On April 18th — one day before the death of Freddie Gray — concerned Baltimoreans protested in front of the Western District Building: an initial and powerful symbol of community coming together to protest police abuses in African American communities. For a little over 2 weeks, “mainstream” media developed as its primary narrative one of “violent rioters” with little historical context or analysis.
On this one-year Anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray, we the undersigned — leaders of Black-led organizations working for racial justice and Black economic development — offer the following narrative: one in which “mainstream” media has shown no interest, and one that is happening every day in communities of color like the one in which Freddie Gray lived and died:
The Baltimore Uprising was not just about the death of Freddie Gray. The Uprising was the birth of a social movement that is multi-faceted, still developing, and operating as direct service in communities, advocacy efforts regarding policy, philanthropic efforts, and collaborative efforts to promote and support Black empowerment, leadership, and agency.
Black-led, as well as other, organizations continue to work in those communities the media and policy-makers have forgotten. From the focus on creating more effective philanthropy and equitable policies by an Associated Black Charities or an Equity Matters; to clothing and food drives and policy advocacy by a Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle; to addressing the mental health and healing needs by a Black Mental Health Alliance; to using faith as a social change tool like a KineticsLive or a Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore; to providing world-class data and other analysis from an African American worldview by a Morgan State University Institute of Urban Research; to teaching our children from an African Diasporic perspective by Orita’s Cross Freedom School and Pleasant Hope Baptist Church; to consulting and coaching for institutional transformation toward racial equity by Baltimore Racial Justice Action: the fight for justice for children, families, and communities of color has never stopped.
We acknowledge the Generational Struggle. Many would say “this is not your granddaddy’s movement.” And it is not. Today, even in the midst of injustice we have more protections than our foremothers and fathers and we give thanks to those upon whose shoulders we stand. We also recognize the differences in today’s Movement and while we honor the past, we understand that each generation forges its own way and re-makes the Movement in the image of the social circumstances and injustices of the day while maintaining its continuous generational cord. And as a multi-generational movement, we are unwavering in our support of each other.
And so this Movement stands.
We stand in the umbrella of what happened to Freddie Gray and a multitude of others across the country, and in the hope that justice will be done for those accused.
We understand that “universalists” policies that perpetuate and then ignore racialized implementations and impacts are inexcusable forms of violence that our children have to face every day; forms of violence that truncate their opportunities and access, and in doing so, kill their futures. We clearly see that this violence is so normal — and color-coded — that it is easy to deny and normal to ignore.
And we stand in the knowledge that – despite the prevailing social narrative — we continue to be committed to saving ourselves.
On this one-year anniversary of the Baltimore Uprising, we recommit: recommit to fighting for a future for our young ones and our Elders, for those disenfranchised, and for those who have economically “made it” but still live in the shadow of America’s “original sin”: racism.
We understand that after 400 years, our story is still being written and told but this time, the narrative will be our own.
We, the undersigned, are still in The Struggle, remembering Freddie Gray and all who have come before – and preparing those who will emerge.
Associated Black Charities
Baltimore Racial Justice Action
Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc.
Equity Matters and Baltimore Regional Collaborative for Health Equity
Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle
Morgan State University Institute of Urban Research
Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore
Pleasant Hope Baptist Church
Pennsylvania Avenue A.M.E. Zion Church
*WE WELCOME ALL OTHER SIGNERS TO THIS STATEMENT