This terrible week in Baltimore got worse Thursday night with a 13-year-old girl shot to death in West Baltimore. My column in Friday’s Sun was written and filed before this happened so this girl’s death is not listed among the others I cite from a week of violence that took the lives of a 69-year-old woman inside her church and a 5-year-old girl inside her home.
Early Thursday morning, I sat to write another column about the efforts that the Living Classrooms Foundation makes to improve the lives of Baltimore families struggling with poverty, crime and limited enrichment opportunities. I highlight the Fresh Start program for teens, mostly boys, who have been in trouble with the law and have dropped out of school. It’s one of the first programs of Living Classrooms, going back to 1990. “As our first job training program I will always feel a special connection to it,” says James Piper Bond, the foundation’s longtime president and CEO. “Our students have so many positive attributes and it is inspiring to watch them go through a process of uncovering and developing themselves. To see the excitement and feel the optimism that is awakened inspires me to no end. Supporting these young men and women in their journeys makes everything we do worthwhile.”
So it’s a positive story but, of course, it’s hard to write such a column without the context of the moment and Baltimore over time. The result was a two-part narrative — a setup about the numbing pace of violence in the city and then “the positive bend in today’s stream of consciousness,” Fresh Start. (A friend texted me that she liked the bottom half of the column, not so much the top.)
I’m not spinning anything. I write about crime and punishment all the time. It’s impossible to ignore. But, in the midst of this epoch of violence, people are still trying to change things, and they should not be overlooked. Living Classrooms and dozens of other nonprofits and faith-based organizations keep trying to help the many people in Our City of Perpetual Recovery who struggle. We need to know about those groups and support them, and I need to keep acknowledging them or else surrender to the despondency that comes easily to those of us who want to see Baltimore reach its full potential some blessed day.