On Friday, the crew gave each of the boys their own flip camera to capture some of the weekend. Julian and I went to Sharp-Leadenhall today to pick up the cameras and hang out with the Clean and Green team after they got off work.
After we parked, we walked to St. Stephens, their “office”, to meet up with them. When we knocked on the door, a woman told us that they had just left. So we called Mr. Sam and he met us down the road to take us to them. He knocked on the door and Kavonte’s Grandmother the door and sent him out. Sydney and Jamar saw us and yelled down to us from the top windows. After about ten minutes of conversation in code red weather, his Grandmother poked her head out the door and invited us into the wonderful their house. She offered us ice cups, which if you’ve never had one, surpass the generic shaved ice or snowball in my book. I was instantly cooled from the extreme heat.
Kavonte gathered the boys and sat down on the couch to put on a movie. The movie he put on happened to strike up some interesting conversations. I found that after the topics were brought to attention, they were more interested in asking us questions and finding out about us. Just by hanging outside of work, we realised that their traits seem to carry over into their “chill time”.
Sydney seemed to deflect my conversation by asking me about curiosities he had about myself and Julian. But he also wouldn’t answer a question we asked without five lies before the truth. It’s become his “game” with us and it’s become obvious who the “jokester”of the group was. Kavonte tended to kind of just spill the beans after a while. He seems to be the “leader” of the group not only at home, but during the work day. Ms. Betty and Mr. Sam have said - and we’ve seen -the way he steps up to the plate. Jamar entertained himself on one of the couches with a new media pad, and wasn’t really saying much but would chime in occasionally. He is the “modest hard worker” in my eyes. He is always busy working really hard to help, keep up with the older boys, and lend Mr. Sam a hand if he needs it. He worked hard, and he rests hard.
Tomorrow, the crew will be heading back down to take footage of the gardening they will be doing for the neighborhoodtomorrow. We hope to be bringing home some good material to add to our Clean and Green clip. I have started to grow very fond of Shap-Leadenhall and the boys. I’m looking forward to returning by myself after ABW is over to possibly continue my research in some of the areas that were brought up in conversation today.
I want to admit I didn’t fully understand how or why this term Charm City came about. Because I am not from Baltimore, my impression of Baltimore had been altered a little after seeing the show The Wire. When I recently began to explore the city on my own, I tried my best to forget what I had seen on TV and begin fresh. However, I couldn’t help but see the trash on the streets, people littering, boarded up homes, and streets that would quickly knock off your cars alignment. However, after speaking with my colleagues and new friends during Friday’s activities, it actually clicked.
One thing that a rural life is lacking is a sense of community. I have found that Baltimore, a.k.a “Smalltimore”, it is not just another run down, shattered, or ignored city. It is a place of love, faith, family, friends, art and over-all community togetherness. Just like any place in the world, it has it’s downfalls. However, over the course of the past few weeks, there has yet to be a person that I have not been inspired by in some shape or form.
I recently met a woman who has been living in downtown Baltimore since the 1970’s. She has been the one person in particular that magnified my feelings about Baltimore and has been in the back of my head since we spoke on Friday. I have come to realize that I can think of only one word to describe this amazing person, and that is superwoman.
After telling us her incredible story, I realized I could endanger her just by describing certain aspects of her and her life. Living in a city known as “Smalltimore”, everyone knows everyone. It is hard to get around the city without walking past the same houses and the same people. So with this in consideration, I will do my best to respect the fact that she receives threats on a regular basis and hide the aspects that could identify her. I feel the least I can do is not heighten her risk by publicizing personal characteristics that could easily be accessed on the web.
Not long after sitting down with her and a few of her “colleagues”, my partners and I realized the intensity of this woman’s courage and faith within the community. To say it simply without detail, she is the angel over her town. She patrols the streets looking for crime to put an end too, as well as reach out a hand for those in need…without a paycheck to do it. Unfortunately, the cops have manage to ignore certain parts of the city due to the reputation the blocks hold, and leave it up to the residents to deal with and tolerate. Like I mentioned before, her neighborhood was once filled with gang affiliated affairs. Since she has been in Baltimore, she has stopped countless muggings, robberies and sexual assaults by just waking the streets day and night carrying a cell phone with 911 on speed dial. She said that there hasn’t been a murder on their block in years, and after hearing a few of her stories, I think it’s safe to say this is much thanks to their superwoman. Now a days, the ones that are up to no good see her and run, therefore subsiding a lot of the crime.
Now I know I cant speak for anyone but myself, but I find it amazing that despite witnessing the crimes commited, being framed by the police, and constantly being involved with the downfalls in her neighborhood, she still loves and cares about her community. After the stories I heard, I feel like I would have given up, however, she loves what she does because she knows it is protecting her friends that she loves - even if they are involved. There is no doubt in her mind that there is love, hope, and togetherness in her community. But she will never give up fighting everyday for peace on her block.
With that said, I learned the meaning of “Charm City” by discovering the evil truths that lie in the city that are being fought with compassion. Charm city is not about the aesthetics of the city, but about the people. She is a prime example of how a lot of the population in Baltimore has been negatively effected by things like de-industrialization, gentrification and neoliberalism, but they still hold true to their morals of community and family. There are warm hearts and open arms looking for peace and harmony on every block…..a.k.a “Charm City”.