You can’t get around it.
You can’t talk around it. You can’t write around it. And, you certainly can’t walk around it. In fact, on any given day, on any given street in Baltimore, you may run right smack into it.
It’s nearly Thanksgiving as I’m writing this post, and the sobering reality is that Baltimore City has recorded 309 killings. It’s a fact too big to ignore. It’s a situation too shameful to speak about. It’s a reality we can’t pretend doesn’t exist. Like the elephant in the room or the emperor’s new clothes, it’s obvious and discomforting.
Lest we get too focused on a big number – “309” and most probably growing before the year is out – let’s be clear that we’re not talking about numbers. We’re talking about people – lives lost – and, the terrible realization that we got to this place so senselessly – one person, one brother, one son, one cousin, one parent – at a time. The other terrible realization is that having gotten to this place, there are no do-overs; no corrections; nothing we can take back or wish it were not so.
No matter how cramped or cornered we feel or how hard we try to cover or, even worse, ignore our nakedness – the elephant is showing no signs of leaving the room and the emperor, as any child can see, hasn’t a stitch on.
This Thanksgiving, as we gather with family and friends to feast according to our own customs and traditions, I hope that in addition to the standard recitations of “what we are most grateful for,” we also will take time to struggle with the tough and present truths in our city. I also hope that we will continue to wrestle until we can glimpse a little light – until we can begin to see the promise our city and all the people who live in it hold. Whatever wrestling we do, however we choose to engage in the struggle, there’s one thing we know for sure – in Baltimore, starting now, we need to listen to each other and we need to listen better.
If you haven’t seen this month’s special edition of the Baltimore Urbanite (100th issue, November 2015) – “Truth, Reconciliation, and Baltimore” – I highly recommend it. These words from an interview with Marie Wilson, who is a member of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, are particularly resonant –
I don’t want to be presumptuous about your situation in the States. I don’t live there. It’s not my truth. All I know is when you create safe space where firsthand accounts with real, lived experiences can be shared—when you bring good people into new rooms and allow each other to hear each other, perhaps for the first time—things can start to shift.
The most commonly used word at our events was “transformative.”
If you create mechanisms for people to take forward what they have learned, people will do good things.
These are all good places from which Baltimore can begin. Safe spaces where people can
share their lived experiences and be heard. People of good will and right intention gathering together in new rooms instead of in War Rooms. Honest and ongoing conversations about the possibility of transformation, rather than the inevitability of degradation. And, something positive for each of us to hold onto, to carry forward, and to use to do good for ourselves and others.
In closing, let me share with you a few words of gratitude from our current class of Caroline Center trainees. Words that come from their hearts and out of their experiences.
I want you to hear them. I need you to listen. Because if you do, maybe, just maybe, “things can start to shift.”
Thank you for taking a chance on me and sponsoring my education at Caroline Center. Because of you, I will start a new career in 2016. Because of you, I will be successful and I will continue to have many blessings and opportunities. Thank you. Tayler
Caroline Center has been a wonderful blessing in my life, thanks to you. Now, I possess the tools and skills I need to be successful in my new profession. I plan to take this opportunity to the next level and be the best Pharmacy Technician Caroline Center has ever graduated! Thank you. Daphney
You have helped me realize that I am capable of greatness in my life. Without your kindness, my education at Caroline Center would not have been possible. For your generosity and for believing in someone you don’t even know, I am forever grateful. Desireé