While in Baltimore for my holiday break my homie Will sent me a text about a rally for Mike Brown at Morgan State University, asking me if I wanted to head over. As soon as I finished my routine haircut, I grabbed my camera and went to the scene. Although I didn’t make it to my Alma Mater until later, I gained a few thoughts about the incidents that took place, Baltimore City’s reaction, and my own.
It was announced via Twitter that there were two different protests in Baltimore that day. The one I attended stemmed from MSU’s campus and was put together by a group of it’s young activist minds such as Leamon Harris. The other, which was for the same cause of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, was to take place downtown on that same night.
When I inquired about the many protests, Baltimore friend and protester, Keem Griffey, told me this: “ I feel the protests have done a lot of good because its gotten so many people interested and involved that wouldn’t care otherwise. I saw people whose opinions and ideals I respected out there so I inquired and got involved.” Griffey also told me about Tyrone West, who’s death this past July seems strikingly similar to New York’s Eric Garner. Although West had prior inncidents with the police, protocol wasn’t followed, and it’s a part of what makes this reoccuring situation feel indefinite to members of the Black community. Based on accounts from witnesses, he was beaten to death by the officers. An autopsy later determined that he died because of a heart condition compounded by the struggle with police and the summer heat. Garner, too was killed by police in New York, in a situation where proper protocol was not enforced. He died screaming “I Can’t Breathe” while a police officer used a banned chokehold on the victim who suffered from asthma.
I wasn’t sure what difference to expect in Baltimore from attending the New York protests. At home my family pondered what other family members wanted for Christmas. Were people going to let the consistent execution of Black men affect how we acted on the holidays? I’d already decided not to buy any gifts this season because I wasn’t putting any money into anything that wasn’t local. My friends and I all felt like Mike Brown could’ve been us. How could we give them what was in our pockets? I felt like not buying things was a concrete thought toward finding a solution. I was eager to see what fight Baltimore had in them. I wondered if it was the same level of thought in other U.S. cities. I’d heard what was going on in the bay area. The same feeling of hopelessness attached to anger and bitterness stretched across America. My friend Will told me over the phone that almost two-hundred people were there protesting during my haircut, even his mother. My barber, Jesse, finished up and gave me a strong dap on the way out the door. “Be careful,” he said as he leaned in.
Finally arriving to the rally scene around 3pm, I watched as Leamon tried to corral his group and others to “Say it loud” or “Hands Up, Don't Shoot”. Some cops slowly paraded apart from them looming in the background. A helicopter circled the area above us. My friends mom was present, marching with the group in the middle of the street. It wasn’t her son that was shot and had to lay on the ground for 4.5 hours until the ambulance picked him up in Ferguson, Missiouri, but almost 23 years ago she felt the same pain when her unarmed son was killed by police officers in Baltimore, Maryland. Refecting on her plight, I was able to experience something that I hadn’t in New York. I was able to feel someone’s aggression outside of just being black and feeling hounded by the police. I was able to walk with the mother of a victim of the same crime.
By the time I’d arrived on the MSU scene, there was a fleet of cops there just to monitor as the movement fizzled down. I saw a cop smirk as the chants began to calm and students grew tired. He revved up his motorcycle and turned around as if to say that we have no power. Protesters held up traffic, but didn’t receive much of anything in return.The movement had lasted many hours, but it was time to leave for both the cops and the protesters that day. I wondered how the protesters felt and if they left feeling accomplished or still half empty like me. As we move into a new year I wonder what stones we won’t leave unturned and what stones we’ll roll along into the river.