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:

fulton

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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mandawritesthings

Give me coffee.

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

  1. Thank You, As someone who for years of my life had a career in those neighborhoods catering to the peoples needs in West Baltimore as well as other poverty stricken areas, It is refreshing to read something so truthful. These are not people rioting, these are people desperate for all the issues they face (that are constantly swept under a rug) to finally come exposed.
    I saw firsthand harassment from officers to teens/men whom had only come up to my mobile unit for condoms get the brown bag ripped from their hands and then searched for various reasons.
    There are so many broken things wrong in Baltimore and its not race related, it is class division. It is heavy heavy obstacles that keep these areas in poverty and do not let them rise or transition.

  2. The true core of the problem started with LBJ”s great society initiatives. It was the beginning of ruin for countless people and was a tipping point in the decline of our nation.

  3. No one wants to mention his terrible muzzle awareness. He has the barrel of his rifle in the direction of this little girl. Army doesn’t teach that that’s for sure.

    1. Your a fucking moron. HE has the barrel aimed at the ground and his hand is no where near the trigger. Notice how he has it pulled tight to his body using two hands to control the weapon, your another one of those millitary hate mongers’

  4. There are so many things wrong with your arguments I don’t even know where to begin so I will just say; I hope you realize you are part of the problem. Writing little rants and calling yourself an “Activist” so you can feel like you are making a difference, while doing nothing to assist, and demanding that “others” pick up the burden of your poorly thought-out ideas is not a solution. All you are doing is providing cover for people who need to understand that sitting around with their mouths open and waiting for government or organizations to drop food into it is not going to get them out of poverty. Your rant will never help those who need it. It is a narcissistic diatribe from a spoiled girl who had everything handed to her, including her ego.

  5. “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.”

    No. It is always up to every resident to make their city a better place, including those in the middle and lower classes. They can start by NOT being foolish enough to riot (which is only going to scare away more potential businesses….which will prevent growth).

    Nobody is forcing anybody to become a criminal by harming businesses – you show your true colors when you decide how to react to difficult times. Is your solution to foolishly riot, and defend those who riot because you are waiting for OTHER people to step in and fix your problems? Do you honestly believe that you are not capable of helping yourself, and that you somehow need saving? If so, I’m sorry that you have such a low image of yourself, and the people of your city.

    Another option: You could volunteer at community centers or local ministries that help the city, petition your city/state government to help in areas that you think are lacking, promote fundraising for charities, run for office yourself, boycott unfair businesses, work hard to earn your own wages, protest inequality, pay your taxes, write grants for funding, vote, and actually WORK to make a change. Believe if or not, you ARE capable of making POSITIVE change – just throwing money at a problem isn’t ever the solution. If you want local business owners to help financially, why not volunteer for local charities, and ask for donations to help specific local causes?

    Stop laying your problems at the feet of others. Time to own up, take responsibility, and put some effort into your own self/city improvement. No one is going to help you while you’re fighting them.

    You have some seriously skewed views.

    BTW – unless you’re the accountant for these local businesses….you really don’t know whether or not they’re wealthy. Many businesses in low income areas are barely hanging on, and resist promoting employees because doing so would put the business in the red.

  6. Manda,

    While I understand all of the underlying issues you write about in this article and I agree they are problematic for America regardless of where one stands politically, you completely disregard the point of a photograph in this article. When you publish a photograph, a poem or some other form of art that may be somewhat abstract in nature, you are allowing the audience to whom you have submitted it to develop their own feelings, thoughts and ideas about what that picture means to them. Your conclusion that others are wrong because they don’t feel the same way as you do about a picture you took is disappointing and, frankly, childish and immature. This article’s attempt to place blame on other individuals for interpreting a piece of art or social commentary that is by its very nature OPEN TO INTERPRETATION is an unsound platform for presenting arguments on your underlying concerns. Perhaps maybe YOU failed in capturing what YOU wanted to convey?? Perhaps instead of lashing out at those who saw things differently than you, you would be better served by trying to understand why they interpreted your picture that way. You may find that it helps you convey your ideas better in the future, through any medium you elect to express them.

  7. It’d help if you didn’t come off so damn defensive from the get-go in this article. I don’t “hate you”, I hadn’t even known about who you were five minutes ago. You just happened to (ironically I suppose) fulfill all the stereotypes you randomly brought up at the beginning.

    Calm down…people will listen if you don’t act like a dick from first meeting.

  8. Hi I found this post to be very interesting. Being a survivor of traumatic brain injury years ago, I’ve had to learn to sit back and observe because my takes on subjects either were wrong and I later regretted it and felt like a moron or they were areas that were not worth get into being where I stood. Lately I have had more concern for soldier who need treatment for tbi and ptsd and go left unnoticed. I can’t quite understand your point here, but agree with the part from a commenter/blogger who spoke about the nature of art. People will react to it in different ways. I looked at your photo as being less political and more about the essentials of life. Making time for each other. I think as a people we’d benefit from taking the time to understand one another a little more. My name;s Luka, If you’re interested in brain injuries or who know someone with neorogical issues please recommend. Thanks.

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