On April 19, one year ago, Freddie Gray died and our city is still in a holding pattern. One of the trials of the six officers who stand accused of his death in police custody ended with a hung jury on December 16. Trials for the remaining six officers are still pending.
The city, too, is in a holding pattern, still reeling from Gray's death and the ensuing uprising and riot. The national press that descended on Baltimore during an upswell of protests over police brutality has packed up its bags, its cameras and microphones, its drive-by reports on the city and gone home.
But it is not business-as-usual in Baltimore.
Gray's death sparked a movement among residents, many of whom are determined to contextualize his death by demanding reform in police practices, by looking at the legacy of redlining and residential segregation, by considering the uptick in the homicide rate (a record 344 murders last year), by questioning entrenched racism, by pointing out disparities in economic opportunities, by drawing attention to issues like disproportionate minority confinement in our prisons, by condemning the differences in educational attainment among the rich and poor or black and white students, by tying our racist history to our fraught present.
In more than 250 stories and thousands of photos over the last year, City Paper has covered the conversations taking place all over Baltimore in the aftermath of Freddie Gray's death. Many residents have grown weary of the topic. And yet…And yet.
There is such hopeful promise in the city's efforts to grapple with the legacy of racism and a dedicated core of activists continues to hold officials' feet to the fire, demanding that this city they love not descend back into complacency. There is a chance, they seem to say, that Baltimore will not be defined by the death of Freddie Gray (just as it was once defined on the national scene as "The Wire"), but rather by the reforms that followed.
For the next few weeks, as we reflect back on the year that was, City Paper will be writing about the people who, weary or not, stay with the struggle by planning events, protests, panels, and community conversations as they work to move Baltimore forward toward a more equitable and just place for all its residents.
In this issue, we have a list of Freddie Gray-related anniversary events; a story about some of the young Towson University protesters who made the trek down York Road and found their voices; a commentary by Morgan State University professors who contextualize Freddie Gray's lead-poisoning in the larger crisis; a profile of a student activist who fought for the right to read his police brutality poem at Towson High; a look at Bruce Springsteen's character studies of the marginalized and down-trodden; and a photo essay that casts a sharp sunset light on the people of Sandtown-Winchester. (Karen Houppert)