Neglecting Baltimore: My story, too

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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman with The World. A potential turning point in Baltimore today: prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced charges against six police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. And to all those who have protested, Mosby said this.

 

Marilyn Mosby: I’ve heard your calls for “no justice, no peace.” However, your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray.

 

Werman: Mosby also says Gray’s death has been ruled a homicide resulting from a spinal injury he suffered while handcuffed inside a police van. Reporter Bruce Wallace is in Baltimore and he’s been taking the pulse of residents there after a tumultuous week. One person he spoke with there was Fernando Roman.

 

Bruce Wallace: He runs this store, Ted’s Music, it’s been around since the “˜30s--his father, and then him and his brother have been involved in working there and then owning it since the “˜60s. They talk about the two Baltimores, and this is definitely in the Baltimore that is more affluent. It’s kind of the cultural and historical hub of Baltimore. On monday in the afternoon, when the violence started breaking out, there was a string of shops right in its heart that were hit by vandals and looted.

 

Werman: It doesn’t sound like he’s going to give up the store, though. Let’s hear what he has to say.

 

Fernando Roman: Well, the store has to keep going. I mean, I’ve been through a lot, so it doesn’t change anything, really.

 

Werman: Right, so Fernando is going to keep on selling guitars and drums. What does he mean, Bruce, that he’s been through a lot?

 

Wallace: First he’s immigrated from Colombia in the mid-’60s at a time when there was certainly violence there. And then soon after he arrived in 1968, the riots in Baltimore happened--the Martin Luther King riots. They didn’t affect his store, and in fact, that fact made him calm on monday. He thought, “You know, if the riots in “˜68 didn’t affect me, nothing will.” He said he was surprised when he heard from the business owner next door that the vandals were coming. He doesn’t really fault the kids. He says they basically have no support where they’re from, and they’re constantly threatened by police. So, if he faulted anybody, he faulted the police.

 

Werman: Mr. Roman, I gather, is far from the only person you spoke with who wasn’t really surprised by what’s been happening in Baltimore.

 

Wallace: Yeah, that’s the general sentiment I get from talking to most people. I spent most of the day yesterday in west Baltimore, where most of the violence and demonstrations have started, and spent a long time at St. Mark’s Church, which is a church that’s kind of become a main point for a lot of the donations and aid that’s coming in from around the city and around the country, actually. I talked to Penny Dobson, who’s the granddaughter of the founder of the church, and she said, “Yeah, nobody should be surprised.

 

Penny Dobson: Emotionally, it’s kind of testy. Because I grew up here, and I’ve vented about the decline, and I’ve seen my parents vent about the decline, and to see so many people surprised”¦ It’s like, “Where have the blinders--where did you get them? How thick were they?” Especially the people who drive or live downtown. You drive through it every day. They’re angry. They’re angry for a reason. You know, do we know how to vent our anger? No. And we’re asking for that access, too.

 

Werman: Yeah, economic decline leads to frustration and anger. Obviously, Bruce, hard to know where this is all headed. But did you get the sense that this is a moment that might trigger change for the African American community either in terms of long-lasting change, or even in terms of just short term community organizing and the community getting its voice together?

 

Wallace: You know, I talked to some ministers, Penny Dobson, who were very, very, very guardedly optimistic that maybe all the support that’s coming in from around the city--maybe that will remain; maybe the fact that east and west Baltimore is now unified, maybe something will happen there. Ministers say, “We haven’t been organized like this before,” and the ministers and the churches are still a really important part of the fabric of the city. So, the fact that they’re feeling more unified and motivated might lead to something. But I’d say, at best, people are guardedly optimistic.

 

Werman: Reporter Bruce Wallace in Baltimore. Thank you very much, Bruce.

 

Wallace: Thanks Marco.