Charmaine Wilson desperately needed help.
The 37-year old mother of eight wanted out of the public housing unit where she lived with her children in the 1700 block of Gertrude Street, in Southwest Baltimore.
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
According to reports (as well as information presented by a caller during AFRO First Edition on June 19) Wilson had asked the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to transfer her and her family to another public housing property. By all accounts the neighborhood where they lived was rife with criminal activity; according to one neighbor gunshots rang out every night.
Wilson and her children had allegedly been victims of crime, violence and intimidation on several occasions. Her car and home had been vandalized. Her children had been bullied numerous times. She had been harassed for calling police, summoning them to that neighborhood and “making the block hot.” But, Wilson simply wanted to protect her and her family.
She desperately needed help.
On the night of June 12, she called the police twice. The first time she called someone in the neighborhood had stolen a bicycle seat from her son. Then several boys attacked another son after Wilson and some of her children confronted the accused thieves. That’s when she called police for the second (and final) time that night. According to a neighbor, the police had been gone for less than 10 minutes when two masked assailants walked up to Wilson and shot her at close range in front of her children. She died moments later.
I can’t ponder the depth of depravity a soul would have to descend to in order to gun down a mother in front of her babies (six of her children were under age 18). I don’t want to.
But, what is clear is that nobody in that neighborhood — another mostly Black, mostly poor community in Baltimore smoldering with violence and fear — wants to meet the same fate as Charmaine Wilson.
Think about it; the police had just left her house (it seems clear the gunmen had been watching them the whole time) and may still have been in close proximity when the killers brazenly and methodically approached Wilson and gunned her down while her children watched.
Fear is one of the greatest deterrents to resistance.
I suspect that’s what Darrell Brooks, the young man who murdered the Dawson family in October 2002, believed when he hurled a Molotov cocktail into their home on East Preston Street. Angela Dawson, her husband Carnell and their five children all died in that blaze, sparked in retaliation for Dawson having the audacity to fight back against neighborhood drug dealers.
More recently, the courageous brother Kendal Fenwick, a 24-year old father of three, was murdered outside of his Park Heights home, allegedly for standing up against neighborhood drug dealers in November 2015.
In this tragic case, Fenwick had the audacity to begin building a fence to keep drug dealers off of his property and to protect his children. He never finished the fence.
In the city’s truest and most enduring spirit of resilience, neighbors, police officers and politicians gathered at Fenwick’s home in the 3500 block of Park Heights Avenue and completed the fence the brave man had started. It was a beautiful gesture, yet, Fenwick’s children are still fatherless today.
One of Angela and Carnell Dawson’s children, a daughter, was not home the night her family was slaughtered in 2002. I’m sure she thinks about them every day.
And now Charmaine Wilson’s eight children and two grandchildren are without their mother.
Crime, violence and fear permeate our city but the most pervasive and powerful of them all is fear.
No physical fence can protect us from that.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and host and executive producer of AFRO First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.