Firebombing Recalls One of City’s Darkest Chapters

Race and Politics

by: Sean Yoes Senior AFRO Contributor
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According to Baltimore City Police, Antonio T. Wright, 26, turned himself in on March 20 for a heinous, retaliatory fire bombing, which took the lives of two teenagers, Shi-heem Sholto, 19, and Tyrone James, 17, and injured six others. A four-year old girl was among the injured.

However, some ambiguous details connected to Wright’s arrest may raise questions in the minds of more than a few people. Some of the ambiguity has been generated by Wright and his supporters, while some has been manifested by BCPD. Police released a video of what they argue is Wright, at the scene of the firebombing in the 1200 block of Greenmount Avenue, in the early hours of March 18, allegedly hurling two Molotov cocktails into the home.

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

But, anybody objectively viewing the incredibly grainy (perhaps to the point of dramatic distortion) video, will probably conclude they cannot discern who (or what) is at the scene of the murders, or what (if anything) they are doing there.

Wright’s declaration of innocence and his insistence he is perhaps being set up by a rogue cop (the specter of the DOJ report and the BCPD Overtime Seven doesn’t help), he accuses of illegally selling an AR-15 rifle, along with a woman professing to be Wright’s wife vigorously proclaiming his innocence via social media, further convolutes the Greenmount murders and even the circumstances that sparked them.

However, the Greenmount Avenue firebombing murders of 2017 spark horrific memories of one of the most diabolical crimes in the city’s history, the mass murder of the Dawson family in October 2002. Angela Dawson, her husband Carnell and their five children were all murdered in retaliation for Angela Dawson’s unwillingness to back down from neighborhood drug dealers. All seven of them died in their home on E. Preston Street, in the Oliver neighborhood of East Baltimore, not far from where Wright allegedly firebombed his victims on Greenmount Avenue last weekend.

Ultimately, the Dawsons were murdered by a 21-year old neighbor, Darrell Brooks who was once a page in the Baltimore City Council. Brooks also was allegedly under unsupervised probation at the time he firebombed the Dawson’s home.

Angela Dawson’s courage and the murder of the family in the midst of Baltimore’s ubiquitous and ongoing narcotics carnage made them martyrs across many of the city’s neighborhoods. Yet, the city’s inability to protect the Dawsons, when they did exactly what law enforcement and City Hall asks us to do, that is cooperate with the police, helped explode and disperse the incredibly toxic and maddening, “stop snitching,” culture. I don’t think our mostly Black, mostly poor neighborhoods have ever fully recovered from the Dawson tragedy. Yet, a small army of soldiers continue to work zealously to bind wounds.

“They fought, they advocated, they tried to get the government, the city to listen to them and listen to their woes and what was going on in their community. And they were not listened to and subsequently they were murdered by another community member,” said Navasha Daya, an international recording artist, community leader and resident of the Oliver community. I wrote about the work of Daya and her husband, music producer and musician Fanon Hill in February of 2016.

Last year they released, “I Am Because We Are (Tribute to the Dawson Family),” which is the third single from the original motion picture soundtrack, “Lom Nava Love,” a documentary chronicling the life and work of Cherry Hill community organizer Shirley Foulks.  The documentary, which was officially released in Baltimore last month, is written, produced and directed by Hill, who also wrote, composed and produced the song honoring the Dawsons.

“Black families living in low-income communities often possess rich tactics and practices that can transform entire neighborhoods,” Hill told me last year. “Far too few institutional structures and systems value poor Black families enough to

acknowledge them as possessing solutions to ills plaguing our cities, which in turn, creates an unequal two-tiered notion of citizenship. The Dawson family lived and died in such a system,” he added.

Daya said we should always remember the Dawsons and their example. “We want to honor the spirit of this family, which everyone should look at as a model of how determined and resilient we are.”

Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of, AFRO First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.

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