I never truly felt that I was an educated Black man until I arrived in Baltimore City in 2011. After accepting a position at an HBCU in West Baltimore and riding down West North Avenue, not only did I discover that I am an educated Black man, I discovered that I am truly a silver spoon Negro as well. The level of poverty, despair and abandoned buildings was terrifying and heart wrenching. I guess my father is a smart man because for some reason he knew, I should not be parking on West North Avenue. For the first time in my life, I saw the graffiti and homelessness that was portrayed in the movie New Jack City and all the movies that I loved growing up that perpetuates Black Genocide. However, as of now, I’m officially becoming fed up with Black genocide. In addition, for the first time in my life, I saw no grass and a lack of revitalized buildings. I asked myself, “What happened to Baltimore City?”
I remember speed walking to my car praying a gun would not be drawn in my face. The boarded windows on abandoned buildings reminded me of the 30,000 abandoned buildings mentioned in one of my first doctoral studies classes at Morgan State University. One or two things happens when you’re from a silver spoon and you arrive in Baltimore City. Either you discover a love and heart for the young Black men who are killing each other or you turn into an Uncle Tom and turn your back on your own people. I believe W.E.B. Dubois referred to that as “estranging the masses”. As much as I’ve tried to go the Uncle Tom route, I discovered that I truly have a conscious in regards to underserved communities and young Black boys who come from fatherless homes.
Furthermore, over the past three years, I have continuously asked myself “what happened to Baltimore City?” After recruiting students for a federal Trio program, I discovered that the majority of “City Schools” buildings were not even in the condition of my high school in the year 2000. It was 2011. So I ask myself, “How can a young Black boy from an underserved community develop a love for education if the school environment is equivalent to the environment of Eastside High that was portrayed in Morgan Freeman’s movie Lean on Me?” Why are the schools not revitalized and in the condition of the schools in Baltimore County? Maybe the answers rest in Pietila’s (2009) book titled Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City.
Why are “City Schools” currently in a condition that makes the importance of education invisible to the eyes of young Black Baltimore Youth? I assume that the condition of these schools could be part of the reason why 189 of the 222 murders in Baltimore City in 2014 were the fatalities of Black men. I never understood the mentality of young Black men in Baltimore City until I was employed with “City Schools”. I never really understood the nihilism in Baltimore City until I continuously heard about murders that took place the night before, as I traveled to “City Schools” with metal detectors at the entrance. Upon entering “City Schools”, I was instantly confronted with the future of Baltimore City. Young Black boys. However, as much as I was terrified for my own life, I grew to become actually terrified for their lives outside of those doors on Harlem Avenue.
Every week, I would drive to Harlem Avenue anticipating the heart wrenching news of one of my students being gunned downed. This vision was clear in my mind because I experienced on my first day working at a different high school in the vicinity of West North Avenue. My experience on Harlem Avenue in a school known as a “shut down” school allowed me to understand another reason Black boys in Baltimore City have no desire for education and an extreme fascination with violence. I argue that Hip Hop and Rap music perpetuates a lack of desire for education in underserved communities in Baltimore City. It was as if their MP3 players were their books. Research suggest that Hip Hop is a government weapon designed to perpetuate Black inferiority (Wakins, 2014).
In fact, Gunning Francis (2014) states “toxic hip hop is like feeding young Black boys cyanide for breakfast”. I support this claim because on Harlem Avenue my students were reciting lyrics as if it was Shakespeare. In addition, I agree with her claim because this toxic hip hop music is part of the reason I was shot in the back 2003. She’s right it is like cyanide. I listen to these lyrics today and before pursuing a doctorate, I was fascinated and brainwashed just like the youth of Baltimore City. Currently, I am realizing that the more and more I emerge myself in these clubs where this music is being played, I’m a hypocrite. However, I have to admit, I have not even completely eradicated this phase out my life as well.
But I challenge Black and White America to assist Stephanie Rawlings-Blake the Mayor of Baltimore City with designing programs to assist young Black boys and men from killing each other. How do we stop it? How do we impact change in Baltimore City and awareness about Black Genocide and the system that was put in place to keep Black men in prison and not Harvard? How?