(WEST BALTIMORE – January 4, 2019) – When I look at the West Baltimore community where I have lived since I was 9 years old, I see a once beautiful place that has since become not only an eye sore, but a sort of ‘valley of dry bones’. Despite all of the political careers I have seen come and go over the past 40 years here, despite all of the campaign speeches and political promises, despite all of the policies that have done more harm than good to my community – the place I remember as a child is inundated with drugs, vacant houses, and lots of crime.
The crack epidemic has been wreaking consistent havoc since its inception in the 80s. Nearly four decades later, this same community is being so pulverized with heroin and cocaine laced with Fentanyl that it is nothing to see white addicts copping dope in a Sandtown alley. Not that long ago, such a thing was impossible.
The community I love has fallen apart at the seams. Mass incarceration is no help. While America has 5% of the world’s population, it also has 25% of the inmates, 44% of whom are African American men with black women starring as the fastest rising demographic.
So, with broken black families seemingly ubiquitous throughout West Baltimore, and East Baltimore, too – with Grandma coppin’ a bag of dope from her own grandson – there is really no wonder why things are the way they are.
Or is there?
Not that long ago, I was introduced to the term ‘the white L and the black butterfly’. As it relates to Baltimore, an historically blue-collar town, the white L goes from Johns Hopkins University straight down the Inner Harbor and over to Canton. The black butterfly, on the other hand, is West and East Baltimore.
Long story short, over the past 50 years – at least, all of the major resources have gone into the white L while the black butterfly gets crumbs, if anything at all.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is why we have such high levels of poverty, crime, under-education and under-employment in Baltimore’s black community today. This is why we have a murder rate that has put our beloved city at the top of America’s most deadliest places to live.
My point is that politics without economics is worthless. My point is also that despite all of the politicians that I have seen in my community in my lifetime, very few have made a difference because – for whatever reasons – they have not brought home the money, nor have they convinced the culprits of institutional racism to finally invest in the black community.
I say that because when it’s election time, I see so many people running for office. I see the campaign signs. I even get the privilege to see political deeds in action. I might add that I also see the majority of the political people in my community insisting we as a community keep voting for Democrats. In my best estimation, Democrats are mostly responsible for the plight in my community.
Yet, I am reminded that Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s unprecedented and long-overdue $47.5 million investment in my alma mater, Coppin State University, back in 2005 combined with yesterday’s announcement of the $56.5 million expansion of the Opportunity Zone by Gov. Larry Hogan at the Walbrook Lumber Mill active construction site – right next door to Coppin – clearly demonstrates who is really investing in my beloved community.
The thing is, both Ehrlich and Hogan are Republicans.
For those who do not know, Coppin’s new Health and Human Services building that stands proudly today replaced a once decayed community that had fallen prey to decades of dis-investment. I grew up around the corner from Warwick Avenue – and Thomas Avenue – and Whitmore. This was one murderous place. Reginald ‘Lil’ Reggie Matthews lived there. His murder was but one. Then there was Darryl Motley. He, too, was killed. I grew up with them. Played ball with them. Went to school with them. Now, they are gone. They didn’t make it to 21 – if I’m not mistaken.
But, today, there is now a beautiful addition to the community. Those streets and alleys are now replaced with something magnificent. And with the new Walbrook Lumber Mill coming, I see a new West Baltimore that took far too long for someone to care enough to help it.
Yet, all of these Democratic elected officials in Baltimore – most of whom are black – have always told the community to vote for the Dems. Whether Democrat or Republican, a racist is a racist. Whether they are liberal or conservative, it does not matter. One can simply tell from their actions just where their allegiance lies. While North and Charles can get transformed overnight, people act like they don’t see the blight 15 blocks to the east or west.
Clearly, our Democratic leaders have been terribly ineffective at bringing home resources to East and West Baltimore – the parts where black folks live. There have been virtually no new rec centers and as for the new schools being built, they are not being built in the neighborhoods that need them the most. I think Baltimore’s black Democratic leaders are too busy kowtowing to everyone but their very own community. Sadly, Baltimore’s white power brokers have successfully neutralized any significant investment from happening in the black community aka the black L for the past five decades.
Nonetheless, it took a Republican governor to come into these horrifically neglected communities with Project CORE that has finally begun to address Baltimore’s abject poverty marked by a rash of vacant houses located primarily in the black community, a situation only exacerbated by the tragic death of Freddie Gray in 2015 when this city saw its first riots in 47 years. When national and international media came to Penn-North, some thought that the devastation they saw was caused by the riots and were shell-shocked to learn that things have been this was for decades.
Lastly, I must pay homage to Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, a man I’ve known for 15 years, a man with a mountain of character. I am very proud of him and very confident that he will continue to effectively serve the people. He once served as Secretary of the Maryland Department of General Services under Ehrlich, a powerful position in the government in which he managed a major state budget. At yesterday’s announcement, Gov. Hogan announced that Rutherford will now lead the Maryland Opportunity Zone Leadership Task Force.
According to Rutherford, “The governor’s leadership and vision has made the revitalization of our most vulnerable communities a top priority for the state. This is an exciting endeavor, one in which I believe will truly make a difference in those communities that need our assistance the most.”
Truth be told, many expect him to be the next governor – which is just dandy with me. This guy gets it. He’s not afraid of his people. He speaks truth to power. He’s humble, a family man, and he gives a damn, something I wish Democrats here would finally understand. More importantly, he understands that very little can get done in America without money, especially in Black America.
Great job, Gov. Hogan! Keep it up!