Things were a little crazy last night, but we are all fine. My neighborhood, Bolton Hill, basically abuts West Baltimore, the area that experienced the most looting and violence last night. While Bolton Hill is on the West Side, it is not West Baltimore. Still, the small shopping center in my neighborhood (containing a grocery store, a hardware store, a laundromat, and a RiteAid), was looted– twice– yesterday. In the end, my neighbors confronted the looters and chased them away, apparently with the help of pepper spray, brooms, and gardening tools.
It was all scary, and sad. I am still processing what I think and feel about all this, and of course, “it” may not yet be over. So this post is a short one. But I wanted to tell a few stories that I suspect will be left out of the media coverage:
- Aside from the shopping center, my neighborhood experienced NO property damage and NO injuries. This morning, when I drove off in my car, I realized that the passenger-side door was open, rattling in the frame. I stopped to close it and discovered that it was not latched– it was actually ajar. Yet not a penny was touched.
- During the rioting (I still hesitate to call it a riot), the Pennsylvania Avenue Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the first public library open to African Americans, remained open to ensure the safety of members of the community. The library is located at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and North Ave., just a few blocks from my house, an intersection that was the center of one of the main confrontations between rioters and police. The Central/Main Branch, which was also at the center of another area of looting and violence, closed. I am not blaming them at all, just mentioning this to emphasize how brave the Penn Branch staff was to stay open. Here is a picture of their dedicated staff.
- Red Emma’s, the anarchist book store that occupies another corner of the neighborhood, is also on North Ave. They are open today and offering free lunch to all school kids (Baltimore City schools are closed today). However, there is also a youth curfew in place from 5am-10pm, so I am not sure how many kids will be able to partake of the lunch. Still, we all appreciate the gesture.
- This morning, I met members of the Bolton Hill women’s tennis team at a club in the suburbs north of the city, where we played our first match of “interclub” competition this spring. Needless to say, most of our opponents belong to country clubs. I was relieved that we were playing a tennis-only club today. Many of our opponents, like all of us on the Bolton Hill team, live in the city. It was really strange, but therapeutic, to be with my fellow neighbors today, engaging in friendly competition. We lost, but the camaraderie and the sight of my friends in sunglasses and tennis skirts was a welcome return to normalcy after a stressful and mostly sleepless night.
- As I drove out of the neighborhood, the sky was a brilliant blue, dotted with fluffy clouds and abundant sunshine. The tulips are in riotous bloom, as are the redbud trees. It is beautiful here in Baltimore right now.
- At the corner of North Ave. and Mt. Royal, I spotted one of the intersection’s regular panhandlers– a young, petite woman who holds a sign asking for help for “a homeless single mom.” She has beautiful strawberry-blonde hair and freckles, probably in her early thirties. She looks younger, but when you roll down your window you can see she is missing teeth and has many premature wrinkles. I try to give her a dollar or two every time I pass her– it always makes her cry. She usually recognizes me now, but always waits for me to signal her before coming over. Today, she heard me honk, and walked slowly up to me as I sat at the red light. She was already crying when she got up to my window. When I handed her a couple of bucks, I asked her how she did last night, and she lifted up her shades to reveal a huge, swollen black eye. “I can’t see,” she said. I’m not sure if she recognized me. I squeezed her hand and told her to take care. I wasn’t sure what else to say.
Here is a picture of the park across the street from my house. Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t Baltimore beautiful? This city is troubled. But I have to hope that we can get through this. #ThisIsMyBaltimore