I have always struggled with the success I’ve been blessed to have received as a daughter of Baltimore. Even being a product of the shit show that was/is The Baltimore Public School Systems, I always had the right teachers at the right time.
As a graduating fifth grader from Grove Park Elementary School, my teacher, Mr. Galbreath, sat all of us down in the auditorium and told all of us that we had the ability to go to college. And I believed him.
Three years later as an eighth grader in Ms. Howard’s US History class, I remember her taking out our old textbooks during Black History Month, replacing them with more appropriate Afrocentric resources, and her telling us that our lives and experiences were valuable and valid. And I believed her.
As a proud Western Dove, I had the privilege of seeing other chocolate girls like me work their butts off to get through a rigorous high school curriculum and take on our future.
But what happens when you don’t get a Mr. Galbreath, a Ms. Howard, or an opportunity to attend a city-wide high school like Western, City, or Poly? You fall through the cracks and it’s hard to believe that you can have this experience called the American Dream. Although I’m the last person to advocate for violence, I get how the frustration, anger, and hopelessness can manifest into outrage.
I typically get really defensive when people look at me with surprise and ask me how I made it out of Baltimore. But on tough days like today, I realize that the beacons of hope I received weren’t given to everyone. I grapple with the hard truth that my experience is more often the exception and not the rule. And even from 2,000 miles away, my eyes are spilling over with tears as I see my hometown erupting in violence because there simply hasn’t been enough charm to go around in Charm City.