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Baltimore – In Context

 “The Police represent a buffer between the haves and the have nots.” – Fantz Fanon 

What becomes painfully obvious about the events and circumstances that are currently occurring in the city of Baltimore, is that the plight of the African American community and/or the community of the African Diaspora is not a sometime event. It is times like this when we begin to turn on each other. And this is a critical error; one that is immersed in our pathology, as Dr. Jerome Fox, Ph.D (Clinical Psychologist, previous guest of CTD internet radio broadcast) has so accurately stated in his soon to be published workbook titled “Addiction to White: The Oppressed in League with the Oppressor”. (We so look forward to his publication, it’s clinical contributions to our discussion in the Africa diaspora will be impactful.)
For us here at ‘Connecting the Dots’, the critical examination of our historical plight with this oppressive system is a part of what we do. Our pertinent analysis of both it’s historical and utilitarian effect are why we spend the time researching and then bringing that research to you in the form of the radio program and this website. In the spirit of the Zulu of Southern Africa, “Each One, Teach One.” Being reactionary whether in your personal life or any other component of your life, is not productive. And here we have to be honest. We cannot continuously relegate an honest and authentic discussion about the things that plague our community to what has garnished national attention. That is reactionary. The problems that exist in the Black/Africa diaspora such as Baltimore were there before the national and international spotlight was turned towards Baltimore, and those historical and generational problems, they will be there long after the spotlight is turned off.

Baltimore was a powder keg before April 12, 2015, the day that Freddy Gray was killed at the hands of some Baltimore Police officers. Baltimore has severe drugs and crime rates, just like many cities here in America; and we see it increasing in many segments of the Black/African diaspora. Baltimore still has a growing homeless population, particularly among young people, just like many other American cities. For years, since the 1950, Baltimore has had a declining population, with a declining tax base.
It is only within the past decade that Baltimore experienced a population resurgence, but mostly to the downtown area. Other areas remain depressed and oppressed. Riots have occurred before; with the rapid urbanization of the area starting in the mid-20th Century,  the occurrence of riots in urban areas in itself is not special. While a riot may initially be sparked by a specific event, scholars, commentators and commissions have sought to identify the deeper reasons and have identified a number of urban conditions that may underline urban riots. These urban conditions are often associated with urban decay more generally and may include: discrimination, poverty, high unemployment, poor schools,
poor healthcare, inadequate housing, and police brutality and bias.

Baltimore has a population of 621,342. It is the 26th largest city in America. It is 63.7% Black and 29.3% White. Baltimore’s poverty rate is nearly double the national average. The unemployment rate of young African-American males is around 30%. The Baltimore public school district spends over $15,000/year on educating one child, the second highest spending/education ratio in America. Yet, high school graduation rates of Blacks is at about 35%.
Lack of access to labor markets, health care, and housing are prominent in the Black/African community of Baltimore. Baltimore, despite possessing a political infrastructure that is Black, speaks to a level of governmental and institutional failure.  At this point, not unlike many other communities around the Black/Africa diaspora, we, of the Black/African diaspora demonstrate what can be identified as institutionalized despair. Whether Philly or Soweto, L.A, or the Arab Spring in Egypt, Baltimore or Brazil, we wear this despair; it is as familiar to us as the wetness of rain. The apathy and anxiety, the aloofness and alienation, the detachment and disinterest, the dullness and disregard, and the insouciance and insensitivity; it has all become a learned pathology among us. And this is critically sad and historical.

  • Harlem Riot of 1964 – July 16-24, 1964, New York City, provoked by the NYPDs shooting of black teenager James Powell.
  • Philadelphia 1964 race riot – August 28-30, 1964, allegations of police brutality sparked the Columbia Avenue race riots.
  • Watts Riots – August 11, 1965, Los Angeles, California, The McCone Commission investigated the riots, finding causes that included poverty, inequality, racial discrimination and the passage, in November 1964, of Proposition 14 on the California ballot overturning the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which established equality of opportunity for African-Americans.
  • Hough Riots -July 18, 1966, Cleveland, Ohio. The underlying causes of the riots may be found in the social conditions that exist in the ghettos of Cleveland.
  • 1967 Newark riots -July 12, 1967, Newark, New Jersey. Factors that contributed to the Newark Riot: police brutality, political exclusion of blacks from city government, urban renewal, inadequate housing, unemployment, poverty, and rapid change in the racial composition of neighborhoods.
  • 1968 Chicago, Illinois riots – April 4, 1968. Violence erupted in Chicago’s black ghetto on the west side, eventually consuming a 28-block stretch of West Madison Street. Looting and arson took place; triggered by the assassination of Martin Luther King.
  • Baltimore riot of 1968 – April 4, 1968, Baltimore, Maryland. Triggered by the assassination of Martin Luther King.
  • 1968 Washington, D.C. – April 4,1968, Washington, D.C. A report from National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders identified discrimination and poverty as the root. Again triggered by the assassination of Martin Luther King.
  • Soweto uprising, Johannesburg, South Africa 1976: Massive reaction to education laws under apartheid, bloodily suppressed.
  • Brixton riot (1995) – December 13, 1995, London, England. The violence was a rebellion against years of racist injustice by police in an impoverished area plagued by racial tension.
  • Jakarta riots of May 1998, Indonesia.  Mass violence of a racial orientation that occurred throughout Indonesia, mainly in Medan, in the province of North Sumatra, the capital city of Jakarta, and Surakarta, resulting in more than a 1000 deaths.

In Frantz Fanon’s 1963 critically classic work “The Wretched of the Earth” (you can consider his work both the precursor and the pre-requisite for the works of Fuller, Welsing, Akbar, Wright, Wilson and now Fox), he identifies the police “as a buffer between the haves and the have-nots”. In his works, he identifies the conditions of colonialism and oppression that are steeped in racial strife and inequality that ultimately contribute to despair, and that erupt into violent responses.
You cannot examine Baltimore in a vacuum. These are not isolated events, as you can see. The expressions of emotions and feelings by those in Baltimore, and elsewhere historically, are valid. Now, the manner in which they are being expressed is most definitely debatable. And that debate is on the side of being efficient, effective, and pragmatic. Burning and looting, in all candor, is an act of selfishness and insincerity. It has nothing to do with the greater community. True, real, and authentic revolution first begins in the mind. As you can see from the partial list of urban/racial strife and so-called “riots”, the root of these “up-risings” is people seeking to right a wrong, to seek justice, to seek retribution.
But where do we begin. This is the question that is the critical undercurrent and underpinning of the
conscious black community, at the academic level, the professional level, the intelligentsia level, and at the community level. At many junctures in our society, all these aspects of thought and/or intervention merge, or are in concert (like ‘Connecting the Dots’).
Systematic and historic disenfranchisement of many African-American communities remain in place. The ingredients that contribute to those combustible and angry expressions such as a Baltimore or Ferguson are ever present. There has been a huge expansion of mass incarceration. Prison population has expanded some 780% in the last twenty years. America spends $80 billion a year on housing prisoners. We find ourselves today at a very critical juncture, one that we are intimately familiar with. And what is our response?

There is no miracle coming to correct the ills that we suffer from, there is not an external intervention that is going to provide a better path, be it governmental, institutional or otherwise. The responsibility to change our condition is ours and we must meet it. The solutions really are basic and simple and must begin at the grass roots level. They have to begin with you. Control yourselves, control your family, control your communities, control your food and control your water. Be that pebble that causes a ripple in the pond. If you change YOUR world, you change your WORLD. It only requires commitment, dedication, and a resolve to get it done it any cost. By any means necessary.

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