“This City Is Just One Big Memorial, Candlelight Vigils Every Week": Black Violence Frustrates Historic Black Cultural Hub In Baltimore
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Why does this only happen when individual blacks collectively congregate in a neighborhood, store, restaurant, school, sporting event (or basically anywhere in America)? Asking for a friend…

Violence Frustrates Historic Black Cultural Hub in Baltimore, by Victoria Todorova, WBOC, February 2, 2023

BALTIMORE (AP) – Joe Johnson-Winfield remembers when west Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue attracted locals and tourists alike to its renowned jazz clubs, upscale shops and vibrant nightlife. Back then, the bustling commercial strip, also known as The Avenue, was a Black cultural hub frequented by civil rights leaders.

Over a half-century later, nearly everything has changed.

On his way to the store for cat food Monday morning, Johnson-Winfield walked past the scene of a Saturday evening shootout that killed two people and left three others injured.

At least one of the gunshot victims, a young mother, was an apparent bystander. She was waiting for takeout with her two small children when gunfire broke out, according to police. She tried to drive away, but a bullet left her critically wounded behind the wheel. Her vehicle continued down the block before crashing into a pole. The children—a baby and a toddler—both suffered serious injuries from the crash. The woman died Monday in the hospital, police said.

Less than two weeks earlier, a man was stabbed to death at the same busy intersection, which includes a subway stop, corner stores and other businesses.

The brazen displays of violence left residents on edge, worried for their safety and further frustrated at the current state of Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood, which emerged during segregation as a bastion of Black culture and entertainment. Its cultural artifacts include the childhood home of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and a bronze statue of jazz legend Billie Holiday, who also had roots in west Baltimore and performed at nearby clubs.

But since Upton’s heyday, the area has experienced a steady decline driven by urban flight and growing disinvestment.

“It breaks your heart,” said Johnson-Winfield, 65, a semi-retired hair stylist and lifelong resident of the area.

He gestured toward nearby blighted buildings and overgrown lots, familiar signs of poverty in an environment largely defined by the local drug trade and its devastating impacts: addiction, homelessness and violence. People were milling around on the sidewalks, some exhibiting obvious signs of substance abuse.

Several makeshift memorials commemorated the recent victims with balloons, candles, liquor bottles, stuffed animals and photos. Trash bins lined the sidewalk, overflowing with discarded yellow crime tape.

“This city is just one big memorial, candlelight vigils every week,” Johnson-Winfield said, shaking his head sadly at the number of young men carrying guns and resorting to violence in Baltimore, which recently recorded over 300 annual homicides for the eighth consecutive year [i.e., since the Baltimore Riots over the accidental death of drug dealer Freddie Gray].

Happy Black History Month!

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