One Baltimore #1, Introduction

5/4/19

I’ve known for a long time that I need to fundamentally change how I interact with social media in order to stay healthy and still be on it. It messes me up, my brain chemistry is way too hooked by it. I’ve been so deeply distracted and tired and anxious, and yeah I’d probably/definitely be all those things anyway, but facebook in particular elevates all of it, even at the same time that it connects me to so much that’s going on around me.

So I’ve been changing up how I use it. Taking breaks, focusing on certain types of posts, making everything public to destroy the illusion of privacy for myself, adding people on the basis that they seem cool and are in my orbit (don’t sweat it if you thought all this time I must be an old friend you’d forgotten or something and you wanna hit that unsubscribe).

I’m an impulsive communicator by nature, I want to share everything and comment on everything. But when you share everything, no one sees your posts unless you’re already extremely popular – that’s the nature of the current news feed algorithm, you have to space things out. And when you comment on everything, you get hooked into a hundred conversations at once. It’s just too much to have as the background noise of my life.

Opening things up seems to help me be more judicious in my postings, most of the time, at least. I made a post yesterday about the kids in the concentration camps on the southern border and I think I went overboard with it in some ways, ended up deleting it. I’ll reiterate a few key things – 1) there is a massive crime against humanity happening to thousands of children, 2) we need to take it with the utmost seriousness and fight it if we can, 3) Hopkins has millions of dollars of contracts with ICE and is complicit, 4) JHU prez Ron Daniels (the 7th highest-paid private university president in the US, for the record, making twice what most of his peers make) refuses to meet with students about this despite a one-month sit-in and a letter co-signed by 100 faculty (https://www.facebook.com/TheGarlandSitIn/photos/a.359825954662357/364921690819450/).

So, yeah, follow JHU Sit-In and Hopkins Coalition Against ICE on social media. Stop by Garland Hall (if you put it into google maps, it’ll pop right up) to show support and drop off food, come for the open mic night tonight, stay for the dance party and board games. Write/call: president@jhu.edu / 410-516-8068 and provost@jhu.edu / 410-516-3355. Share the word about this. Public attention and pressure is needed on JHU’s relationship with ICE, overwhelming student and faculty objections to a private police force, and the failure of leadership of Ron Daniels.

Anyway, all of that is to say that I decided to start a column (thanks for reading my first column so far) and have that be the only thing I do on Facebook (other than interacting with events, groups, and sharing emergencies and occasional announcements). Once a week, 1,000-2,000 words a go. Framing it this way for myself, pretending that we got a new alternative weekly (RIP City Paper) and they offered me a spot, feels a lot more workable than just sternly telling myself that I should post less and be more focused when I do. This WordPress blog I added as an after-thought.

The name, One Baltimore, is a phrase I’ve been thinking about for years. I grew up in Woodlawn, by the I-70 park & ride on the western edge of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. It’s a mixed-race, working-class area, same redbrick rowhouses as in many of its sister neighborhoods to the east over the city line.

I was so confused by it all when I was small. We lived in Baltimore, I knew that, but other times people said “Baltimore” and they didn’t mean me and my family, they meant this place a few minutes’ drive away (which in my mental map, basically consisted of the twisting woods of the park, the Aquarium, the Zoo, the BMA, and the JCC in Park Heights, with some distinctive thoroughfares in between). How could we be in Baltimore but not in Baltimore? And, a more vague question in my mind: what was this place that seemed to encompass all the best places?

More on all that another time. It’s been such an intense week. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I was in DC for this progressive political convention called People’s Wave. It was refreshing and intense, tons of people talking about climate change and mass incarceration with equal passion. A lot of the focus was on healthcare, which seems very wise to me. It touches us all, it’s terribly broken and exploitative, and the lack of it is debilitating our communities – how can we be effective on anything else when our communities are debilitated?

On Tuesday, Congress debated a Medicare for All bill for the first time. Along with friends from Progressive Maryland, the Maryland Progressive Healthcare Coalition and others, I went to a brief protest at Ruppersburger’s office, then to two long conversations with staff at Hoyer and Van Hollen’s offices.

You know the amazing thing about the group that organized the convention, People’s Action? Their underlying political organizing strategy is literally just for people to practice having deep conversations with other people in our communities and finding out how we can stand in solidarity with each other. There’s a lot of work layered on top of that, of course, but that’s the base. I’m really about it.

Then came Wednesday, when Tawanda Jones held the 300th West Wednesday vigil in a row for her brother, Tyrone West. It was the 70th Yom HaShoah aka Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was the 129th International Worker’s Day aka May Day, it was the 29th day of the JHU Sit-in and the first day the sit-in claimed the entire admin building, it was the eve of Mayor Pugh’s resignation, and everything felt like it magnified everything else.

That night was incredibly important to me. I wrote a long post about it (https://www.facebook.com/abby.cocke/posts/10216926160920258) but barely even touched on so much that was good about it. I know there were a lot of people involved, but I have to give special props to Baltimore Bloc for their role in safely blocking the street and running the mics.

The young man who was leading the chants as we walked down St. Paul and then around in front of the broad BMA steps had the most excellent energy. There was the familiar – “What do we want?” “Justice!” “When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it, shut it down!” – and then we got more specific, calling for justice for a long litany of names from around the country and the city, and also for neighborhoods, Sandtown, Westside, Mideast.

Then came the equally familiar — “Show me what democracy looks like” “This is what democracy looks like!” – but after democracy, he asked us about community, motivation, dedication, kinship, friendship, and love. Each time we thundered back louder that it was us. What is solidarity? The state of being solid. That night, moreso than in a very long time, maybe ever in my life, I felt solid with all of Baltimore, not still straddling some weird and confusing line (though of course I still am, in many ways).

Later that night, I thought a lot about Keith Davis, Jr. He was attacked by BPD over a fake accusation of murder, shot 44 times and nearly killed, and now is being prosecuted over and over and over in a legal nightmare as they attempt to silence him. It is so, so, so bad. If you don’t know much yet, please check out some of the news:

I thought about my sister. I imagined this happening to her. I don’t know anything about Keith as a person, but I took all of the pain of imagining Miriam going through that series of events, and tried to merge it with my feelings about him. What if this man was my brother? What if he really was, like those crazy stories you hear sometimes about twins separated at birth and adopted out to different homes who only find each other much later?

Well damn, I’d at least show up for his court date on July 12th — https://www.facebook.com/events/281353249417978/ Please invite people, share, and join if you can!

You can also find this column on Facebook under the name Abby Sea. Please feel free to message me if you want to talk about getting involved in local political organizing, local DIY theater, and/or in local greening efforts, particularly around gardening, farming, trees, and schools (my day job).

Cultural event of the week: check out the Baltimore Mixtape all this weekend at the YNot Lot in Station North, this is such an amazing collection of local bands, it’s going to be wonderful and I can’t wait to stop by in a bit!! https://www.mt.cm/baltimore-mixtape

Green event of the week: The second annual Baltimore Wildlife Week just started, and there are a bunch of parties, art shows, tours, talks, and such going on. If you think nature is cool, it’s a LOT! Events this weekend are at Charm City MeadWorks in Johnston Square, love those guys and their drinks! https://www.nwf.org/Mid-Atlantic/Baltimore

Song of the week: “Pot Holes” by Ezra Furman 
And I admit it’s inconvenient /To get robbed in a combat zone / Well, shit, I had to cancel my credit card / Had to buy me a brand new phone / But it’s a beautiful city /And the cops are on our side / I mosey down to check out the angry mob / Just to keep myself occupied

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