So, I pen this article for everyone getting dressed for work, who are putting on their masks. For every student who is not only carrying the textbooks to improve their minds, but who also bear the weight of this reality on their backs. For everyone who has wept this morning because they are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
For men and women whose emotions are boiling over because the pressure of frustration has them swinging wildly at the phantoms of racism and brutality which haunt them every news cycle.
– from “Another Day Wearing the Mask,” by Big Baba Rob
As I write this early morning post, Caroline Center trainees are getting dressed for work, gathering up their textbooks, and waiting for the bus. More than a few are blotting away the tears. And, many more than we want to admit are putting on their masks. Because that’s what society expects. That’s what others need. It’s just another day. It’s part of the routine.
Four hundred and fifty miles away – but feels more like it’s right down the end of the block – Keith Lamont Scott waits for the bus that will bring his son home from school. It’s just another day. It’s part of the routine. But he never sees his son. Because the police see him first. Because? I know deep inside that he died wearing his mask. Because.
Education is something we all need.
Not because it makes us smarter. Because it makes us change.
Whether you call it a renaissance or a revolution, maybe Baltimore is about to start one. About to become The City That Reads, Redux. About to read, write, speak, and slam its way onto the map of shared humanity. About to become a place where Black Lives Matter is the new “just another day in Black America.” Is the new just another day in all America.
Speaking of America. What would happen if citizens lost their right to carry?
Does it keep you up at night?
I mean books, not guns.
What did happen? What is happening?
Today, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Tomorrow, where?
I don’t want to talk about tomorrow, right now. It’s pretty hard to talk at all.
Recently, City Paper writer Tariq Touré caught up with author and east Baltimore neighbor D. Watkins in the wee hours of the morning at The Bun Shop. He had a few words to say about tomorrow, and about books and reading – “Bro, from first through third grade the average kid is learning to read. From then on out they’re reading to learn. If these black kids don’t learn how to read, they’ll never understand the game being played out here. It’s like 10 things out here waiting to kill us. Reading prepares you for the first three.”
Okay. I hear you, D. So, let’s do the math. If you add this up, we might be getting somewhere. Team Baltimore – Winner of the National Poetry Slam + Sadiq Ali + MK Asante + Nakia Brown + Ta-Nehisi Coates + Cija Jefferson + Bilphena Yahwon + + + . . . all masters of the spoken and written word that are sky-rocketing Baltimore onto the literary landscape and, we hope, anchoring our city firmly and squarely on the map of shared humanity.
When women come to Caroline Center to learn and prepare for new careers as certified nursing assistants and pharmacy technicians, we share with them our hope that this place will be for them “a place of delight and rest.”
The work here is challenging, but pleasantly so. You can leave your mask at the door. Find healing. Create a new reality for yourself. Delight and rest.
Not long ago, I listened to what Michelle Campbell, CNA/GNA, had to say to her classmates at graduation. That day, I knew for a fact her vision was better than 20/20. That she could see the mask and under the mask at the same time.
“What does a Caroline Center woman look like? I say, ‘strong.’ She cultivates her own history, and she shows her authentic self. She understands and appreciates her own strength; and, she uses her strength to achieve her own success.”
With a deeper understanding of all who wear their masks and great respect for all who have died doing so, I offer these words from Big Baba Rob as our new anthem. All rise.
These dark days will not break us. Our spirits may bend as we struggle with another death in our community, but our spirits will never be broken. They can never be broken. Be strong people, we will endure. We shall overcome.
Quoted material in this month’s post should be credited to: “Another Day Wearing the Mask,” by Big Baba Rob, firstname.lastname@example.org; “Summer of the Slam: How two fearless Baltimore poetry slam teams took over the nation,” by Fire Angelou, City Paper (July 6, 2016); “Baltimore, The City That Reads Again: Black writers in Baltimore look to connect with local kids like never before,” by Tariq Toure, City Paper (July 6, 2016)