Town Hall Meeting on Race: from Ferguson to Baltimore

Balto Doni“God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water but fire next time.”
— Old Negro Spiritual

“I was icily determined – more determined, really, than I knew – never to make my peace with the ghetto but to die and go to Hell before I would let any white man spit on me, before I would accept my “place” in this republic. I did not intend to allow the white people of this country to tell me who I was, and limit me that way, and polish me off that way.  And yet, of course, at the same time, I was being spat on and defined and described and limited, and could have been polished off with no effort whatever.”
–from The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

In Ferguson, Missouri, the city police department was meeting with law enforcement officers from the State Police to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to strategize on what to do if a grand jury chose not to criminally indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for the August 9 murder of Michael Brown. Would the people of Ferguson reduce the town to rubble in a grief-stricken fit of collective outrage?  Would Afrikan-American communities inn other cities follow suit?  Would Black people finally decide that they had been spat on, through economic deprivation, structutal racism and police violence, for the last time?  And would law enforcement enact the same disastrous policies that had led to an escalation of hostilities in the first place, as they had in the immediate adftermath of the Brown shooting?  Would people of Afrikan descent in cities across the country that have suffered under the yoke of police misconduct and maltreatment rise up in loud protest, in violent retribution, or (much worse in their opinion) in organized, disciplined unity?

While some of us are girding for either the first two options or simply preparing to escape into the fantasy world of video games, alcohol and tell-lie-vision that has been prepared for us in times of trouble, there are those among us who are building for that last, and most feared by the powers that be, option – building unity so that our actions may bring the real change that we want to see.  But building that unity is difficult, and it requires us to do something we have found difficult over the decades – learn to put our small differences aside and work on building consensus, realizing that our different approaches and opinions must all serve the ultimaye Pan-Afrikan goal.

We are trying. We have to try harder and try smarter, and soon.  This is the story of the most recent effort among the communities of Baltimore City.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 saw several community leaders, politicians and activists in the Greater Baltimore community come together at the Town Hall Meeting on Race: from Ferguson to Baltimore. The event was held at The Lord’s Church of Baltimore on Park Heights Avenue, led by Bishop Kevia F. Elliott. The event was hosted by Doni Glover of BMoreNews.com (www.bmorenews.com).  The event was arranged in three panels that discussed issues such as education, crime, police brutality, organizing the community and even the question of whether the concept of “community” really exists, with opportunities provided for audience members to step to the microphone and make comments or ask questions.  Rather than undergo a lengthy analysis of the event, we will allow many of the participants to speak for themselves.

FIRST PANEL

Balto Marsha and DoniMarsha Jews, WEAA-FM “Keep It Moving” Radio Talk Show Host:
Ms. Jews moderated the first panel, and gave an impassioned plea to Baltimoreans to take charge of the power they hold in their hands, get involved with their communities and exercise their right to vote. “Why have we not as a community demanded that our children are being educated properly in our community schools?  Why haven’t we demanded that all of these success stories of schools that are charter schools in this community aren’t brought into our community?  Why haven’t we as a community demanded that we either bring the money together or find the money or put the pressure on the people for recreation centers and whatever else services that we need in out communities?  We all know now, and I guess that’s where I really am, that the prisons in the juvenile systems are all  now paid corporations that are on NASDAQ.  They are for profit.  Not only are they for profit, but they have a mandatory bed rate.  So, mandatory bed rate says, ‘I need to have a 90% occupancy’.  Let that set in for a minute.  Think about that.  So, in order for their investors to get a return on their investment, these prisons must have a 90% occupancy.  That’s how they manage Hopkins and all these other hospitals.  There’s a certain occupancy rate.  So, my big question says, if [there’s a] 90% requirement for occupancy, and 90% of the people in the prison [look] like me, what are we who look like all those people doing?  Now I’m going to put it back on us, because I’m disappointed in my community.  I am.  Because this isn’t anybody else’s problem. It’s our problem.  It’s our problem that we haven’t voted, 3%, 4%, 5%, whatever some ignorant number turnout, that’s our responsibility.  To vote in the people who have our interest at heart.  To vote in the people who are going to bring about the change we want to see.”

“… the prisons in the juvenile systems are all now paid corporations that are on NASDAQ.  … Not only are they for profit, but they have a mandatory bed rate.  So, mandatory bed rate says, ‘I need to have a 90% occupancy’. … So, in order for their investors to get a return on their investment, these prisons must have a 90% occupancy.”
— Marsha Jews, WEAA Radio Talk Show Host

The Hostile Environment

What happens comes from what we are exposed to, said one member of the audience. The hostile environment impacts upon our children,
out adults, our elders, our families.  What has gone on in our history is relevant today.  If we don’t teach out children, the streets will teach them.  The streets are looking for customers.

Rev. Shawn Fields, It Takes A Village:
The question of whether Black people realty have community, or just neighborhoods where we happen to live together. The idea of Black people and businesspeople who share their knowledge with their neighbors makes a community, which we do not have now.  To control money, to control Black media, that is community.  And racism drives what is happening now.  “There’s no reason that this city is predominantly African-American, and our communities are represented by majority-White police officers. … Until we as Black people come to understand that when our community comes back, our power comes back.  Our power comes back, we start to control our finances.  We control our finances, then we start to control our politicians.  We start to control our legislators and our legal system, and so on. … We start right here.  Recognizing that we need to start building communities and no longer neighborhoods.  We need to get this neighborhood mentality out.  [because] it’s very transient.  We come and we go.  Because, see, somebody told us one time that growing up in Park Heights wasn’t good enough.  You had to move to Randallstown to be somebody. … Just because ‘the man’ says that we’re empowered to move and be where we want to be, I say this: Let’s move back to where we have unity, where we are one people, where when we speak, City Hall hears it.  When we speak, the State House hears it.  When we speak, the White House hears it.  That’s when we’ll see all this foolishness start to dissipate.”

“Let’s move back to where we have unity, where we are one people, where when we speak, City Hall hears it. When we speak, the State House hears it.  When we speak, the White House hears it.”
–Rev. Shawn Fields, It Takes A Village

J.C. Faulk, recently moved from DC to Baltimore:
Have we ever really been a community since we were taken from Afrika? “We need to stop blaming ourselves for the existence of racism. … We need to stop pretending that we’ve ever had this and start building community.  Start building it.”

City Councilman Carl Stokes:
“We should be acting and not talking. … There is no shortage of opportunities to sit and speak, and sit and speak, and sit and speak. Here’s another three hours of time that we could be out there acting on something. … There’s another forum going on up the street at another church with a pastor who runs out all over the country [to talk about] police brutality but he doesn’t seem to understand that what’s going on here in Baltimore city. … What we need to do is act on what we know and what we’ve heard and stop talking. … The leadership needs to stand up and stay up.  It’s very, very bad in this city.  We have almost no leadership politically, business-wise, religious-wise, all we have is the community that we have, quite frankly.  And people stand up every day. … People in our communities do stand up.”

Fear? No, it’s Ego

Someone had stated earlier that we needed to overcome our fear if we were to move forward as a community.  One audience member had a different take: “We have 99,000 different groups … but we don’t have a unified spirit among all of us, which then divides and creates these atmospheres where we’re all trying to do the same thing but we’re going at it in different directions. … You have to be at the point where you’re not looking to stand in the limelight and be seen as the individual who did it.”

SECOND PANEL

Dr. Tyrone Powers, Children First:
“We’ve always had great orators. We have great preachers.  We have 2000 churches in Baltimore City, 1600 liquor stores, and we still have the murders and the crimes.  We have all these organizations.  People Balto Hopson Powersgetting billions of dollars from the Baltimore City School System to create programs and children are failing.  Our teachers have the best contract, are the highest paid teachers in the state and we’ve got the lowest test scores of anyone.  So there’s a divide between what the teachers are doing and what the students are doing. … The teachers’ union represents the teachers.  They don’t represent the children.  And there’s a disjoint. … I’m all for the teachers getting paid, but … if we’re going to change anything in our community, it’s going to be with the children. … By the time the children reach the 6th grade, they start off enthusiastic in kindergarten, and by the time they reach the 6th grade, they’ve lost all hope. … We just handed out a 10 point plan to dramatically reduce crime in Baltimore City. … The people who created the problem are not going to come … there’s no divine intervention coming from people who are not divine. … Frederick Douglass said power only respects demand.  It doesn’t respect requests and it doesn’t respect Town Hall Meetings. … During the time I was with the FBI, a document comes across my desk that says ‘Black people are very emotional but they are not analytical.’  In other words, we will state the problem in such an eloquent way that we will have you praising the problem but we will not see it through to its logical conclusion.  We wore hoodies – not one law was changed with the Trayvon Martin case.  We’ve got police brutality all over the place, and it’s not just about hiring more Black police officers because part of the brutality is being carried out by them. … Every lawsuit that is launched against Baltimore City … who pays the lawsuit?  The citizens of Baltimore.  So we’re paying for our own abuse.  We talked about changing the school system.  We talked about giving these young people hope.  [Otherwise] by 7th grade he’s going to be a threat to you. … The Frankenstein Theory.  Whatever monster you create, you’re going to eventually confront.  You can’t create a monster and confront an angel. … We [can’t] just walk out the door and say that’s a wonderful thing Doni put on and let’s do a group hug, then go back to our miserable lives and deal with some m ore pain. … The fact of the matter is it won’t save one life unless we put in some concrete solutions.”

“By the time the children reach the 6th grade, they start off enthusiastic in kindergarten, and by the time they reach the 6th grade, they’ve lost all hope.”
–Dr. Tyrone Powers, Children First

Sarah Hemminger, CEO of THREAD-Mending the Social Fabric:
“Structural racism is real. … If you’re African American in this region and you have a criminal record, you have a 5% chance of being called back for a job. If you don’t have a criminal record you have a 14% chance of being called back got a job.  If you’re White and you have a criminal record you have a 17% chance of being called back for a job.  So if you’re White with a criminal record, you have a better chance of being called back than if you’re African American with no criminal record. … So for me, I’ve heard a lot tonight about mobilization. … I can think of one example in the last few years that that’s happened in the Baltimore community, and that’s actually when the Ravens were in the Super Bowl.  And I know that sounds silly but I think there’s something that you can take from that because if you think back, what did you see on TV in the streets?  The whole city was mobilized.  It didn’t matter what part of the city you lived in, what race you were, everybody was mobilized. … So it becomes a question of how do you actually build real true relationships that transcend racial and socioeconomic barriers because it’s those relationships – Institutions are made of people, and you have to first have relationships that transcend those barriers I think, to move forward on a systems level.”

Russell Neverdon, local lawyer running as an Independent candidate for States Attorney for Baltimore City:
“When we talk about how do we build our communities, I think we have to first recognize what we’re dealing with and we have to deal with each other and our situations as we find them. Because right now we’re putting them in boxes and labels and we’re putting them inside categories on a day to day basis.  And so, as I sit here right now I am the sum of the experiences of my community.  That would be my grandmother who stepped in when mother and father decided that the use of drugs and selling drugs was more important.  That would be the aunts and uncles who sacrificed and aside from their own children decided that making sure they invested in me was worth the while, that I had a fair shot at life.  So, that’s what we’ve got to get back to.  I mean, right now we’re trying to reinvent the wheel.  We just need to get back and be reminded of how the wheel used to roll.  And that is the community taking care of itself.  So, the old saying that says I am my brother’s keeper, well, we are our brother’s keepers, and our sister’s keepers.  The responsibility is on us to take care of ourselves.  And so, we can’t wait for the government to step in.  Because we know what happens.  Money’s supposed to come in  to the state, it gets pushed down to the city, and certain  neighborhoods don’t get it, but we see new high-rises going up in affluent neighborhoods, we see new docks and things going on at the Harbor, we’re not getting the benefit of that.  And so, until we start having a a very real self-assessment, like Am I really satisfied with what’s going on, and the answer should be ‘Hell no’, then we’re really just hamsters running on a wheel, running in the same circle expecting something different.  So from a public safety standpoint, which is what I’m dealing with, I’m seeing the broken young men who are like me.  I’m seeing the kids who are separated from family, who have no sense of belonging, which is why they’re gravitating towards the gangs.  I see these young men who are sleeping outside and they’re homeless, who were chastised and teased in school because they don’t have the latest Jordans or whatever that we keep pumping up and rewarding our kids when they’re not reading at the levels they should be reading at, when it’s easier to give them a PlayStation instead of holding them to a room and saying ‘Read a book and tell me what that book said’.  See, these are the things that we have to do as parents and I can tell you right now we are failing our children.  That’s the real situation that we’re dealing with.  And so, we wonder why, when they’re exposed to drug addiction and lead paint exposure … why all of a sudden you put them in a situation where they have a gun in their hand, and you’re surprised that they kill somebody.  Well, I’m not, because the reality of it is that I see this on a regular and an ongoing basis, and so when we’re talking about how do we change this, the first thing we have to start dealing with is, let’s stop talking about what we’re going to do for our children for the future and deal with them as they exist right now. … If you want to see crime go down, you’ve got to lift the people up. … If you’re law enforcement [and you are] breaking the very same laws that they are held accountable to, they feel like if you can do it, I can do it.  There has to be accountability across the board. … When I go into a courtroom and I tell a gentleman that the evidence is overwhelming, ‘You are going to jail, so let’s focus on what happens with the rest of your life and let’s minimize what you’re exposed to,’ and we go to trial and the jury comes back and says ‘Not Guilty,’ and I ask the jury, ‘Was it something I said?  What was it?’, [and they answer] ‘It wasn’t what you said.  I don’t believe in the police and I don’t believe in the system,’ that’s scary.  And that’s the reality of what we’re dealing with.”

“If you want to see crime go down, you’ve got to lift the people up.”
— Lawyer Russell Neverdon

Angelique Redmond, owner of Kinkx Studios and Kinkx Kids Radio:
“It does start with the children.”  Ms. Redmond moved from Washington, DC seven years ago and got involved with the PTA, holding posts of President and Vice President in different neighborhoods over the years.  “We do not invest in our children” except for “materialistic things.”  She started Kinkx Kids Radio (www.kinkxkidsradio.com).  She saw what happens in the home; “Our foundation in the home is broken. … Are we really reaching for excellence in everything that we do?  And this affects how our kids are raised and how [we] as adults act.”  It starts with our relationships with other people and affects our kids.  This is why she started the Kinkx Kids Radio.  “We have to start off with the foundation first” [home] before we can heal the community.  “We have 2000 churches in Baltimore.  How many of those 2000 churches work together”, even with the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance?  “We should have a board out here saying ‘We need to target this area, and then go to this area, and then go to this area.’  That’s how we start putting stuff into action, and that’s one thing that we’re missing in this Town Hall Meeting.  We need to have an Action Plan, and then we need to have a list up here for everyone in here to sign up and figure out what to do because we can start right now.”

“We should have a board out here saying ‘We need to target this area, and then go to this area, and then go to this area.’ That’s how we start putting stuff into action …”
— Angelique Redmond, Kinkx Kids Radio

Melissa Bagley, Democratic Central Committee 45th District, founder of A Million Moms United in Baltimore:
“We forgot about the village. … Where are our children?” Ms. Bagley got into politics in the 45th District and was involved in two successful races.  She got her sons involved, even collecting contact information from participants at this Town Hall.  People “understand the importance of why they’re here.  They understand the importance of connecting with people that are in this room. … Our challenge is communication and support amongst each other because there are other races that have been divided and have had challenges, and they have overcome these challenges because they focus on the barriers and they put action plans in place. … [Carl Stokes said] we do too much talking. … We talk and we talk and we talk and we talk, and then there is no action.  And we march too … but at the end of the day, when we march and we chant these things … do we go and have these conversations with our children?  Do we make sure that we go into the school system, and work with the teachers and work with the principals and counselors and social workers that label our children as ADD and this, than or the other and put them on medications that create zombies, children that they can just push to the side like they’re not even there and then they push them out into the world totally unprepared. … It’s not that we don’t understand what is happening with the system. … At the end of the day we have to understand that the government is not put in [place to take care of people.  Community is supposed to take care of community, the government is to keep control.  And when they see that the people have no control then they step in and start putting things in place to make things easier on their system because they have a system.  We must develop our own system so that we can get things done.  And it starts with action.  We already know what the issues are.  We have sisters here, we have mothers here, we have brothers here, that have lost family members to each other, to law enforcement, and at the end of the day it all serves a purpose.  It’s all a part of the cycle and all a part of the system.  So we feel we should be building our own system and developing how that system works, and putting a plan in place so we can execute some real plans for some real change.”

“Community is supposed to take care of community, the government is to keep control.”
–Melissa Bagley

Louis Hopson, Sergeant in the Baltimore City Police Department:
“There’s nobody that knows more about the Baltimore Police Department than I do. I’ve been studying the Baltimore Police Department for the last 15 years.  I’m the only person that successfully sued them, three times. … I implemented … a bunch of policy changes.  They’re in violation of those policy changes as we speak.  So yes, I agree with Mr. Neverdon, I agree with Dr. Powers.  I’ve been a part of this group and I’ve been actively involved with this for the past 15 years.  Right now I’m in charge of the juvenile booking system and the adult booking system. … I know all the statistics. … So, there’s not too much I don’t know. … Yes, education to me is they key, but the main emphasis is you’re going to have to start moving and stop talking.  Do something.  Because all this talk means nothing.  Baltimore City Police Department already has their plan together. … You can listen to all the rhetoric the Commissioner and everyone else says.  It’s just rhetoric.  Doesn’t make you feel better.  Baltimore City Police Department is a tough egg, a touch nut to crack.  But it doesn’t take a thousand people to do it.  I did it with a handful of people, but you have to be committed.  If you’re not committed, stay home.  If you’ve got no backbone, stay home.  If you can’t fight, stay home.”

THIRD PANEL

Tawanda Jones, sister and spokesperson for the Family of Tyrone West:
The West family has been in a struggle since July 18, 2013, when Tyrone West died during a traffic stop and arrest by Baltimore City police.  Ms. Jones thanked Rev. C.D. Witherspoon for his assistance to the West family.  To remember Tyrone, they have been holding a community remembrance and organizing activity called West Wednesday.  “We’re putting real actions behind our pain. … We don’t want another family here to go through [this pain]. … Nobody deserves to be brutally murdered.  My brother Tyrone West was brutally murdered. … We got [former] State’s Attorney Ray Bernstein out. … He decided to give all his Tyrone West 1officers full immunity. … Now [our] eyes are open.  Now we see all the police brutality that’s going on in Baltimore.  It seems like [there’s another one] every week.  Not another one, it has to stop.  We started the West Coalition with a list of demands.  Putting cameras on police officers.  We’ve got like 9 to 10 different demands on our list. … I’m not here to badmouth police, because there are good police on the force and we need them.  We need to get rid of the bad ones. … They’re killing us and we’re paying them to kill us. … We’re trying to get rid of that [officers’] Bill of Rights. … Let’s not give them a Bill to Kill Human Life. …”  She thanked Pastor Heber Brown and several local activists for their support.

“I’m not here to badmouth police, because there are good police on the force and we need them. We need to get rid of the bad ones. … They’re killing us and we’re paying them to kill us.”
— Tawanda Jones, Sister of Tyrone West

Darlene Cain, founder of Mothers on the Move:
Ms. Cain is the mother of Dale Graham, an intern for the NAACP who was gunned down by a Baltimore police officer in 2008 during an altercation at the home of his former girlfriend.  Ns. Cain has founded the website http://darlenecain.org where her story is told in detail and so mothers could come together and organize, especially against the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.  October 22 is Mothers of Police Brutality National Day, and an event will be held that day as a commemoration and a call to action.

Gwendolyn Domneys, founder of A Crying Mother:
Ms. Domneys’ children were victims of street crime. Her daughter Mia was shot in the throat by a stray 9mm bullet when she was six months pregnant in August 2010.  One month later, Ms. Domneys’ only son was killed in an act of street violence.  She has consistently walked Pennsylvania Avenue from the Shake & Bake Family Fun Center to the Penn-North Metro Stop to encourage people to stop the killing, in cooperation with six other mothers who lost their only sons to street violence.  She approached several churches and other groups in her area for support “and asked them to walk with me. … Nobody showed up. … You know who showed up?  Mr. Neverdon. … But I’m going to keep walking Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Leon Purnell, Executive Director of the Men and Family Center of East Baltimore and member of SCLC:
“It seems that in this town if you get a [criminal] record, you’re supposed to just crawl in a hole and die, because they don’t allow you to get employment, so if you don’t get employment … eventually you’ll end up going back to jail. So, the feeder system just recycles. … It’s so embedded with Good Ole Boy tactics it’s ridiculous.  If you look at what’s happening in Baltimore, you’ll see it’s happening all over the country. … I’ve been telling the officials here that we’re not far from Missouri. … Because they’ve been killing people here at alarming rates. … We have people here now that don’t even have a relationship with Civil Rights.  We need to read a little bit.  Take a few minutes and have your children read what their civil rights came from.  And understand the importance of it.  We have got to go back to that because we’ve given back half of what Martin Luther King and them fought for.  They had hell beat out of them, they got stomped, beat with poles, water hoses, everything you could imagine so we could do what we’re doing right now and we’re wasting it.”

“I’ve been telling the officials here that we’re not far from Missouri. … Because they’ve been killing people here at alarming rates.”
— Leon Purnell, Men and Family Center of East Baltimore

Rev. C. D. Witherspoon:
First, Minister Witherspoon recognized his wife, Minister Cherrelle Witherspoon, as well as Sharon Black, Steven Ceci and Lee Patterson of the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly. “I am angry and I am not afraid to say it.  I am an angry Black man.  And I contend today that if we’re not angry we need to check our pulse.  If we’re not angry, something is wrong.  We’ve got to have something they call righteous indignation.  Because what’s happening right now is that our sons of all ages – the Baltimore Sun outlined a 15 year old child who Balto Witherspoon and Hopsonwas attacked by the Baltimore City Police Department.  From 15 all the way up to 89.  Just on this panel right here, Tyrone West was in his mid to late 40’s, as well as Anthony Anderson was in his mid to late 40’s, but the youngest victim who we worked with was 19 years old, George King was tazed five times to death by the Baltimore City Police Department.  So at one point in time, what we told our young people was, they had to watch out for being attacked by the police, but now we know that the police are indiscriminately taking our Black men in every single generation.  So what’s happening is, our community is under attack, and they are indiscriminately targeting Black, Brown and poor people all across this country.  We know this because we work not just on Baltimore police brutality cases, we worked in the South on police brutality cases, we’ve worked up North as well as on the West Coast, and as well as in the Midwest, on police brutality cases.  So this is not something new to us.  In fact, what we see is, we’ve got to stop telling our young people that they can do something to circumvent them being attacked by the police.  Let me tell you something.  Police brutality is about racism and classism.  If you have a Ku Klux Klan on the Police Department, they’re going to attempt to take you out whether you have a suit on or not.  Let’s not forget that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated with a suit on, and lest not we forget that those four little girls in Birmingham, they had church dresses on when they were killed.  So I just want to tell you, please don’t tell our young people that if you put your shirt in your pants, or if you walk a certain way, or id you listen to a certain type of music, that you are somehow less amenable to being attacked.  Because we’ve got to stop that craziness.  One of the things that we have to be real cognizant of is this, is that all across this country, civil rights are under attack.  When we look at the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it was repealed by the Supreme Court just a couple of years ago.  Let’s look at affirmative action.  Affirmative action was rolled back.  Now, even in restaurants, public accommodations are under attack.  They are creating policies so that you can’t come into a restaurant dressed a certain way.  They might as well put the signs back on the door saying White Only.  What we need to do is have community control of the police.  We need to have community control of the police and we need to have it now.  We will be releasing a proposal with the SCLC, as well as the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly, and a couple of other groups, outlining our platform for community control of the police.  And we’re going to advocate diligently for it.  Regardless of who is in office, let no elected official take away your power.  Let no elected official take away the vote that your forefathers fought, bled and died for.  We place so much capital on voting that we are downgrading and demoting community based activism.  We’ve got to stay in the street because, Black folks if we’ve learned anything through the Civil Rights Movement, we never gained anything from anybody, especially in this country, without standing in the streets.  Thanks so much and God bless.”

Baba Naim Ajamu, USMC Veteran of Viet Nam:
Baba Ajamu raised five sons to manhood who have never been entrapped in the criminal justice system. He has taught a course at the Baltimore Police Academy “on how to deal with us in the streets.”  He stays in the streets in the Bel Air-Edison neighborhood and travels to West Baltimore to talk to young people in the streets there.  “We can’t be afraid of our own children.  All they really want is for a man to come to them and say, I respect you, I love you.  Authenticity creates authority, not the reverse. … They recognize authenticity, and they also recognize when you’re phony, and they will call you out on it. … I don’t need to be on camera, I don’t need to have my name in print.  All I want to do is see my people survive.  I want to see my young men and women survive.  It’s as simple as that.”

“We can’t be afraid of our own children. All they really want is for a man to come to them and say, I respect you, I love you.  Authenticity creates authority, not the reverse.”
— Baba Naim Ajamu

Balto Ajamu and HeberRev. Heber Brown III, Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church:
Rev. Brown was the last guest on the panel to speak. He thanked Bishop Elliott of The Lord’s Church for the venue and thanked Doni Glover for the program.  “I am seeing people who, in different ways and in different lanes are making an impact where you are, and I just want to celebrate you for what you’re doing. … We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. … We are the ones, each one of us. … This issue is so big that it can be a bit overwhelming.  Can we admit that? … And so, some of us will go home tonight not even knowing where to begin.  So let me just give a quick tip here.  Find your lane and be faithful to your lane.  Let’s be honest.  Everybody’s not going to march in the streets.  But check this, we don’t need everybody in the streets.  Somebody’s got to go in the house.  Everybody’s not going to write for the paper.  But we don’t need everybody writing the paper.  Somebody’s got to read the paper to somebody else who needs to hear it.  Find your lane, wherever that is.  I don’t care if you’re an office administrator, I don’t care if you’re a human resources professional, it doesn’t matter if you’re a college student.  It doesn’t matter if you’re 12 years old.  Wherever your lane is, be faithful to it, because the truth of the matter is, we need people everywhere.  We do not have the luxury to look down on anybody because they’ve been faithful to what God has called them to do.  This is so gigantic, that we need everybody.  We need people in City Hall, we need people out in the streets, we need people down at the Baltimore Sun, we need people at the Afro, and people on the radio.  We need people everywhere. … Don’t leave out of here feeling like you’ve got to do everything.  Or feel like you’ve got to know everything. … I don’t know everything.  I know what I know.  And I know what I don’t know.  And what I don’t know, I call other people and say, What should I know? … And one more thing.  I want to apologize on behalf of the church … for the ways in which some of my clergy colleagues have been negligent in the areas of serving the community. … At the same time I would caution against using a broad brush to paint all churches and all pastors in the same boat.  We wouldn’t have a forum tonight if a Bishop hadn’t opened up the doors and said Let’s gather together and reason as Sisters and Brothers. … I’m organizing pastors and churches.  That’s my lane.  You all got the other stuff. … And don’t let anybody fool you.  Jesus was in the streets with the people. … There are pastors around the city.  We are organizing even now. … I pray that we recognize that the church has a role to play. … Find your bite of this elephant, and take the biggest bite you can in your lane … and if we can stop the friendly fire in our ranks, we don’t have the luxury to tear each other down.  Cut it out. … We don’t have time for that.  This is an urgent moment.  This is a precious time.  And these moments don’t come around often.  I feel like this is one of those generational moments that we’re going to be talking about for a long time, nut we have to be good stewards of it.  We have to be disciplined in it, and make sure we get everything we can … so that our children, and our children’s children can look at our pictures one day and call us blessed, because we were faithful to what our part of the struggle was.  God bless you.”

We hope to be able to follow up on this and similar meetings of the Greater Baltimore community. A number of important ideas were shared ay this meeting, nut perhaps the most important is the need to improve the commitment to follow up on meetings such as this one.  Far too often, meetings are held in which a moderator offers the Famous Last Words: “We’re not going to let it end here.  We’re going to follow up.  You will hear from us again very soon.”  That has usually meant that we would never hear from the organizers again.  This time, though, we believe it will actually be different.  Bro. Doni Glover has been involved with the local Baltimore community for several years, and his level of commitment will not allow the ball to be dropped this time.  And we plan to maintain contact with Bro. Doni Glover and the other activists who helped plan and run this Town Hall Meeting so that we can do our small part to help ensure that follow-up is indeed what happens.  And if things catch on here, who knows?  Perhaps a proactive, constructive method or mobilizing the community can be developed and popularized in time to create an alternative in which The Fire This Time can be used to warm us instead of burning our own house down.