In Baltimore, A City Struggles To Heal

Freddie Gray 1The City of Baltimore is currently undergoing a serious crisis.  The brutal police killing of Freddie Gray, in which his neck was apparently broken during or immediately after his arrest (for the crime of running away from police, of all things) has ignited first an assertive but peaceful protest on Saturday, April 25, and then a much more confrontational afternoon on Monday, April 27, which resulted in looting, several fires set and a number of assaults, finally leading to the establishment of a state of emergency and a 10pm curfew as the Maryland National Guard was called in.  Meanwhile, the family of Freddie Gray has pleaded for calm as spiritual leaders and community organizers are each working in their own way to try to re-establish an environment of safety and trust for our people, even in the face of an enraged populace, a small but momentarily-active group of looting opportunists and an authoritarian police crackdown.

Freddie Gray Protest 2By now, we have all seen the constant media reports replete with hand-wringing by often-judgmental news anchors and commentators making unwarranted comparisons to the riots that swept the nation in the wake of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.  Anyone in the media (and there apparently are many) who claims to be confused as to why things have escalated like this is either oblivious of history, not paying attention or simply dishonest.  From Rodney King to Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, the people’s anger will erupt into spontaneous violence when they become convinced that “non-violent civil disobedience” and “peaceful protest” will not be heeded.  And the history suggests that when we are civilized the powers that be don’t listen to us until our collective rage erupts.  Something similar is happening here.

The family of Freddie Gray and the people of this city need healing, but most of all we need justice and change, and the lack of that justice and real change, over the decades of school closings, recreation center closings, library closings, cuts to essential services and regular acts of police brutality has contributed to this current crisis in the City that many Pan-Afrikan activists have named after Harriet Tubman.

This Wednesday evening at Fire Station One in Silver Spring, Maryland, Wambara Live will discuss the current situation in Baltimore in an “open-mic” format; we are inviting people to come and share your thoughts.  6pm – 9pm is discussion and networking, with live music from 9pm – 10pm.  Free admission.  The event is at Fire Station One, 8131 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.  For more info, check out our Community Calendar or send me an email at

Freddie Gray Protest 1As for making real change, it’s long past time we who like to call ourselves “community organizers and activists” finally realize that none of us are up to that task alone.  Our individual organizations do not have nearly enough man/womanpower to heal this city and restore Justice and Ma’at alone.  It is long past time for us to get serious about establishing a Cooperative Coalition of Pan-Afrikan Organizations, if not a full-blown Pan-Afrikan United Front.  I hope at least some of us will take the opportunity presented by the Ujima Peoples Progress Party (UPP) Conference this Saturday, May 2 at Coppin State College in Baltimore (8:30am to 5:00pm;; 443-826-9654 for more information) to begin to form such a Cooperative Coalition.  It starts with all of us choosing to leave our silos, our “comfort zones”, and sit at the table together to plan how we will make the Pan-Afrikan Unity we all claim to support a reality at long last.

Bro. Cliff
Editor, KUUMBAReport Online
Maryland State Facilitator, Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (