There has always been advocacy in journalism. I think about it this way: A resident in a city reports that a streetlight is out on their block, and for safety reasons, they want it fixed. They reach out to the appropriate city agencies, who ignore their request. They reach out to their council person, who also proves to be unhelpful. Finally, they reach out to a reporter who works on a story pointing out why this problem matters and how government agencies are not doing their jobs to fix it. The reporter sounds the alarm on behalf of the wronged resident.
This is the duty I think journalists have in issues of policing, too. If we know that policing in America disproportionately harms Black people, brown people, and the poor, and we know that leaders are doing very little, if anything, to address those harms, then journalists must sound the alarm.
In this issue, I am drawing your attention to the way new State’s Attorney Ivan Bates wants to address crime in Baltimore. Over the years, I’ve interviewed many politicians and would-be politicians. They often point to conversations they have in barbershops and on city stoops as beacons for what kind of policies they would enact. Bates seems to be following their lead.
“I am keenly aware of the history our city and police department have had with brutality and misconduct issues, and let me be clear, my office takes allegations of police brutality and misconduct extremely seriously and will vigorously prosecute those cases when brought before us,” Bates told me. “I am also aware of what the residents of our great city have consistently told me they want from their State’s Attorney.
Those conversations with residents are important. Elected officials are duty-bound to answer to the people who put them in office. Just as important, however, are facts, research, and data. If we know that certain things will not stop crime, even if those things play well as headlines on the local news, we should not do them.
This issue’s entry from Baltimore Courtwatch is a further indictment of local leaders who aren’t doing enough. They highlight West Wednesday, a weekly gathering to bring attention to the cases of Tyrone West and other victims of police brutality. As of Feb. 22, organizers have been gathering, either in person or virtually, for 500 weeks straight.
Also in this issue, Arts and Culture Editor Teri Henderson begins what will be our occasional check-in on Baltimore’s music scene. In this issue, she writes about musician John Tyler, record company Flatspot Records, and bands Zulu and End It.
Iya Osundara is here with thoughtful tarotscope readings for March, and Dominic Griffin writes about “High Flying Bird,” a film in which director Steven Soderbergh attempts to seize the means of cinematic production.
Finally, in this issue, you’ll find vibrant images captured by young Wide Angle Youth Media participants. The group offers young people in Baltimore City media arts education while also amplifying their voices. I’m happy and proud to give young creators space in Baltimore Beat.