Where is the Bottom for Black Baltimore?


By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
[email protected]

There have been two reported school shootings in Baltimore City since 2000 and both of them happened last year.

In Feb. 2019, a 25-year old man was approached by a member of Frederick Douglass High School’s staff, who inquired about his presence in the school and the intruder shot the Douglass employee. The employee sustained non-life threatening injuries. In Nov. 2019, a 19-year old student was shot in the leg on the property of the Reginald F. Lewis High School.

So, Baltimore has been mostly spared the plague of school shootings and mass school shootings that has infected so many parts of this country for so long.

But, a shooting on Feb. 24, outside a complex of schools in West Baltimore is hitting particularly close to home for many.

Sean Yoes

A shootout reportedly around 1 p.m. between men in cars on Dukeland St., near Gwynns Falls Parkway in Northwest Baltimore, left one man dead, another injured and hundreds of children and their teachers scrambling to shelter in place.

The schools that were in the danger zone during this daytime gun battle included: the Dayspring Head Start, Gwynns Falls Elementary School, Connexions High School and the Bard High School Early College Baltimore.

I thank God none of the children or staff members at these schools terrorized by wanton gunmen were physically harmed or killed. Still, this shooting hit me hard for personal reasons.

Full disclosure, I attended Gwynns Falls Elementary School (“Big 60 and Little 60) when I was a little boy in the 1970s; it’s the neighborhood where I grew up. My niece graduated second in her class from Connexions High School in 2011. In fact, my sister and I struggled to get my niece out of a very troubled middle school to transfer her to Connexions where she thrived.

The Bard High School Early College Baltimore has become an oasis to many in our city seeking a bastion for some of the most intelligent, academically gifted and talented young men and women in the city.

Bard is unique i that it provides an opportunity for students to take a two-year, tuition free college course of study in liberal arts and sciences after the 9th and 10th grades. Students can actually earn their high school diploma, as well as an Associate of Arts degree (and up to 60 transferable college credits) from Bard within four years. The academic rigor offered by the school is a dream come true for some of our extraordinary young people and their parents.

 

Two of those Bard students ducking under tables for their lives, a brother and sister are connected closely to a community I am also connected to. The boy is a freshman at Bard, his sister is a sophomore and they both love their school. I know them both and they are beautifully brilliant young people, with very high academic ceilings. But, after that shooting (one of the bullets allegedly struck the school) the young man did not want to attend school the next day (Feb. 25).

I never missed a day of high school, because I loved my high school (Walbrook) like my young friends love Bard. But, I never had to contend with bullets flying outside my school; that thought never entered my mind.

A very close friend of mine is like a sister to the mother of the two young people I’m talking about. When she told me what happened she cried, not just for the fate of the children she loves so much, but for the fate of all of the city’s children who deserve to be safe in school; to learn, evolve and grow with impunity.

The prolific violence we witnessed at the end of 2019, tragically embodied in the murder of Destiny Harrison in December, felt like the bottom for me. Add another record-setting year for homicides, to more seemingly rampant political and police corruption and Baltimore feels like a spiritually dark place right now.

But, when “men” have shootouts in front of schools, maybe the bottom just fell out for our community. I wonder if the gunmen would have been dissuaded if hundreds of children had been streaming out of those schools around dismissal time? 

I doubt it.

For centuries, federal and local governments have systematically “with all deliberate speed” attempted to treat our children within the public school system as second class citizens, like ni—-s to be real about it.

Unfortunately, there are people who physically appear to be Black who also seem hell bent on disregarding and dehumanizing our children.

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of Baltimore’s Great Imperiled Cities.



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