Explaining Baltimore

by Darma Kamenetz

A Note from the Editors: We, like many of you, have found recent events in our city and our neighborhood very disturbing. These events require our response, and such response needs to use strategies of both law enforcement and community engagement. MRIA can help guide and facilitate these responses.

As Ms. Kamenetz so aptly states, isolation will never work. We need to care now more than ever. Care for the victims, care for each other, and care for others in our community so that they don’t become people who can rape, rob and assault. Please email us your thoughts at bhbeditormail@gmail.com. We are currently developing an on-line managed editorial/op-ed space for the Bulletin. An open dialogue of ideas and actions will provide hope and direction.

Lately, I’ve had a lot of explaining to do. Not when I’m home in Bolton Hill, but pretty much any place else. Even when we moved here five years ago, it took some explaining. “Baltimore?” friends would ask, trying to keep the concern out of their voices. We had a contemporary dream house in Annapolis—who would choose a row house in a second- tier city over that? But the truth is, it was a choice. Our kids were leaving home and we thought life in Bolton Hill might offer something beyond the bubble of predictability that had begun to define the suburbs for us. It has.

Then our city erupts in riots. Helicopters churn the skies, sirens scream day and night. On CNN, images of chaos are nothing less than terrifying. A friend in Germany asks me what the hell is going on. In New York, the taxi cab driver gives us a pitying look when we tell him where we’re from. The city that I have grown to love, which days ago seemed on the verge of a true renaissance, now suddenly seems in grave danger. This time friends don’t try to hide the concern in their voices: “Are you OKAY?” they ask. Now it’s my turn to try to keep feeling out of my voice. “Yes, we’re fine,” I say. “It’s not us you need to worry about.” I admit that I feel defensive. And I feel something else too, something harder to define.

The question of whether the city is safe isn’t new. But after five years of living here, I feel safe enough. I have learned to walk the streets like I own them. I have learned to look directly into people’s eyes, even people who don’t look so nice. Eye contact, I have come

to believe, fosters a kind of neutrality. I have also come to believe that living in isolated communities—where you cut yourself off from what seems dangerous—does not make you feel safer. The most anxious people I know live in the most secluded suburbs or behind the bars of gated communities. The cure seems only to have incubated the disease; these supposed sanctuaries become hothouses for worry. And this makes sense. When you try to draw a line between what’s safe and what’s not, don’t you immediately begin to fret about the line itself? Is it high enough, wide enough, strong enough? Could it ever be?

But now, I question my own smugness. Haven’t I also drawn a line between my neighborhood and the ones just to the west of me, where kids grow up on streets where planks of wood are nailed up where a window with curtains should be? Haven’t I drawn a line between strangers in my world of care and strangers I couldn’t care less about? I moved here because I wanted to leave the bubble of suburban life. Yet my first impulse after the riots was to assure everyone that in our neighborhood, where we live, everything is fine. Well, that’s simply not true. Everything is not fine in Bolton Hill.

Everything is not fine in Baltimore City. And everything is not fine in the surrounding counties either.

We can’t be fine, because this is one world and its problems are ours. There is no boundary high enough, wide enough or strong enough to keep this from being true. We need to stop pretending problems exist outside our bubble. What we need to fear most is not the danger that arrives like a bomb. We need to fear the danger that seeps into us like disease on a cellular level. What infects us is our own indifference. That is something we can do something about. It’s simple. We can care.

BHEN: What Is It and What’s It For?

Vacation’s over! The Board will meet on Tuesday, September 1 at 8 p.m. in the Upper Parish Hall of Memorial Episcopal Church at the corner of Bolton & Lafayette. Enter at the Lafayette St. doors. MRIA meets regularly on the first Tuesday of each month; all neighbors are invited to attend. Light refreshments provided.

by Doreen Rosenthal, BHEN Manager

The Bolton Hill Email Network (BHEN) serves 850+ neighbors, Baltimore City Police representatives, our elected city and state representatives, and others who have an interest in Bolton Hill. Everyone is welcome to participate: membership in MRIA is not required. Simply send an email to BHEN@BoltonHill.org to subscribe.

BHEN distributes information only. It is not a discussion board or listserv. Members of the group send messages to the manager, who then distributes messages to network members. BHEN is restricted to urgent messages, such as safety, lost or found pets/keys, and MRIA announcements. Send messages about these issues to BHEN@BoltonHill.org for approval and dissemination. Announcements of public events should be sent to calendar@BoltonHill.org. Information of community interest that does not fit the criteria above may be posted on the www.BoltonHill.org bulletin board. BHEN cannot receive or disseminate replies—these should be sent to the contact person identified in the message you receive from BHEN.

A Glimpse of Bolton Hill in 1911

15-09 schlitzLocal author, Park School librarian, and Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz has set her latest novel, The Hired Girl, in 1911 Baltimore. The book tells the story of fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, who runs away from a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania to become a hired girl for six dollars a week in a grand home on Eutaw Place.

In her diary, Joan recounts visits to Druid Hill Park and the grand department stores of Howard Street; she attends Corpus Christi Church on Mount Royal Avenue. Through Joan’s experiences, Schlitz explores feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty.

Schlitz has been lauded as a “master of children’s literature” by The New York Times Book Review. The Hired Girl, for readers 12 and up, has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Horn Book.

The Park School has created a driving tour of the sights from The Hired Girl, which includes stops in Bolton Hill.

Here’s the video trailer for the book:

Let’s Get Fiberoptic Internet for Bolton Hill

The Baltimore Broadband Coalition is crowdsourcing funds to bring high-speed, affordable internet service to Baltimore via fiberoptic cable. The coalition has divided the city into neighborhoods and assigned a goal for “backers” needed from each area. Bolton Hill is in the Midtown group, which has a goal of 99. With a start of 15 pledges, Midtown needs to crank up the volume to be eligible. It costs only $10 to become a backer. Back this! Make a donation at baltimorebroadband.org.

Volunteers Needed at Meals on Wheels

Every weekday, volunteers deliver fresh meals to a dozen or more households in our area. In 1960, two Baltimore women replicated a meal-delivery program that originated in London, and the service has been making a big difference in people’s lives ever since. New volunteers are needed for the daily deliveries, which take approximately 1.5 hours, Monday through Friday between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Training is provided. This is a great opportunity to meet new neighbors who could use the sight of a friendly face. See Jackie Artis in the Meals on Wheels office at Brown Memorial Church if you’d like to help.

September events

MICA Intersection Exhibit: North Avenue & Charles Street   Reception, Friday, September 4, 5–7 p.m.; exhibit open Tuesday, September 1 through Sunday, September 20, Riggs and Leidy galleries inside the Fred Lazarus IV Center, 131 W. North Ave.

The M.F.A. program in Curatorial Practice at MICA presents Intersection, an exhibition that explores historical, present-day and future development of North Ave. and Charles St. The exhibition, which highlights four corners and four eras in history over the past 100 years, showcases the layered stories of people, places and moments that have shaped the identity of one of Baltimore’s best-known intersections. The exhibition points to pivotal, historic moments and movements in the U.S. such as the Great Depression, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Movement and the present, while capturing a keen sense of the importance of urban life and its many cultural shifts.

No Boundaries Coalition Meeting Tuesday, September 8, 6 p.m., St. Peter Claver Church (1526 N Fremont); meets the second Tuesday each month.

Bolton Hill residents who would like to build bridges with neighbors west of Eutaw Place are encouraged to join the No Boundaries Coalition (NBC) by attending their monthly meetings. Open to anyone who works or lives in Central West Baltimore, coalition members work together to plan advocacy campaigns, receive training on community organizing, participate in group discussions, and advocate for Central West Baltimore. Visit www.noboundariescoalition.com.

Constitution Day Symposium      Black Lives Matter: Structural Racism in 21st- century America, Thursday, September 17, 7–9 p.m., Falvey Hall in MICA’s Brown Center’s, 1301 W. Mount. Royal Ave.

Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC television host, political commentator, award-winning writer and professor, will headline Constitution Day, a free annual symposium co- sponsored by MICA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland. The panel, moderated by WYPR’s The Signal producer and MICA faculty member Aaron Henkin, will also include Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and artist Titus Kaphar. Free tickets have been distributed to the MICA and ACLU communities, but a limited number of free tickets will be available to the general public starting at 3 p.m. on the day of the event.



By Peter Van Buren

Beads of thought connect,
memories swirl, align to
rework life’s necklace.


By Jean Lee Cole

Summer’s last breath
Settles over the city —
Teeth on edge.