Report: Black Baltimore is Leaving

On April 25, the news website The Baltimore Banner published a story about the decline in the city’s Black population. “Once the most loyal segment of the city, African American residents are leading the migration out. While they still make up the majority of the population at 57% of all residents, they are also moving out the fastest.”

The Banner reported that 57,000 Black residents have left the city, with Hispanic, Asian, and other populations actually seeing growth.

The city has lost about 57,000 Black residents between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. That was more than double the drop in white residents. Hispanic, Asian, and other communities saw a boost in numbers.

Sometimes journalism seeks to uncover, and sometimes it’s simply to put on the record things that we know are facts. Reporters spoke to Keisha Allen, board chairperson of the Westport Community Economic Development Corporation, and Morgan State University professor Lawrence T. Brown, who wrote the book “The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America.” The two said what many Black folks have been saying for years: the shift is due to a lack of concern and care for city residents. 

“It’s just people don’t have to stay and suffer through the city’s lack of willingness to make quality of life a priority,” Allen said.

The most frustrating and painful part of these truths is that, in recent years, it’s been this city’s majority Black leadership leading the way in this lack of political will to serve Black residents. This is not to malign the other communities coming to Baltimore to settle in and create lives here — everyone is welcome. However, Baltimore is a historically Black city — the city of Frederick Douglass and Billie Holliday and HBCUs like Morgan State and Coppin State. The city loses its soul if those in power don’t recognize that.

Highway to Nowhere Funding

Over 50 years ago, construction began on the so-called Highway to Nowhere, a span of roadway that was intended to connect Interstate 70 with Interstates 83 and 95. It was never completed, and remnants of the project have stood stagnant for decades. According to the Baltimore Department of Transportation, the project displaced 1,500 residents, destroyed 971 homes, and demolished 62 businesses. 

Now, $2 million in federal funds will go towards finding a way out of the mess — and planning for redevelopment in that part of the city. U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, Congressmen Kweisi Mfume and Dutch Ruppersberger, who all advocated for the money in Washington, D.C., announced the funding on April 24 in front of the failed project. They were joined by Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott.

“The ‘Highway to Nowhere’ is nothing short of being a racist structure that fell woefully flat on delivering on its promise to connect the City of Baltimore to surrounding suburbs. As a result of that broken promise, it displaced families, dismantled neighborhoods, and shuttered thriving small businesses,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott in a press release.

The money comes through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, which aims to correct economic wrongs enacted on disinvested communities in this country.

“I needed to hear what they’re gonna do because it’s been a long time coming,” community member and organizer Edna Manns-Lake told Afro News. “I grew up in this area. When I found out about the ‘Highway to Nowhere’ displacement, I was so sad because I saw that as having taken away the unity of the community.” 

Violence Reduction

In December of 2020, shortly after Mayor Brandon Scott took office, he announced the creation of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE). 

“The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement is tasked with coordinating city agencies and community partners in the fight against violence in Baltimore,” announced a press release from the mayor’s office. “The Office will also work to ensure accountability across Baltimore’s holistic violence reduction strategy. It replaces and expands the scope of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.” The office is led by Shantay Jackson.

Last year, Scott announced plans to launch a Community Violence Intervention Ecosystem. This collective of organizations includes not just MONSE but also the violence interruption program Safe Streets Baltimore, the nonprofit mentoring and conflict resolution program Challenge2Change, and other city agencies. The Community Violence Intervention Ecosystem is funded by money allocated from the American Rescue Plan

At the end of this past April, Scott provided an update on that project. Scott said that the plan is working — and that he plans to expand it.

“Building a CVI ecosystem is about understanding that an act of violence does not start or end when someone pulls a trigger,” he said in a press release. “By bringing together and supporting public safety partners across our city, we can step in and address the root causes to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.” 

“As the CVI ecosystem gets into its second year, its community partners will expand into the three high schools where leadership has determined the highest need for anti-violence programs: Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School (Mervo), Digital Harbor Academy, and Carver Vocational School,” reported radio station WYPR. “At the beginning of the next school year, those schools will have three dedicated staff members who will work on various aspects of violence reduction and student enrichment.”

Lamar Jackson Secures the Bag

On November 18, 2018, the Baltimore Ravens started their second-string quarterback, Lamar Jackson, in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Heisman Trophy-winning QB had been selected by the Ravens as the final pick in the 2018 NFL draft, and was replacing franchise quarterback Joe Flacco because Flacco had a hip injury that led to his first inactive game of his career. Jackson sparked electricity in the Ravens’ fanbase by leading the team to a 24-21 victory over Cincinnati and rushing for 117 yards, breaking the Ravens’ all-time record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Since then, Jackson has become much beloved here in Baltimore, taking the Ravens into the playoffs three times. 

At the end of April, the Ravens signed Jackson to an unprecedented $260 million, five-year contract, making him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. His mother, Felicia Jones, also made history by operating as his agent, which has brought much criticism from fans and pundits.

Many said Jackson was making a mistake by asking for so much money and not hiring an agent like most players have traditionally done. News of the contract caused excitement among most loyal fans and Lamar supporters. But the underlying, racist tone of hate and skepticism that has always existed among white Ravens’ fans would rear its ugly head as fans wrote hate letters published by The Baltimore Sun calling the move to pay the young Black quarterback a bad idea. 

The 2023-24 season will be an interesting one to watch, as the Ravens have also built a strong offense around Jackson that includes veteran wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers from Boston College. A third Super Bowl ring for the Ravens is not a far-fetched reality.