baltimore’s arts scene in the Sunday Style section. The title was “National Bohemians.” “Charm City.”
But the real reason for this hype on Baltimore CityPaper is one of its feature stories, The Lady Vanishes, with “The Wire” alumni and DC resident Clayton LeBouef who has been working diligently on a levication ceremony for Henrietta Vinton Davis, a Shakespearean actor, Baltimore native (b. 1860), and a senior officer in Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the early decades of the 20th century. Another significant but unknown piece of history.
The event will be held Sunday, August 8 from 2 – 4 PM at the Eubie Blake Center. The struggles and determination of the first generation born near or after the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. is only beginning to come to light. It should also be noted that part of the struggle included an intense debate between organizations on the path and approach towards equality and self determination. For the most part, people frame it as the Booker T. Washington folks vs. the W.E.B. DuBois folks. Garvey, originally from Jamaica, rarely enters the discussion. But the UNIA, which had a large membership in its prime, and the NAACP didn’t land on the same page. Got too caught up in the “or” vs. the “and” conjunction I suppose. All had conflicting narratives. It’s significant that the Vinton program and the CityPaper article by Lee Gardner is happening in the very city in which the NAACP has its national headquarters. It’s significant that a prominent figure in the UNIA was born in that same city and/or ironic?
April Yvonne Garrett is someone to watch out for. She’s the founder of Civic Frame, a nonprofit organization that uses art and intellectual work to encourage civic engagement, media literacy and critical thinking about pressing social issues. April is one of the most impressive people I’ve met. She’s doesn’t do the dumb down, and at the same time she earns respect from the communities in which she’s engaged. She does her Civic Frame programs in Baltimore and has taken them on the road to Newark, NJ and Harvard University. Civic Frame is conducting an on-line fundraising campaign through September 11th recognizing eight years of addressing social issues through dialogue and media.
September 25th Civic Frame will present a benefit screening of the independent film La MISSION starring Benjamin Bratt and directed, written, and produced by his brother Peter Bratt. Both will be among the guest speakers for the Q&A after the film. Actress Erika Alexander and Luis Cardona, Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator for Montgomery County will also participate. The event will be held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History & Culture.
The film was shown at Sundance in 2009. After seeing the trailer, I’m puzzled why this film hasn’t gotten more play or maybe I wasn’t paying attention. The film is about the San Francisco neighborhood where the Bratt brothers grew up. Benjamin Bratt plays Che Rivera, the neighborhood patriarch and single father of a teenage son named Jess. Everything is great between father and son until Che finds out that Jess is gay. This just does not play well in the machismo Mission district.
MY FAVORITE BALTIMORE…
Man, it’s hard just to live
Man, it’s hard just to live, just to live
Nina Simone felt she lost control over this album which features the Randy Newman song “Baltimore” with a reggae beat. Seems like this 1978 recording made folks unhappy, but hey, you can’t deny some of the lyrics. I consider it one of Nina’s best.
I was introduced to Roland L. Freeman through his photographs of Baltimore’s Arabbers or “ay-rabs” taken in the 1970s. These horse-cart vendors pulled their produce through the city streets. Freeman says there is nothing unique about them except the name. There were white and black Arabbers up until WWII. After the war 90% of the Arabbers were black. Roland is a fourth generation Arabber. You can see the exhibit on-line at The Group for Cultural Documentation’swebsite. TGCD was founded by Roland L. Freeman. He’s also a collector of African American quilts and a quilt artist (one of the few male members of the Daughters of Dorcas). Freeman lives in Washington, DC. You’re never the same after an encounter with him. Simply brilliant.
CLEANING MARBLE STAIRS
This has always been my mother’s most vivid memory of Baltimore. Apparently people are bringing this tradition back.
FAIDLEYS CRAB CAKE It just doesn’t get better than this. Faidleys is a Baltimore institution (founded in 1886) inside the old Lexington Market. The Lexington strip will give you “The Wire” vibe. But for this crab cake I’m willing to take my chances.
LISA ANNE’s: DECADENT APPLES
Imagine Eve giving Adam one of these. Who knows what would’ve happened to human kind. I remember going inside Lisa Anne’s shop for these caramel apples years ago. Well, there’s no more shop but her website says where the candy apples are sold. The company still maintain offices on N. Charles Street in Baltimore. Go to their website.
I have never seen “The Wire.” I don’t have cable television (at least until they allow me to pick my own channels). When I tried to check out a DVD from the public library (with an episode written by UBM David Mills), the disc was missing from the box (not the right disc). I guess that speaks to the impact “The Wire” has had on audiences. Fortunately, I have met and talked with David Simon before I’ve seen any of his HBO series. I did watch “Homicide: Life On the Streets.” I loved the casting, the “realness” of what could’ve been classified as another “cop show.” But it wasn’t. People who work with Simon on the set always have good things to say about the experience. While “Treme” got a strong start, I’m sure Simon is thinking up his next story. And the location will be….? What will be the soundtrack? Simon lives in Baltimore.