The death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of Baltimore City Police stirred Baltimore as our neighbors took their frustration to the streets to call for justice. These events have forced the city to step back and reflect on issues of poverty, racism, violence and justice- issues that have defined Baltimore’s history.
Here at St. Ambrose, conversation in the halls of 321 E. 25th St has broadened from our usual discussion of the daily developments within our programs to the greater, overarching issues facing our city. We’ve shared the reactions and experiences from our own corners of the city, debated the triumphs and falls of the city school system and police department, exchanged editorials and volunteer opportunities over email, while always reaffirming our commitment to the work that we do.
Below are a few comments contributed from staff members across departments as we reflect on the city that we love and support:
Last week, feelings of empathy for the conditions that brought the rioters to violence fiercely competed with a distaste of the self-destructiveness of the violence and heartache for its negative effects on local businesses and the citizens who relied on them. Sprinklings of hope were added to this stew of emotions as I read, watched, and heard stories of citizens from different backgrounds coming together to clean up, restore peace, and bring healing. With renewed confidence, but a nagging sense of uncertainty, I will wait and see if this groundswell of grassroots collaboration can bring about a broader confrontation with the social and economic problems that affect this city and others like it.
So many emotions were going through my mind and heart as I watched the anger erupt. We love our city. My daughter and family have chosen to live here and my heart ached for them. I also thought of all the people of our world who face this and worse every day. My hope is that we will all face the fact that we have problems. Awareness is the first step. Acceptance is even harder, but I think denial is being cracked. With prayer and confidence that the force for good is stronger than the force for evil, men and women of Baltimore will talk to one another without labeling and take a step at a time. We all swim or we all sink….we are in this together.
I am happy the six police officers will stand trial for the death of Freddie Gray. I hope that our city can move forward to peaceful protests to get our point across without violence.
Defending the city of Baltimore to friends and family who live in other parts of the country has been one of the hardest parts, but it’s always been difficult to convince outsiders that Baltimore is a great place to live. City neighborhoods define and segregate Baltimore, and for too long the rest of the city has ignored and avoided the neighborhoods where the violence erupted. At the same time, I saw a lot of the peaceful protests over the last few weeks going on downtown, and I was so impressed by how many young people are very aware of the problems that face this city and that they want to be a part of the solution. This gives me hope for the future.
As the national media shifts their attention away from Baltimore and the city searches for justice and peace, St. Ambrose continues to do the same thing it set out to do in the wake of the 1968 riots- encourage and support strong and diverse neighborhoods. Our vigor for the work that we do and our commitment to support the city of Baltimore is resolute.