Remembering the Day Freddie Died

first_imgSean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.      we are who you have forced us to become      a blood stained blemish of dreams long      deferred festering in the shadows      floating silently through our pain      come and fly with us      through the meadows of our mind      we are baltimore.      jagged edges. imperfect. flawed.     but this is our life/our home      and we must claim it as our own      we are who you have forced us to become      a manifestation of your very worst daymares      downtrodden bums carving out a righteous experience Sean YoesI had a conversation on my radio show “First Edition” (April 18) with three dynamic storytellers; two brothers (Black men) Kondwani Fidel, a young spoken word artist and Bayete Ross Smith a multimedia artist. My friend (and frequent contributor to “First Edition”), Dr. Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead was also part of the conversation. She is a lot of things; a phenomenal poet, author, filmmaker, college professor and public intellectual.We were talking about a series of events taking place at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum from now until September, remembering the arrest and death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent uprising last April. And Dr. Kaye was talking about remembering where we were when Gray died on April 19 and when the uprising was sparked after his funeral on April 27. Then it hit me while I was on the air, I really haven’t taken (or had) time to really think fully about what happened last April.I clearly remember where I was on April 27. I along with my colleagues at the AFRO and WEAA, as well as a gaggle of (mostly feckless) journalists from around the country were at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore covering Gray’s funeral. I had just finished interviewing the iconic Dick Gregory, and then Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, when the word came down that something was jumping off at Mondawmin Mall.Some of us attempted to get closer to the mall, but police had shut down the perimeter as the situation deteriorated rapidly. Kids streamed out of Frederick Douglass High School, and other area schools, into the streets surrounding the venerable mall, only to find out the subway and buses were shut down. Rumors were swirling, the now infamous, “purge,” tweet (in reference to the anarchy themed movie series) had hovered over West Baltimore like ether since the morning hours.Many of us made our way back to WEAA to monitor and report on the burgeoning tragedy, scrambling to gather eyewitness accounts from on the ground. The next day I headed to Penn and North, the sight of the torched CVS, to feel the energy and talk to the people on the ground.It was such a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. But, the disease was still heavy in the air.From that day to this and all of them in between with few exceptions, I’ve been talking about and reporting on the uprising, its aftermath and the ramifications. But, I haven’t reflected much personally on the perilous days after Gray’s death. Of course we had already witnessed the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis in Florida. The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the televised execution of Eric Garner in New York, and the instantaneous death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland among others.Then it was our turn.We all witnessed the video of Gray being arrested in the neighborhood around Gilmor Homes where he lived, as he howled in agony. We all saw him being hauled into the police van, clearly injured, his face contorted with pain. By the time he died I was numb. I still am.Kaye Wise Whitehead’s new book (released last week by Apprentice House), “Race Brave,” chronicles the days leading up to the Baltimore uprising. Her poem, “baltimore’s Uprising — at last,” is illuminating.last_img read more