Sean Yoes

By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
syoes@afro.com

On Nov. 21, Lezzette Jackson, 48, was discovered in her home in the 1200 block of Woodyear Street in West Baltimore. Jackson had been shot to death and she represents the 300th homicide of 2020 with more than a month left in this perilous year perhaps without parallel.

She was the first person killed on Nov. 21, but two others were also gunned down on that day: 21-year old Diamond Davis and a 20-year old unidentified man. As of Nov. 23, 304 Baltimore residents had been murdered. It is the sixth year in a row that the city has eclipsed the 300 homicide mark. 

I’ve been reporting on murder and mayhem in our city for a long time and for me, reaching 300 homicides before Thanksgiving feels psychologically, emotionally and spiritually deflating. About a week ago, the grim realization that this was inevitable really hit me hard.

I wondered if we had ever reached the grisly milestone so early over the last six gruesome years and all I had to do is go back to last year to get my answer.

The reality is we actually reached 300 murders earlier last year than we did in 2020. In 2019, on Nov. 14, a young man and a young woman, Courtney Richardson, 21, and Ayranna James, 22, were the 300th and 301st homicide victims. They were both gunned down in the 1800 block of McHenry Street in Southwest Baltimore by a 16-year old male.

What are we going to do about this?

We’ve got a new mayor who will take the big chair at City Hall next month. Mayor-Elect Brandon Scott is young and energetic with a prodigious work ethic. On Nov. 23, in response to the city reaching the 300 murder mark for the sixth year in a row he said, “We cannot accept this loss of life as normal. It is not normal,” Scott said in a statement. “These are not just numbers; they are residents who will no longer be able to spend the holidays with their families or reach their full potential in life.”

Facts.

We pray for Mayor-Elect Scott’s strength and his success. But, what is brutally apparent is that Baltimore’s resurrection and resurgence is far beyond any one person’s power or capabilities and it would be manifestly unfair to place that burden on him or anybody else. Our salvation as a city is beyond a mayor, or a city council, a police commissioner or a new policing policy.

It has taken us generations to reach this piteous place and we’re going to have to collectively dig deep to get out of it. We need a radical approach.

Until the City of Baltimore fully and formally acknowledges its conscious complicity in the profound pathology of this city and its people, we will never move forward together along a path that is more peaceful and prosperous for all of us.

Acknowledge that Baltimore invented government sanctioned housing segregation in the United States in 1911. Acknowledge that the city practiced redlining and blockbusting to the economic detriment of the Black community for decades. Acknowledge that the infamous “highway to nowhere,” which ripped apart Black neighborhoods in West Baltimore was done on purpose. Acknowledge the catastrophic impact of lead on the Black community. Acknowledge that the so-called zero tolerance policing policy caused massive trauma to the Black community, trauma that paralyzes thousands of us to this day.

However, along with that acknowledgement must come repair. How do we repair the damage that has been done?

Why does this city expect its people to aspire to their higher selves when it has historically triggered their lowest instincts? 

It’s time for Baltimore to go the way of South Africa. It’s time for government sanctioned truth and reconciliation. 

The people’s voices must be heard, the trauma must be acknowledged and the people must be repaired. 

Or else.

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Senior Reporter and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor