Tia Hamilton: Encouraging Black men, the incarcerated, others to read and write books

Tia Hamilton sees her Urban Reads Bookstore as a hub for Black authors, including talented writers behind bars.

She opened Urban Reads late last year, and the Greenmount Avenue location quickly created an atmosphere where residents and others “can feel safe, read,

explore, vibe, and their children— our children— can connect with these books.”

“This goal has been made every day since we opened,” said Hamilton, who noted being inspired by her ownership of “State Vs. Us Magazine, which she launched a few years ago to help elevate the voices of those who have served prison time and those still in lockup.

“I tried to get other local companies to place my magazine in their stores, and it never happened. They never reached back out to me,” Hamilton said. “So I decided to open up my own store and sell my magazine, and put prison authors in the store so their work can be seen.”

Hamilton added that she felt discriminated against by Mondawmin Mall after an agreement to have her move into space there was nixed because “someone believed I was too political.”

“I then decided that this was going to be one of those situations where I pull up my own seat and create my own table with other people like me. Now we have Urban Reads,” Hamilton declared.

She offered that African Americans— particularly Black men— enjoy the space on Greenmount Avenue. Baltimore Times Publisher, Joy Bramble noted how impressed she was when happening upon Urban Reads and finding it filled with Black men quietly reading books.

Hamilton says it’s a myth that people read more books online than they do the physical copy. “I travel a lot, and I see more people with books in hand than a device,” she said.

“At Urban Reads, we can place authors, local, indie and prison authors in a space they [have] never been in before. They can finally and proudly say they are on a shelf of a bookstore in their community. It’s a blessing for themandus,” noted Hamilton, herself a formerly incarcerated individual. “To see their faces, smiles and joy is dope to us. We do book signings. We have community events such as first aid and CPR, financial literacy for youth entrepreneurs, free reading classes, creative wring courses, spoken word for our youth, and so much more in the works. We have a cafe with food, Seamoss, soaps, CBD, notary, faxing, copies and Internet cafe. We have our community on our back, and we are ok with that. Serving and saving ours is important.”

An entrepreneur since 2003, Hamilton says she is determined to give back to her community.

“I need [the community] to know that there’s nothing about us without us. We are the buying power and until we realize that we will continue to suffer. Be patient with most Black-owned companies because most of us never had or will get the opportunity to seek financial help to build a better business or deliver quality products,” Hamilton said. “Our community wasn’t taught that. We are taught to go to school and work for the white man. I’m here to change that narrative. Consumers of Black-owned businesses need to learn how to give constructive and positive feedback. Love the companies you support, help them thrive, and stop blasting them on social media. If you have a resource that you think may help someone in business, give that up to take advantage of the growth. Teach your children finances and stocks. If you don’t know how— then, find someone who does. As a Black community, we need to learn that ‘Pookie’ from the projects cannot show you how to build a business if they never built one. That’s like me telling you how to build a house, and I never have. A lot of this is common sense. Stay humble, stay open, and stay consistent in all you do. And let’s win.”

Wells Fargo commitment could potentially result in billions for small businesses

In April, Wells Fargo announced it would donate gross proceeds from the Paycheck Protection Plan to nonprofits working with small businesses.

This month, the bank has ramped up its efforts by unveiling the details of an

approximately $400 million initiative to help small businesses impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal is to help keep the doors of small businesses open, retain employees, and rebuild.

Through Wells Fargo’s new Open for Business Fund, the company will engage nonprofit organizations to provide capital, technical support, and long-term

resiliency programs to small businesses, emphasizing those that are minority-owned businesses.

“We realized early on that small businesses were taking the brunt of what was happening with COVID-19 and the economic slowdown that occurred,” said Jenny Flores, Wells Fargo’s head of small business growth philanthropy. “We also noticed that diverse individuals were having a very negative impact, and with the data, it was coming to 41 percent or 450,000 Black-owned businesses closed when COVID hit. That is a disproportionate impact not only to the

entrepreneurs but also to the employees they have and the pocketbook.”

Through June 30, 2020, Wells Fargo funded loans under the PPP for more than 179,000 customers, with an average loan amount of $56,000, totaling $10.1 billion.

Of the loans made, 84 percent of those are for companies with less than ten

employees; 60 percent were for amounts of $25,000 or less; and, 90 percent of these applicants had $2 million or less in annual revenue.

Given the federal government’s extension of the PPP, Wells Fargo will reopen its PPP loan application process to eligible customers as soon as possible through a link in Business Online Banking, the bank noted in a news release.

Additionally, the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund’s initial grants will allocate $28 million to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), also known as nonprofit community lenders.

The grants are aimed at empowering Black and African American-owned small businesses, which the National Bureau of Economic Research said are closing at nearly twice the rate of the


Among the first grantees are Expanding Black Business Credit Initiative (EBBC), which will support the launch of a Black Vision Fund to increase the flow of capital to Black-focused CDFIs for transformational work to close the racial wealth gap in African American communities.

The CDFIs will also receive capital for urgent deployment to impacted businesses in the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Midwest.

Further, a Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) will provide grants and low-cost capital to more than 2,800 entrepreneurs, focusing on preventing loss in revenue, sustaining employment, and averting vacancies among vulnerable small business owners in urban and rural markets nationwide.

“This is an extension of the commitment we had to diverse businesses,” Flores noted. “Small businesses need cash to open again, and we are putting $260 million for community development financial pocket lenders that have a track record of reaching diverse communities. We want them to be able to do new loans and to have grant money.”

Wells Fargo counts as one of the top PPP lenders in the country and has spent a lot of time understanding various strategies to assist small businesses,

Flores declared.

“We have key members across the country, and I talk to entrepreneurs directly,” she said. “This reflects a very thoughtful approach, one that is based on really putting the customer right at the center, listening to what they need. This has potentially $1 billion of impact in a three-year period.

“When they get the loans and recycle that and then for every million CDFI loans out to small businesses, they can support 18 businesses and create 31 jobs.

“Hence, if you take the $250 million and work through it, it’s thousands of businesses we’re impacting in such a positive way. We’re really proud of the opportunity we have to collaborate with CDFIs and particularly those who are led by diverse entrepreneurs.”

Annapolis honors beloved ‘Walking Man’ with heart-warming mural

It is unlikely to find a longtime Annapolitan who has never met, seen or heard of an Annapolis legend named Carlester “Buckwheat” Smith. According to sightings, which span decades, Smith stayed armed with a constant supply of plastic bags and a fast walk.

Smith had a disability which did not did stop him from faithfully appearing to pick up trash on West Street. The “Walking Man” didn’t just keep the city debris-free, he also inspired people to smile and feel upbeat. Although illness now prevents Smith from continuing his environmentally conscious tradition, fans can now view a representation of his cheerful face on a mural located at Pinkey’s West Street Liquors at 1100 West Street.

Even though many murals have been popping up in public places all over Annapolis—paying homage to individuals such as Breonna Taylor and George Floyd— this particular artistic representation differs because Smith’s mural is not tied to police brutality.

  Kevin Lebling, who is also known by the stage name, “Hurricane Kevin,” performs blues and folk-oriented music, while singing and playing the guitar and harmonica. On June 22, 2020, the experienced musician hosted a virtual Facebook benefit concert for Smith called “Walk With Me.”

Lebling says he met Smith in the late seventies and described him as “a beautifully-spirited guy.” Musicians volunteered to perform, during the five-hour live streamed fundraiser. An overwhelming number of Smith’s fans thanked “The Walking Man” for his work and inspiration. Lebling estimated that thousands of supporters stepped up to contribute to Smith’s mural. Lebling added that a core group of six individuals led the charge to do something for Smith, after the question was posed online, about Smith’s whereabouts.

Comacell Brown, Jr. remembered seeing Carlester “Buckwheat” Smith, picking up trash, when he was a child. He along with other artists had the opportunity to lead the charge to celebrate the Annapolis icon by painting a mural, which was completed on July 12, 2020.

Courtesy Photo/Brian White

Comacell Brown, Jr. remembered seeing Carlester “Buckwheat” Smith, picking up trash, when he was a child. He along with other artists had the opportunity to lead the charge to celebrate the Annapolis icon by painting a mural, which was completed on July 12, 2020.

  “We were able to raise over $5,000, just from that (online music) show, and people continued to contribute,” Lebling said, explaining that musicians volunteered to raise money to cover expenses related to creating the mural and producing the show. “One of the real main points of this project— and it is over and about Buckwheat— but it brings the community together. We are seeing all of these murals of people, who were murdered, but with this one, Carlester is still alive, and we’re celebrating him because of his smile, because of the way he did what Cal Ripken did. He showed up to work everyday. He brightened people’s lives, and I think he brought the community, which is a diverse community, I think he brings us all a little more together.”

Lebling added that although Smith’s in-person presence is missed, people will still have the joy of seeing his likeness on West Street.

Comacell Brown, Jr. is the mural’s lead artist who brought the vision to life, along with other artists. Brown, who is the owner of Cell Spitfire Paintings and Designs, LLC, came up with the art work which was approved by Smith’s family.

  Brown explained that the creation of the mural was sparked after someone posting an inquiry on Facebook— had anyone seen Smith? A family member of eSmith responded that he was no longer able to get around, due to a back problems and failing health. A collective idea to do something to honor Smith emerged. Brown, also a teaching artist got to work.

  “It (painting the mural) was important to me, because he (Smith) was a legend in my eyes for all of the work that he continuously did day in and day out in Annapolis,” Brown said. “And, he was also one of the rare people who could connect black and white people together, through his hard work, with no bias. You really saw that [while] painting the mural, and hearing the stories— I think that he was pivotal in Annapolis.”

  Brown has been a part of six local mural projects. Over 75 people suggested that he should be the one to lead the mural project of Smith.

The artist said that Smith’s family reached out to him and said that they would be honored if he painted the mural.

The masterpiece was painted July 11-12, 2020. Now, an artistic representation allows individuals who still love Annapolis’s special hometown hero to celebrate fond memories.

  “I believe the mural is very important for people who didn’t get a chance to say their goodbyes, being that he is not able to come out anymore,” Brown said. “It gives that same drive and happiness to see this mural of him, right on the same street where they were introduced to him…”

  Funds are still being raised for two more murals and Smith’s care. For more information or updates or to make a donation, visit https://www.facebook.com/CarlesterSmithAnnapolis.   

Banneker-Douglass Museum assisted in creation of Breonna Taylor, Black Lives Matter Mural

Future History Now  (FHN), in partnership with Banneker-Douglass Museum (BDM) and the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture  (MCAAHC), collaborated with local youth on a 7000-square foot ground mural project depicting a portrait of Breonna Taylor and Black Lives Matter in Chambers Park in Annapolis.

The Banneker Douglas Museum provided supplies, promotional assistance, volunteers and historical documentation of the mural’s creation.

The mural is intended to be visible from space through satellite imagery as a form of peaceful, artistic means to

encourage an end to systemic racism.

The goal of the effort is for future leaders to experience this pivotal moment in history in an active and positive way through lasting art. 

This community project was made possible by Greater Parole Community

Association, Chambers Park, City Of Annapolis, Mayor Gavin Buckley,

Annapolis Recs and Park Department, and generous community donations.

Local leaders pressed to enforce public health requirements in bars and restaurants

Annapolis— Governor Larry Hogan has directed local leaders to step up enforcement of public health requirements in bars and restaurants across the state. State health officials have connected an increasing number of COVID-19 cases to non-compliance with face covering and physical distancing rules.

“The vast majority of bars and restaurants in our state are in compliance, but some are flagrantly violating the law and endangering public health,” said Governor Hogan. “You have the responsibility to enforce these laws. Violators should be warned, fined, have actions taken regarding their licenses, or closed if necessary. Local health departments, local liquor boards and inspectors, and local law enforcement agencies must work together to ensure public health is protected.”

Currently, the positivity rate among Marylanders under 35 is now 84 percent higher than it is for Marylanders 35 and over. Under Executive Order 20-06-10-01, which was issued on June 10, 2020 and accompanying directives from the Maryland Department of Health:

*Bars and restaurants are open for seated service only with physical distancing and capacity restrictions. Customers must be seated at least six feet apart from other guests. Standing and congregating in bar areas is strictly


*All staff must wear a face covering while working and interacting with


*For facilities with booths, every other booth must be closed.

*No more than six people may sit at a table.

“Our continued economic health and recovery depend on the active and

aggressive local compliance and enforcement of these critical public health measures,” Governor Hogan continued. “We cannot allow a small segment of willful violators to squander the collective efforts of the overwhelming majority of Maryland citizens and businesses.”

The state continues working to further increase the convenience and accessibility of COVID-19 resources and testing. To learn more about COVID-19 in Maryland, or make a plan to get tested at one of more than 220 testing sites, visit: coronavirus.maryland.gov.

Maryland Muslim Community reaction to death of George Floyd

The Islamic Community in Maryland (ICM) is coming up with series of educational programs and seminars to both promote justice and solidarity with the African American community and to condemn the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Imam Chad Earl, ICM Director of Religious and Youth Affairs, told the Baltimore Times that George Floyd wasn’t killed in a vacuum, and it is the duty of the Muslim community to understand whether or not it is making any sort of difference or just benefiting from status quo. As he Black community leads this movement, Earl stated that the Muslim community must be willing to listen and learn how it can best help out as allies for justice.

“Calling for justice is at the core of our faith, whether we as Muslims understand it or not. We are taught, “Help your brother whether he is oppressed or the oppressor.” When asked how one helps an oppressor, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Stop him from oppressing.” Justice is a goal of Islam,” said Earl. “Even if at some level we understand that only true and complete Justice will happen in the Afterlife, we must work together, amongst ourselves, and with other likeminded people to stand up for those who need our help to the best of our abilities.”

In the aftermath of the most recent assault on black lives, the United States of America finds itself confronted with a devastating global pandemic and by persistent legacy of racism. Police violence against African Americans has once again become the subject of national debate as millions of devastated Americans gathered throughout the States to denounce police brutality and racial bias after the death of George Floyd. Many people have been outraged by the unjust deaths of Freddie Gray, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others who had their potential stolen. 

According to Mapping Police Violence, one of the few organizations that track information on police violence and use of force, more than 1,000 unarmed people died as a result of police harm between 2013 and 2019. About the third of them were black.

ICM is working on a series of educational programs for the community in the coming weeks and months such as workshops, lectures, khutbas, which will be held in an effort to better connect with and support local Masaajid which are predominantly African Americans.

Earl stated that the ICM is also studying its own demographics inside and will be looking at the causes and cures for any lack of participation from minority segments of the community, both African-American and others, so that it can build and maintain a community which lives up to the Prophetic model of uplifted and honoring humanity and its diversity.

“Given the fact that we’re physically unable to gather in our houses of worship and elsewhere, we aren’t able to measure the community’s reaction as well as we normally would. Yet, our community is very diverse, and that

diversity manifests itself in a variety of responses,” said Earl.

Earl explained that there is a large portion of the Muslim community, especially African-American Muslims and second and third-generation America Muslims from immigrant backgrounds who are very aware of the history and reality of Black life in America, and who are excited to be part of a movement of people from all across the country calling for real, systemic change.

“There are others in our community who understand some of that history, but are not particularly involved in calling for change, either due to a sense of the problem being bigger than they are able to tackle, inexperience in such movements, or even due to fear for themselves or their families if they get involved in protests or rallies or other activities,” said Earl. “There is also a segment of the community, although much smaller, which really doesn’t

understand the depth of the problem and who read race relations in America through the lens of their own experiences as immigrants,” added Earl.

Nawal Karsha, a Somali Muslim immigrant residing in Maryland for over twenty years, said that she is horrified and beyond angry of what’s happened to George Floyd and to what the African American community had to go through.

“One president after another promises the African American people that justice and equality would be his way and nothing would comprise his mission and

vision from becoming a reality, but all this leads to more of same oppressive

attitudes and system,” said karsha. “This country is brutal to the African American people, equality to [the] African American is just a myth.”

Pledge to save water and help a school win a garden

Newark, N.J.— TerraCycle announced the return of the Save Water Challenge that asks school students, teachers and communities to take the pledge to save water on behalf of their school for a chance to win one of three recycled gardens made from recycled oral care waste.

  Launched in partnership with the global oral care leader Colgate-Palmolive and regional retailer ShopRite, starting July 7, 2020, schools located throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland, that participate in the Colgate® Oral Care Recycling Program, are eligible to enter for a chance to win a garden and outdoor furniture made from recycled toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and floss containers. 

Through September 30, 2020, consumers can pledge to save water on

behalf of a participating school once a day during the promotion timeline. The top three schools with the most pledges by the end of the contest period will win the grand prize gardens. Grand prizewinners will be announced in October and the gardens will be installed next spring. 

  Schools can encourage their community to pledge online by logging onto http://www.terracycle.com/colgateshopritegarden2020. ShopRite is also encouraging community participation in the contest with displays throughout its 321 stores and information about the contest on ShopRite’s Facebook page.

  A full set of rules for the 2020 “Save Water Challenge” can be viewed:


  To learn more about the Colgate Save Water initiative, visit https://smiles.colgate.com/page/content/everydropcounts or your local ShopRite retailer. 

  The Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program is an ongoing activity, open to any individual, family, school, or community group. For each piece of waste sent in using a pre-paid shipping label, participants earn money toward donations to the school or charity of their choice. To learn more about the program, please visit www.terracycle.com/colgate.  

Pride of Baltimore Chair Pens ‘Agent of Change’ Open Letter

When Jayson Williams took over as chair of the Pride of Baltimore two years ago, he left a profound mark in economic development by spearheading major government, public, private, partnerships and he played a key role in enabling the development of the $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor.

Williams’ new job didn’t preclude him from making a change in other areas, including diversity.

He underscored that by penning an open letter recently, titled “Agent of Change,” to all in and around Baltimore.

“When I was a kid, my father, a cabdriver, drove me all over Baltimore City to teach me lessons during the time we spent together. He would educate me about communities and warn me about communities I should not go to alone,” Williams wrote. “One such area was the Inner Harbor, where he warned me that, as a young black man, I could find myself in trouble even if it was not my fault. My father said he hoped that someday I could help change that for other young black and brown people. That it was our Inner Harbor, too.”

The letter continues:

“One of the first places my father took me that I can remember in the harbor was aboard Pride of Baltimore II. I loved the water and I loved ‘pirate ships.’

“As the first black chair of the board of Pride, Inc., which manages the ship built as Maryland’s goodwill ambassador and a symbol of hope, investment, history, and tourism, I knew I must be more than just a symbol of change. I was called upon to be an agent of change. 

“When I became chair in 2018, Pride was in turmoil, having missed the sailing season for the first time ever due to a lack of funding. 

“People told me that everyone would understand if we could not lead Pride back to success because it had been mired in difficulty before my arrival and some had lost hope in it. 

“But they didn’t understand that as a black man, since I was a child, I have

always known that my failures are amplified in our society. I couldn’t fail. Nor did our board believe the best days of Pride were behind it.”

Williams said his first action was to grow the board because, while they were dealing with financial troubles, they had lost focus on diversity.

“We added women, minorities, young people, and new accomplished leaders of different backgrounds and experience. We prioritized connecting the organization back to the myriad communities it serves in Baltimore and across the state,” Williams said.

Pride received various grants and launched an education program to tell the history of the privateer industry, both the good and the bad, and to get more kids within the Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County Public Schools systems aboard.

“I am proud that we pulled off such a historic turnaround and ended the 2019 sailing season with money to invest in expanding our outreach in 2020,” Williams said. “While COVID-19 ended many of our initiatives for this year, it has not and will not deter the energy and progress of Pride of Baltimore, Inc., the organization.”

He added that he plans to ask the board to prioritize finding additional ways to make Pride of Baltimore II an agent of change.

“It will be addressed thoughtfully by the full board of directors with all of our committees working in concert toward that common goal,” Williams said. “We will look to ensure more opportunities for diversity in hiring of crew, staff, vendors, and consultants. We will find more funding for programs that facilitate access for minority communities so that they, too, feel welcomed in the harbors we visit and aboard Pride of Baltimore II.   

“If we are truly committed, we need each and every one of you as friends of Pride to support the board, staff, and crew.

“We want your time, stories, input, and donations to help put these plans into

action. I will be joining Captain Miles for a “Coffee with the Captain” in the near future. I welcome your thoughtful attendance and questions.”

Vehicle for Change gives away 20 cars in celebration of 20th anniversary

Vehicles for Change (VFC), a nonprofit headquartered in Halethorpe, celebrated its 20th anniversary by joining longtime partner Heritage Mileone Autogroup by presenting 20 families with vehicles in special giveaway ceremonies on June 24, 2020.

One of the organization’s primary focuses is to put less fortunate families on the path to self-sufficiency through its sustainable car award program and re-entry training program.

Steve Fader hands keys to Brittaney Nelson, a mom of 20-month-old twins from Prince George’s County.

Courtesy Photo

Steve Fader hands keys to Brittaney Nelson, a mom of 20-month-old twins from Prince George’s County.

According to its website, VFC has awarded more than 6,000 cars to low-income families since 1999. The vehicle giveaway on June 24, 2020 was a two-part celebration. The first ceremony was in the morning when Listra Williams, a certified nursing assistant at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown, was pleasantly surprised with a vehicle during her shift at work.

Northwest Hospital president, Craig Carmichael, joined MileOne Autogroup Chief Operations Officer Scott Fader and VFC Executive Director and founder Marty Schwartz in handing Williams keys to her car. The 19 remaining recipients were given cars at the main ceremony in the afternoon at Heritage Toyota in Owings Mills.

“A car impacts a family that is just unlike anything else so it really makes an enormous difference,” said Schwartz, also the founder of VFC. “Our statistics show that 75 percent of families that get a car from us within the first 12 months of car ownership increase their annual salary by $7,500.”

The partnership between Mile One and VFC dates back five years. Steve Fader, president and CEO of Mile One, reached out to Schwartz and his team with intentions of furthering the mission of facilitating car ownership in the Baltimore area.

“Vehicles are transformational— go to work, go to the doctor’s, go to the grocery store. When you don’t have a vehicle, your life becomes very difficult,” Fader said. “So we love this partnership and we look forward to continuing it for years.”

VFC and Mile One also partners in training formerly incarcerated individuals to become auto mechanics. In addition to donating dozens of vehicles to VFC, Mile One has contributed $75,000 this year to the nonprofit, according to Fader.

The afternoon ceremony was relatively brief, and included remarks from Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young, Schwartz, Fader and others.

“This is something that is very, very important for young people and families who don’t have cars,” Young said, acknowledging the philanthropic efforts of VFC and Mile One. “You can connect with your cars in anywhere you want to go, whether it’s work, whether it’s taking your kids to an amusement park, whether it’s to ride just for fun. This is really a wonderful, wonderful gesture by your (Fader’s) team.”

Brittaney Nelson, a young mother with twin toddlers, was one of the event’s special recipients. She had been without reliable transportation for well over a year, and had spent roughly $700 to $800 a month for Uber rides.

Nelson said the gift from VFC was the push and change needed to put her life back in order, adding that she will also have the time and opportunity to complete on-campus college courses with goals of obtaining a long-sought-after degree in business administration from the University of Maryland Global Campus.

“It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my kids. I’ll be able to spend a lot more time with them and a lot less time on public transportation,” said Nelson, a Prince George’s County resident who was given a 2010 Ford SE. “This gift of a vehicle means so much more than just transportation. It’s been my symbol of restoration. I now feel capable, I feel like everything I’ve had to place on the backburner is now possible and within my grasp.”

Aleeseea Jones, a full-time employee at Wal-Mart, is an incoming sophomore at Liberty University and resident of Garrett County – a rural region of the state with a very limited public transit system. Jones relied on her parents and grandparents to get around.

“I definitely appreciate an organization donating cars, because every business is out there to make money but they’re doing this kind gesture for low-income families,” said the 19-year-old who received a 2012 Nissan Versa. “Having this car and getting that sense of independence is really nice.”

After an executive citation was presented to VFC on behalf of Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, the recipients were told to stand by their vehicles as they were acknowledged by Schwartz.

Families were then told to step in their vehicles and start their engines as a celebratory gesture to conclude the afternoon.

For additional information about Vehicles for Change, a list of qualifications and criteria to receive a vehicle through VFC’s car award program or to donate a vehicle, visit: www.vehiclesforchange.org or call


Yes: End racist Black oppression and police brutality but no to taking down statues

On July 4, 2020, the Baltimore Sun’s headline read, “Christopher Columbus near Little Italy brought down, tossed into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.” A flyer described the statue removal. Remove statues that glorify owners of enslaved people, white supremacists, culprits of genocide and colonizers.  

Some misguided left groups, including anarchists and Antifa outfits, have tried to make tearing down statues the main piece of the oppression against Black folks here in Baltimore and around the nation. They remain a minuscule part of a more substantial majority of individuals and groups that feed into the rightwing bellows. The small group’s support comes from bleeding heart liberals that make a case for monument removal.  

Brandon Scott, the almost new mayor of Baltimore said in a statement, “I support Baltimore’s Italian-American community and Baltimore’s indigenous community. I cannot, however, support Columbus.”

Brother Scott, you do not have to support the atrocities of Christopher Columbus.

Most Charm City and Tubman City residents, aka Baltimore, including Black folks, young people with working-class roots and some working-class-whites took to the streets.   

We as everyday Black working-class and working minded persons need to lead, not follow. The high unemployment rate, unhealthy housing, continued cop brutality, and the “just us” system requires our primary attention.  

Add to those working, low wages. Add no health insurance. For many with or without a job, add food insecurity. Almost two-thirds of Blacks live in Charm City— most number as working-class or poor.  

Tell the real, accurate economic and cultural history, not revise it or pretend

oppression did not exist. Trying to rewrite history will not make past Black oppressions, go away. Slavery and the end of slavery introduced the world to the full-blown industrial economy. 

Destroying and removing statues cannot and should not erase that epoch and make-believe slavery did not occur. We fought in the Civil War. We walked off plantations to help end the War. We made history. We represent ourselves as the makers of history.

Instead, we need to fix the miseducation fed to our children, young, some middle-aged and older people. Remind us that racist oppression still heavily pollutes the air as do Coronavirus droplets.

We, the majority of residents of the city, will tell you what we need. At the end of June this year, the Mississippi government voted to take down its flag— the last state symbol flying in the country containing the Confederate battle flag. The demands of the day required it. This happening is a blow to any who would seek to organize racist violence today. Politicians and the Greater Baltimore Committee dare not tell us. 

Remember Peter Tosh’s song, “I need equal rights and justice, no peace.” “Everybody trying to reach the top, but how far is it from the bottom?

“This is the only way we can stop hatred,” according to a statue removal organizer. No, it is not.

Former Coppin State University Professor, Dr. Ken Morgan is a human rights

activist. He can be reached at: btimes@btimes.com