By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
I’ve been reporting on Baltimore for the AFRO since I was 23 years old, so that means I’ve been doing this work for more than 30 years. During that time I’ve written thousands of stories about thousands of people.
But, no story I have ever written has sparked the outpouring of emotion– sadness, rage, fear — I have witnessed in the aftermath of last week’s column, “The Murder of Destiny Harrison.”
The story of the beautiful, young mother and dynamic entrepreneur murdered in front of her one-year old daughter in her hair salon, has been shared hundreds of times and viewed almost 13 thousand times in less than a week. And the story of Destiny Harrison has sparked a myriad of comments.
“This one leaves me speechless,” said Sonia Poteat via Facebook. “I won’t forget this young lady, and I pray that the cowards responsible for her death, along with all the cowards who are out here just ending lives, are brought to justice. May vengeance be delivered by God in a mighty way,” she added.
Like Poteat’s, the vast majority of the comments invoked spirit in some way as an answer to somehow quell the murderous madness that has bedeviled (literally) our city; virtually none of the comments called for more law enforcement.
Nevertheless, candidates for various local offices, especially those who seek to be the next Mayor of Baltimore, are offering the obligatory crime plans; I understand why, it would probably be deemed political malpractice if they didn’t do so for a city suffering so grievously as a result of violent crime. Of course, the city’s so-called political leaders are not absolved of responsibility. We need innovative, holistic solutions and perhaps more than anything else, consistency in their implementation.
But, our salvation as a city, seems so far beyond the influence of governance.
One day after the murder of Destiny Harrison on Dec. 22, Carmen Rodriguez, a 36-year old mother of four was gunned down in front of her children at the corner store owned by her family in the 100 block of N. Kenwood Ave., just blocks from Destiny’s salon. On Dec. 17, Sean Davis, a leader in his community preparing for a Christmas toy drive, was murdered in front of his car business in the 1100 block of 25th Street. And just two days into 2020, on the morning of Jan. 2, a 59-year old man was robbed of his headphones and wallet in the 2600 block of McElderry St. and then set on fire. The man, who was burned on the back of his head was taken to a local hospital. He was attacked about a block away from Destiny Harrison’s salon.
In September, I wrote the following for the AFRO (“Spiritual Warfare in a Violent City”) just before I left for East Africa:
Beyond the realm of governance and law enforcement, many within this city with more churches and other houses of worship per capita than just about any other American big city, argue there is a “dark spirit,” an intransigent evil energy to be more precise, that has plagued this city for many years.
In response to my reporting on Destiny in last week’s column, someone identified as MiMi Mc said via Facebook, “Heartless people…think they (are) getting away with stuff, but there’s eyes in the sky always,” they said. “And a price to pay that none of us can touch. Just leave it up to Allah. Justice will prevail. So sorry for the losses and my heart goes out to everyone feeling this pain.”
Indeed, some of what we are witnessing are acts of pure, distilled evil. But, evil acts don’t occur in a vacuum.
For us to deny we are reckoning with a pattern of neglect and abuse against this city’s most disenfranchised communities, Black and poor people for over a century, we do so at our own peril.
We live in a city with many broken people; it’s a city that has been and continues to be complicit in that brokenness.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.