I am the Activist who took the “Heartwarming” Picture of the Soldier and Little Girl in Baltimore

I’m the girl that took the picture of the soldier and child in Baltimore that went viral. I meant to capture a sad moment, one of wasted resources and failure. Who knew that so many people think all of our race and economic problems could be solved if someone would just think to smile at a child?

The accusations of being a pot stirrer, a know-nothing liberal, and race-baiter have been coming at me almost faster than I can read them. Good. Keep it coming. You wouldn’t hate me if I didn’t make you uncomfortable. Keep telling me to forget the misery and to just see the happiness; keep criticizing me for bringing it up. Keep talking about it, because that is the first step. But let’s keep it real when we talk about it.

How can you look at a picture from Baltimore that could easily be from Afghanistan and think it shows a promising future? The problems leading up to this picture continue to be swept under the rug while people mindlessly smile over a picture of a child. How about we focus on the fact that 86% of public school students in Baltimore get free/reduced lunch? How about we focus on the predatory payday loan and checks cashed establishments that people in this neighborhood are subjected to, continuing the cycle of poverty they are in? How about we focus on the fact that I took this picture on Fulton Ave about a month ago, and it’s pretty average for much of Baltimore:

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I don’t find my picture to be tragic because I hate the military or because I hate guns. It seems to me that 30 seconds of critical thinking would clarify that. I find it to be tragic because we don’t give a damn about these communities until the destruction threatens the rest of us. If this was a picture of a child on a field trip to the Pentagon, I’d see how it’s cute. Adorable, even. But that isn’t what this is. This is a community being told they are too vile and worthless for anyone to give a damn about them until they start to burn things down — and even then, people only care long enough to be keyboard activists with uninformed opinions.

Baltimore has a lot of problems, but being a city full of people that want to loot and riot isn’t one of them. I think it’s pretty clear why there was a riot — what did the police expect when they loaded up with riot gear, turned off public transit, didn’t allow children to leave, and instigated pissed off kids whose frontal lobes aren’t fully developed? Yet here we are, painting Baltimore as a city of lawlessness. If we’re going to talk about lawlessness in Baltimore, let’s talk about the millions of dollars used to settle and hide cases of police brutality.

I have watched news anchors and the internet in general wonder why people felt the need to burn the businesses in the community, consequently limiting their own options of where to shop. Over my week in Baltimore, I listened to and talked to a lot of people, from those who were pro-riot to those who were pro-peace. The impression that I got wasn’t that all people necessarily hate all businesses that aren’t black owned — it’s that they hate that the businesses won’t pay living wages or promote people of color. Without the ability to build capital (or even pay rent) and without the experience of being more than entry level employees, how are people supposed to start their own businesses? How will there ever be more black-owned businesses in primarily black communities?

In my opinion, the onus is now on wealthy business owners of all races in Baltimore and the surrounding area to do their part in making the city a more livable place. It’s on the middle and upper middle class residents of Maryland to change the way things are run. I saw an incredible amount of unity build up in one week of Baltimore protests; a level of unity that is rare for any kind of movement. The revolution is here, and “us vs. them” is not going to be black vs white. It’s going to the people who have hopped on board vs. those who haven’t. Do not stand on the wrong side. Support the organizations that are on the ground making a difference. Support the organizations working to feed the hungry children of Baltimore and working to make the streets safe. Do not shop at places that do not allow their entry level employees to grow. Nothing will change over night, but it’s time we start working to provide education and opportunities instead of casting judgement when most of us can’t even imagine what it would be like to live in West Baltimore.

Follow my Facebook and Twitter. You can subscribe to my blog here.  A version of this post also appeared on my Huffington Post blog.

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CNN

As I’m sure many of you are aware, I was on CNN earlier today. The response has been a little overwhelming, but I’m working on writing about it. If you’ve reached out to me, I promise I will respond — just give me some time. I’ve seen some backlash because I don’t talk about cops who die in the line of duty. Here’s the thing….everyone has their focus. My focus is checks and balances for the police. This encompasses police brutality, police terror, the war on drugs, etc. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for accountability of government employees. To get to the root of the problem we need to look at places like West Baltimore and see how people are living and what is making them vulnerable to abuses by those who are paid to protect and serve. If your focus is on protecting police lives, that’s okay too. Maybe your focus is your career. Maybe it’s tax reform. At the end of the day, you can’t expect people to fight every battle.  You have to pick the ones that speak to you, and I picked mine a long time ago.

I’m a strong believer in Libertarian ideals, but the only way we can get the Libertarian philosophy to work is by being active. And so I’m here, and I’ll keep fighting.

Please check out the 300 Men March — they’re Baltimore’s anti-violence group that I refer to in my interview.

Videos From Baltimore

On April 30th, Joseph Kent talked to the crowd about his first arrest — the one that was live on TV.

Remember Kwame Rose, the protestor that got into an argument with Geraldo on the 28th? On Thursday he had round 2 with Geraldo’s security. I watched Geraldo see him, instigate a fight, and then vanish.

After Mosby announced the officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray would be charged, the area around the Penn North Station was a celebration for the rest of the day. This ranges from 2:30 to 9:45…and the chanting at the end quickly became “we young, we strong, we marching all night long.”

This is Baltimore

Today at Penn North is a lot different than Tuesday.

** Since I originally posted this, I was (very briefly) interviewed on CNN to discuss how I feel about the first picture  and I have composed my thoughts in a blog entry— basically, not happy. Obviously I’d love if you read my thoughts, but let me sum up the problem by saying I’m a white girl from DC who is invited to go on national news programs to discuss life in West Balto. **

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