The One About Feeling Helpless, Far From Home

It was April 29, 1992.  I was renting a room in someone’s townhouse in Rockville, Maryland.  I had finished my undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins a few months earlier, and had moved to the DC suburbs to pursue my Master’s degree.

April 29, 1992.  I was a week away from my 21st birthday, and I had spent a very intense 10 days volunteering on a successful primary campaign in Philadelphia.

April 29, 1992, was a Wednesday.  After sleeping in following the victory party, I hopped into my car to return to Rockville.  I got home at about 6 pm and flipped on the news.  I was horrified to see Los Angeles, my hometown, going up in flames, as a riot moved through following the verdicts in the Rodney King police beating case.  I was 3,000 miles away from home.  I felt helpless.

It’s April 29, 2015.  For the past two days, I’ve watched the tensions in Baltimore manifest themselves in rioting and burning.  I lived in Baltimore – granted, not primarily the parts that are filled with strife right now.  But I’ve walked down North Avenue, past that check-cashing place, past that hair extension place.  I’ve seen the desperation, the boarded-up homes in East Baltimore, just blocks away from Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I’ve been to Mondawmin Mall.

I’m 3,000 miles away from the city that is the only other city that I’ve considered “home” in my life.  Baltimore – that gritty, segregated, flawed city you probably first saw on “Homicide” or “The Wire.”  Baltimore seems to be precariously balancing on the thin line that separates most of America today.  And again, I’m 3,000 miles away from “home,” and I feel helpless.

Interestingly, I’ll be in Baltimore for a long-scheduled conference next week – happy to say it’s a conference that (so far) has not changed its plans to meet there.  I’ll find a way to show my love and support for Baltimore, my home away from home, next week.


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