Remembering Freddie Gray and the Baltimore Uprisings
One year ago today the city instituted a 10:00pm curfew and cancelled school the next day.
By Juliana Neves, Loyola University
Go back a year ago.
It was the start of spring finals, and summer was only ten days away. As I sat trying to study, ten days seemed endless. I couldn’t concentrate. Something felt wrong about trying to pretend nothing had happened the night before. I realized I couldn’t just sit on my perfect little campus while the world around seemed to be on the verge of a revolution. So, I searched all over Facebook to find out if there was anything to do (classic college move).
I found information about a student-led demonstration taking place downtown, and decided that I needed to be there. Screw exams, this was more important. I called up a couple friends and we got ourselves down to PennStation, the meeting point for the demonstration.
We got there and I saw more police officers than I had ever before. Dozens, hundreds of cops in bulletproof vests lined the outside of the train station. I felt my stomach sink a little and thought, “What am I getting myself into?”
The butterflies didn’t have a lot of time though, because before I knew it I was chanting and charging downtown. We joined a group of people walking down to the next meeting point, City Hall. When I turned the corner, I saw something I will never forget. A sea of people surrounded by the National Guard and hovering TV helicopters.
A female student from Goucher was on top of a truck speaking in a bullhorn. It is fair to say the butterflies came back, but for a different reason. For the first time, I was happy being a statistic. I was proud to be part of something bigger than myself.
That night we shut down Baltimore. Most importantly, it was peaceful.
Elderly women, mothers, children, black, white, brown and every color in between were there that day.
That was the morning after what would later come to be called the Baltimore Uprisings (not riots, uprisings), which were sparked by the killing of Freddie Gray.
Although Gray lived only four miles from my college campus, his world seemed like a galaxy away. The media capitalized on the disparity, and I remember watching the news and thinking it looked like Baltimore on fire. It looked like we were trapped on campus awaiting a zombie apocalypse.
The media replayed the same clips over and over and over, as if every corner of the city was crumbling down. However, the days after when people came together to clean the city, celebrating solidarity and marching together peacefully, the media all of a sudden forgot to keep rolling. That day, I marched with 5,000 other people, but no one will ever know.
One year later, looking back on the events of last spring, I realized that misconceptions about the Uprisings and Baltimore are still present.
A group of students and I started an initiative at the school to try to raise awareness about the Uprisings, honor Freddie Gray and others effected by police brutality and call on our fellow students to keep striving towards inclusivity. We did this by hosting lectures, arranging quad demonstrations and maintaining a campus vigil. We received both support and backlash, especially from students via social media. I saw how divided my school is and how certain issues can divide friends.
I wanted to squash some of the misconceptions I met last week.
The #BlackLivesMatter Movement is not an anti-police campaign.
Last week, I saw many people supporting Blue Lives Matter, which is a campaign to support police officers, especially those who feel targeted by the BLM movement. BLM is not anti-cop, plain and simple.
Instead it calls for a reformation of police policies in order to bring back trust between citizens and those who protect them. There is an issue if my fellow students of color, especially men, have to be trained how to deal with police officers because they are afraid of getting hurt.
I like to put it in a short analogy: Not all police officers are violent, and not all black people are criminals, but there is an issue that needs to be dealt with.
BLM is not saying that all other lives don’t matter.
BLM is instead saying that black lives matter too! The movement wants to draw attention to a minority that has faced significant obstacles, but that in no way takes away from other groups of people.
There is a difference between ally-ship and appropriation.
I am a student of color, but I am not black. I identify as an ally, meaning that I support the cause even though I am not directly affected. Being an ally means using your privilege (and at times sacrificing it), to allow others the chance to speak and be heard.
I noticed that many people shared videos on Facebook about love, liked statuses about injustice or went on rants to show that they are an ally. That’s not being an ally, that’s using someone else’s struggle to make yourself feel better about yourself.
Think about it like a concert. As an ally you are the back up singers, the band and the stage crew. You help the lead singer get to the audience in the most effective and impactful way possible. As much as you are part of the performance, in the end it’s the singer’s time.
Everyone has a right to speak.
Regardless of what you believe, whether you think someone is right or wrong.
Everyone, even that kid who supports Trump, has a right to voice their opinion. Free speech is a thing people! Even if you might not agree with someone, you have to hear them out (and then kindly show them why they are wrong).
As corny as it sounds, compassion is the key.
Calling someone stupid, racist or ignorant does little to change their stupidity, racism or ignorance. People need to compassionate to others and try to educate.
The reality is you can’t change everyone, but yelling at someone in all caps on Facebook just makes you look like a middle school bully.
My school is walking in the right direction, but has many miles to cover. However, I have faith that as long as we keep moving forward, we will get to where we want to be.