(BALTIMORE – April 25, 2007) – “city7” – BMoreNews’ 2007 series of citywide political forums - kicked-off in Sandtown last night at the senior center at Baker and Gilmor. Participants included Comptroller Joan Pratt, City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and three candidates seeking to be the next mayor of the beautiful City of Baltimore.
For yours truly, it was indeed a homecoming as Sandtown-Winchester’s Resident Action Committee (RAC) – including soldiers like Ms. Frances Muldrow, a person who cares more than words can say – afforded our team the opportunity to moderate and record the citywide forum.
Thank you, RAC!
Sandtown-Winchester is a 72-square block community in Historic West Baltimore. Its boundaries include Pennsylvania and Cumberland, North and Monroe (heading westward), Monroe and Lafayette (due south), and Arlington and Lafayette. Back in the early nineties, people like Jerry Cross would tell the story of transformation to people like me and countless others. People like Norman Yancey would help empower youth – along with Craig Jernigan and Marvin Hayes and an army - a Sandtown army - of folk. These comrades in the struggle for community transformation, for resident-driven change - would unite and sing a new song.
That song, I know, lives in the hearts and souls of so many from the ‘hood, however muffled by political shifts.
It is the song of Gary Palmer, Antoine Bennett, “Stink”, EZ, Asaan, Aunt Beanie, Miss Chillie, Hooks, Miss Natalie, Father Damien, Susan and Alan, and Miss Goldie.
Don’t worry, these names may mean nothing to you. But here in Sandtown, in a community that has seen entities like Community Building in Partnership, Inc. disgrace this community with nothing said by anybody – and a people who once had hope now have hopelessness, these are the names of people who have kept on for so long with so little that they are now qualified to anything with nothing. And that’s not an original, for the record.
There was a time when former Mayor Kurt Schmoke made Sandtown-Winchester a prime example of what can happen when you love and nurture a place. Mayor Schmoke gave Sandtown love. So much love, that nobody has even glanced here since. Although we have cried and cried and cried, we have nonetheless survived the madness. But – no thanks to City Hall.
My point is that Sandtown-Winchester is a very valuable part of Baltimore. Not one of us is looking for a handout. However, we do want our fair share. No new development has occurred here since Schmoke.
The brains of a Dan Henson are so sorely needed. Few understood what Mr. Henson saw with visionary precision. And even fewer see why a holistic approach to redevelopment is still the best method today. Even fewer see that investing in the people – including ex-offenders, a hot topic last night in Sandtown – is necessary.
Case in point: Pleasant View Gardens. Eastside. Near Dunbar High and Ole Town Mall. Former LA projects. Notorious. Basketball and dope. Murder was imminent, especially down the street at Flag House projects.
But then – and I really don’t know yet how much different from now – folk in the community felt a little more a part of the city. Why? Because there was money, no doubt. But there was also a unified vision that brought together people like Diane Bell McCoy and Dr. Marie Washington and Sen. Nathaniel McFadden and the late Del. Pete Rawlings and the late Sen. Clarence Blount, former principal of Dunbar. And others were at the table, like the city.
Now, it’s more like ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ – no longer a city-community effort.
Yes, Sandtown-Winchester’s growth and development has stymied, ever to see the sun again? Ever to see a Sandtown-Winchester YouthBuild or AmeriCorps again with people like the late Bill Hobbs playing his day role in the background – all for the sake of the team?
I could sit here and tell you story after story of poverty pimp after poverty pimp who came through Sandtown with their swagger, and who planted their flag, all the way down to the healthcare consortium which proved no more than another psychological experiment on the hearts of black people.
Not isolated, similar mentions of experiments on black people have been reported by folk in East Baltimore around Broadway, according to sources who preferred to remain anonymous.
In a nut sell, Baltimore’s urban neighborhoods – especially East Baltimore, West Baltimore, and Park Heights – need a strong infusion of cash. It needs a leader who can find a way to make that happen, a leader who can connect with the people and feel their pain.
Last night, Andrey Bundley shined!
He connected with the people. And – especially having closely watched his growth and development in the political arena over the past several years - I can earnestly say that he is ready to be mayor.
No disrespect to the current administration, but Bundley has come to crystallize his message in such a pristine way. He now gets it.
Last night, absent of Mayor Sheila Dixon, Bundley outshined his competitors by simply speaking to the hearts of the people.
Suddenly, in an instant, Bundley became that voice for the downtrodden, the hopeless, the Bea Gaddy’s, the Ma Mirts, the Dawson’s even.
Visions of the Baltimore 7 - including Dr. Tyrone Powers, getting arrested for protesting our city schools’ administration - came to mind.
People like the Children’s First Movement – people who insist that our children must be, as David Miller always says, our top priority. Otherwise, we have lost yet another generation. The economic capital is increasingly staggering, the socio-economic impact is crippling, and the overall mental weight and agony is as heavy as an elephant. Meanwhile socio-economic factors like teenage pregnancy are back on the rise, Baltimore-Towson is #2 for HIV/AIDS infections in the country behind Miami – according to HERO, and it is ever too easy for ex-offenders to get a one-way ticket back to the big house because there are no jobs for the unskilled.
Who will address these issues of trash and grime? Who will role up their sleeves and make sure that the elderly are fed, that our children can get to see a doctor and a dentist other than via the emergency room, and that our schools can get the necessary attention?
The black community in Baltimore, among the most loyal Democrats in the nation, are suffering and seemingly nobody hears its cry in the darkened wilderness.
Who will lead this city to the next level? Downtown is looking spiffier and spiffiest, but at the same time, what of our inner-city communities?
Why has nobody in the last 8 years addressed in Sandtown, for instance, the entity called Community Building in Partnership and why nobody has anything nice to say about it anymore?
After all, it was once the home of the Sandtown newspaper, and a host of services for the people of Sandtown.
“Let ‘em know we do vote,” said Mr. Charles last night.
Assured him, I did.
Yes, Sandtown does have voters. And last night’s community meeting was the first one in years. However, as goes Sandtown – so goes the rest of Baltimore, I might predict in the Sept. 11 election.
This community once had a City Councilwoman named Sheila Dixon. She is now mayor, no doubt, and has a firm knowledge of Sandtown’s needs. No doubt, she is probably strapped for cash and finding herself hard-pressed to “create” some Community Development Block Grant dollars – especially without some new taxes.
Besides, that would not be good right now. She is running for mayor.
Yet, a similar transformation could be resurrected, especially since RAC, the dozens of community people, and 5 citywide candidates – along with Sen. Verna Jones and Del. Ruth Kirk – all got a fair dose of Sandtown re-orientation and pledged a sense of togetherness. In fact, Andrey Bundley, Keiffer Mitcell, and Jill Carter agreed to work together after the election … no matter what!
Anyway, keep watching BMoreNews for “the news before the news.”
Great job, Dr. Bundley!