By now the news of Freddie Gray and the Baltimore riots have become international. I can’t log in to any social media without seeing images of looting and buildings burning to the ground. Internet comment sections are full of finger pointing, vile name calling, and judgement. There is so much negativity swirling around the reputation of Charm City that I feel sick to my stomach.
This morning however, images started to pop up online featuring positivity. Residents of Baltimore cleaned the streets. Religious groups formed prayer circles. A viral video is circulating of a mother bitch slapping her son to protect him. My personal favorite is this dancer…
I’m still feeling heartache for the city merely twenty miles away from where I live. Unfortunately, the uplifting photos aren’t going to change how black men are treated by police officers in this country. We have a long way to go and I hope one day we get there. But what the inspiring photos did do was shine a light on the heart and soul of Baltimore. Charm City is so much more than gangs and violence.
About a year and a half ago I ran in the Baltimore Marathon. After training for months but still unsure of myself, my spouse was by my side throughout the entire 26.2 miles to keep me motivated. I had run several races in the city before but never one that would take over five hours to complete. As we approached mile 13 I wanted to quit.
“Look! We’re almost at mile 13! If we had signed up for the half marathon we could have been DONE! I can’t do this… I just can’t.” I snapped.
As we approached the halfway point there was an enormous crowd holding signs cheering us on. Signs with inspiring messages, people dressed in orange and purple, and oddly enough someone wearing a Ryan Gosling mask. My legs were in pain and I was running out of breath but the people compelled me to keep going. I put some pep in my step and channeled my inner Forrest Gump.
It was only about a mile after that I wanted to give up again. The Forrest Gump in me was long gone and was instead replaced with an exhausted sloth who wanted nothing more than to find the nearest bus stop and ride back to the car. I began walking, stopping, complaining, and feeling defeated. My spouse encouraged me to at least do intervals of walking and running but I wasn’t having it.
Then something amazing happened.
As I was doing my best to trot the rest of the way, no doubt limping like an injured puppy, I started hearing cheering again. The huge crowd was far behind us but as we were running through the streets residents were outside their homes holding signs, passing out drinks, and encouraging with chants and liveliness. With each new neighborhood we ran through there was even more encouragement than the last. Little children offered high fives. Some were playing music which is always welcomed during a run. With each passing smile the obvious confidence beamed from the residents who no doubt had pride for their city. I know for a fact I would not have finished the last half of the race without them.
I’m sharing this story because there are too many negative things being said and assumed about Baltimore. We can’t fix race relations and police brutality overnight. But what we can do is start somewhere. If we can share a mutual love for Baltimore and get the positive stories out there we at least all have something in common. No city is perfect. But I am convinced there are perfect parts of the city.
I am encouraging everyone to share a happy story about Baltimore. Whether it be a sporting event, act of kindness, a local business that needs more recognition, or ANYTHING encouraging. Share your motivating experiences and memories in the comments below, on your own page, with a coworker, or simply write it down for yourself. Let’s spread positivity because Baltimore needs it more than ever.
***UPDATE: After writing this I noticed the hashtag #ThisIsMyBaltimore going around on social media. City residents are responding by posting a favorite picture of themselves or their friends in Baltimore doing something that represents who we REALLY are. So when you share your happy memory or experience of Charm City make sure to use #ThisIsMyBaltimore.