Two Years After Freddie Gray: What’s Changed?

Freddie Gray protest at the Baltimore Police Department Western District building at N. Mount St. and Riggs Ave. Photo credit: Veggies, Wikimedia Commons

It has been more than two years since the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, sparked protest and rebellions that were seen around the world. I remembered being in Baltimore City, taking photos and sending them to my Facebook page, providing first-hand accounts of what was taking place. The anger, the frustration, the pain was all captured by the media from around the world.

The quote most often attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the rebellion was, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” It was often cited, although few cited it in context. What Dr. King actually told the late CBS newscaster Mike Wallace in 1966 was:

“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight to condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.”

“These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.”

That night, in the streets of Baltimore, demonstrators, black, white and Latino, were all shouting “No Justice, No Peace.” We all witnessed the massive police presence, later coupled with the National Guard. A “War Room” was created. Drones were dispensed. Tensions were at an all-time high. The media, to its credit, provided us with the data about the “conditions.”

Almost in unison, preachers and politicians were on the same accord: “We must get things back to normal,” they said to all of the television stations that recorded their every word.

Slowly, but surely, Baltimore City returned back to “normal.” Two years later, you see and feel the “normalcy.” In the area known as Sandtown-Winchester, the unemployment rate is 22 percent. Forty-six percent of the children are living below the poverty level. Normalcy also requires amnesia. The last major disturbance in Baltimore City was not in 1968, but in 1979, when Baltimore broke into riots and looting during a terrible snow storm. Forgetting that the United States Justice Department’s critique and searing analysis of the “conditions” that exist in Baltimore City require major and expensive changes.

Normalcy also requires amnesia. The last major disturbance in Baltimore City was not in 1968, but in 1979, when Baltimore broke into riots and looting during a terrible snow storm. Normalcy requires ignoring that the United States Justice Department’s searing analysis of the “conditions” that exist in Baltimore said that the City requires major and expensive changes.

In interview after interview, the “voiceless” expressed the need for jobs. Mothers wanted an end to the street violence in the city. People were looking for hope and a new tomorrow. A young man on Division Street in Baltimore City, who was being interviewed by a television station, said, “Ain’t nothing going to change. When the television cameras leave, we are going to be in the same situation.” Little did the young cynic know that change was coming, almost 100 days ago: a perfidious man named Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States of America.

Information is power. Justice is indivisible. Truth is revealing. Keep the faith. Keep Hope Alive.

A Luta Continua!

Carl Snowden is a political and civil rights leader in Annapolis.

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Carl Snowden and Associates were founded in 1985. It is a private consultant firm that specializes in addressing bias and institutional racism. Its founder Carl Snowden and the company have been featured in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the Baltimore Sun. The company working with the ACLU in Maryland have won cases involving voting rights, employment discrimination and sexual harassment.