By Rev. Dorothy Boulware, AFRO Managing Editor,
Dorothy@Afro.com

How fortuitous to be reviewing the AFRO book, The Thing I Love About Baltimore, at the eve of our 130th anniversary; seeing it was created to celebrate our 126th anniversary.

So much was going on that year, so much being criticized and celebrated, so much being denigrated and . It was unbelievable that just before its release — as if timed to be a marketing gift — the then-president denigrated the city and its Congressional Representative, the late Elijah Cummings, who had consented to write the book’s foreword.

The smack back had already been created, and we resounded with the voice of many, The Thing I Love About Baltimore.

Rep. Cummings said he couldn’t possibly have refused the AFRO’s request.

“All too often, the press reports events and decisions in our lives that are difficult, dangerous and shocking. In contrast, the AFRO decided to reach out to the people of Baltimore and ask us to tell our neighbors and the world what we love most about our home town,” he said. 

“Baltimore is a complex city and community that exemplifies all that is both good and troubling about our country. As such, we are a living, breathing window into the heart and soul of America as we live through an historic time. It is no accident, therefore, that Baltimore has always been, and remains, at the center of our nation’s continuing struggle for civil and human rights.”

AFRO Publisher, Dr. Frances “Toni” Murphy Draper is a lifelong resident who attended public schools and sent her to them as well. 

“Things were different then, you might say. True, Yet, I still have a long list of things I love about Baltimore. At the top of my list, are the people who live here; the people who take pride in their neighborhoods; the people who support the Orioles and the Ravens no matter what; the hard-working people who go to work every day to support their families; the resilient, remarkable people of Baltimore who have the faith to believe in Baltimore’s future as a viable, vibrant city.”

The late Baltimore singer, Brenda Alford, called the city “a sister I miss so much till it aches when I’ve been away too long and that special teacher…who taught me to live, love laugh, work, pray and navigate a multitude of settings and situations.” She said it is “a solid old house with good bones.”

She actually wrote a song about Baltimore and shared it at the book’s launch. 

“I’ve been on the road too long. Too many nights away from home.

Last night I spent the night in Baltimore and woke up feeling better than I’ve every felt before. The rhythm of the city was dancing in my feet. I knew I had to get there, and you’d be there to greet me.”

With more poetry, KYAIR Butts, 2019 Teacher of the Year, said, “At the corner of destiny and faith you’ll meet the Baltimore I love. Baltimore is a city that has historically presented people two choices much like life: love or fear: the path you choose determines how you’ll ultimately come to like or love Baltimore.” While not a native Baltimorean, he called his chapter a “note of love to the city that took me in and allows me to present my best self to others each and every day.”

And his first statement, “I love that Baltimore dares to risk being seen in all of its glory. Take a minute and stand at the corner of North Avenue and Howard and you can hear the low hum of beauty personified.”

He said, “I love the potential that today offers and tomorrow promises. I love that this city has seen all and weathered all to come back stronger.”

The Thing I Love About Baltimore is on sale on Amazon.com.

For Ladonna Speaks, it’s Port Discovery where she plays heartily and has fun with her cousins.

For Shakeem Blake, it’s the food. “It’s the best! I like eating it and the smell of the grease because it’s different than any other chicken in the world. I loved it the first day I tasted it. It is “delishous,” mmm. That was the tastiest day ever.” Shakeem must have met a chicken box!

For Haiven Spence, it was the Aquarium; “when I first saw it, it felt like victory. What I love about it is all the beautiful seas animals,” and her favorite part is the touching station.

These are three of the six young authors who, at the time were in Ms. Shannon Brown’s third grade class at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School

The Park Heights girl and one of the 11 Foremans, MESHELLE the Comedienne said she wished there had been only one thing she loved about Baltimore. She said her bird’s eye view of the two worlds she would come to know and navigate fluidly. “I knew the Preakness was something special, but had no clue it was a national, yet international phenomenon, a jewel in the Triple Crown no doubt. All I knew, is that a ton of fancy dressed ‘’White folks’ would pay top dollar to park in our backyard.”

What she learned from the two starkly different cities: “how to feel comfortable in my own skin, no matter where my life’s journey would take me. While there are some moments I now look back on and realize there were plenty of inappropriate racial undertones and blatant stereotypes laced in inequities, there are so many moments of pure childhood bliss. So much that I endeavored to give my three children as much of my Baltimore as possible.”

We are denizens of a mid–sized southern “town” that often imagines itself as a big northern city. This dynamic and world view has created some unique and distinctive traits that persist to today.  We’re very parochial- it takes a long time for “outsiders” to be drawn to our bosom to a place of trust. High school affiliation far outweighs what college or university you attended. What neighborhood you claim as home is more important than your socio-economic status. And yes, what side of town you claim as yours is to this day a matter of acceptance in some circles.

This was the perspective of the late Bishop Douglas I. Miles, pastor, teacher and former AFRO columnist.

“I love the resiliency of Baltimoreans in the face of tremendous odds that dare us to move from what we are to what we can be, what it should be and what it must become. I see it in faith institutions that could have exited the city but chose to stay to serve underserved communities and to give resources to move us forward. I see it in business leaders who continue to invest in themselves and the other institutions that keep this city alive and vibrant. I see it in educators who could move to other jurisdictions facing fewer challenges, yet come to work day after day believing in their students even when the system sometimes fails them.”

There is much to love about Baltimore, despite its flaws: the signature marble steps, form stone fronts and up high cornices; snowballs, the lighting of the Washington Monument, the singing of the Morgan State choir, lacrosse teams, Arabbers, barber shops and beauty parlor chatter, lake trout, chicken boxes, the AFRO American Newspaper and the Reginald Lewis and the Great Blacks in Wax museums. We love Mother Mary Lange and the Oblate Sisters of Providence founded in Baltimore.  There are many highly favored churches, synagogues and mosques. And consistently there is the annual New Year’s Eve Interfaith Service the Jesuits host at St. Ignatius Church.  

Ralph and Dana Peterson Moore

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