A Baltimore City teacher reflects on the roots of the Baltimore riots


A letter from a Baltimore City teacher to parents of her second grade class following the night of widespread rioting on April 27, 2015.

Dear Parents,

Today Baltimore City Schools are closed due to the current state of emergency that our city remains under. If you had the opportunity to watch the news last night or tune in this morning, I’m sure you are completely horrified to see what has taken place in the streets of Baltimore.

For several years, I worked and lived in the area that I watched burn on television last night. I am sure that I taught more than one of those students out there wrapped up in all of that foolishness and it truly hurts my heart to see it has come to this. However, as you watch this footage I challenge you to take a few things into consideration as you analyze what is happening.

Eleven years ago, I sat in a sharing circle made up of six and seven-year-olds from southwest Baltimore and as we began a unit on community helpers they began to tell me their stories of what they knew of police officers. They told me about their homes being raided, parents and family members being taken away in handcuffs, seeing first hand the use of force by police and in a few cases on themselves, and actually having guns placed in their faces. These children did not have the capacity to process what they had seen. But that emotion and those feelings had to go somewhere right? When you bury something you are giving it the opportunity it needs to grow. And so we see it grow and it manifest itself as senseless anger.

Over my eight years of working in that area of Baltimore, I saw some extremely angry children who all had a parent or in some cases both incarcerated. These children all had experienced the death of a family member, if not more than one, due to street violence. Many felt police officers would have offered more protection had their addresses been different.

This city has been sitting on this hotbed of emotion among many of its residents for decades and there have been no firm supports put in place for these families or specifically for these children. These children are dealing with parent and family incarceration, addiction, physical and emotional abuse, lead poisoning, fetal alcohol syndrome and emotional disorders just to name a few things.

So, what have our efforts been to support these children the mayor so eloquently called “thugs?” Well, we have closed recreation centers and many of the religious institutions are afraid to reach out and offer programs for them. Our public schools are so overwhelmed by the mass quantity of students in need of support services that they often offer no support due to lack of staffing and finances needed to support these children. But who does have their arms open and ready to embrace these children? Gangs. And so the cycle continues.

I, by no means, am writing this in order to dismiss the behavior we saw last night or to justify it. My only hope is that you understand that there is a bigger, deeper and stronger issue at hand. As we wait as a community for the release of the report and hopefully a trial, please be aware that things may heat up again.

It is going to be a long couple of days, weeks and months ahead of us as a city and community— please hold your family close and stay safe.