I grew up in a small city in Southern Maryland, about an hour away from Baltimore. My grandmother is from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were born. I always took great pride in knowing that my family and all Black Marylanders are in some way connected to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
Both Tubman and Douglass escaped slavery and were revolutionaries in their own right. Tubman, “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, lead over 300 enslaved Black people to freedom. And Douglass, the enslaved man who beat his master Mr.Covey after Covey attacked him, escaped to freedom, and led the abolitionist movement. Tubman and Douglass are some of the most notable people in Black History, and to me they are heroic symbols of resistance and courage. When I heard about the Baltimore uprising over the unjust death of Freddie Gray, I felt the spirit of Tubman and Douglass awaken. This moment put into sharp focus what the people of Baltimore have been feeling for years.
Young Black people in Baltimore are living in a state of peril. From the poor education system, to poverty and police violence, young Black people have been dealt a bad hand for several generations. When Black Marylanders took to the streets of Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, it was to make their voices heard. To resist the oppression that they face on a daily basis. The Baltimore uprising is a public statement to America and the world that Black lives matter and Black youth will be heard.
Of course, some of the media and even elected officials, could not see that public statement. President Barack Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, called the Baltimore youth who were a part of the uprising “thugs,” and other media outlets were quick to highlight riots instead of covering the peaceful protests that were also occurring. These outlets were too concerned about the ways in which the resistance to oppression was expressed, instead of looking at why it was being expressed in the first place.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby brought charges against the police officers who were involved in the death of Freddie Gray. The statement she made at her press conference was significant. She stated that she would seek justice on behalf of the youth. To me, it was recognition that young Black people are at the forefront of change for generations to come.
Baltimore’s uprising was necessary for change — and not just for the people of Baltimore. The Black youth of Baltimore represent the growing frustration and anger over the injustices that many Black youth all over America experience on a daily basis. Like Tubman and Douglass, Black youth will not rest until their statements are heard, and they can live with freedom, dignity, and promise.
As a proud young Black woman from Maryland, Baltimore’s uprising is my uprising, and I believe my people have awakened.
Camesha Jones is member of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) who hails from Waldorf, Maryland and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.