By Ana Hall-DeFoor
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Baltimore residents who participated in a free workshop Nov. 7 that examined the death of Freddie Gray and media coverage of the protests that followed said they felt inspired by the program and hope to get more involved in their community.
“You can’t be in a room all day from 10 to 3 and not feel like you need to go do something,” said Maya Camille, who was one of the speakers at the “Riots or Uprising” workshop that was sponsored by Neighborhood Voices. “I was going to write a song – like I need to write. I need to go to other meetings. I need to perform. I need to get all this stuff out because people don’t know.”
Camille, who is African-American, said the workshop was good for the community because even though people may be book smart or educated they still do not understand or believe the struggles of the Black community in Baltimore.
Matt Leibensouger, a Carroll County high school teacher who lives in Baltimore, said the event also inspired him to take action. He wants his students in Carroll County to connect with Baltimore City students so they can learn about each other’s lives.
During the event, which was held at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Southeast Anchor Branch, participants shared with a partner their favorite color as well as the race, ethnicity, or nationality with which they identified. They also discussed what they were doing, who they were with, and where they were last April as protesters and looters took to the streets after Gray’s death at the hands of police.
Participants also formed groups to discuss the meaning of such words as uprising, prejudice, institutional racism, looting and others.
As they reviewed the answers on a PowerPoint presentation, participants started a discussion about looting, rebellion verses uprising and riot verses uprising. They also discussed how words used by the media, such as riot or thug, helped form public opinion. One participant said the word “thug” is the politically correct version of the n-word.
After this activity four people shared their stories and perspectives about the events that followed Gray’s death. Speakers said protesting made them feel empowered.
Participants did an activity in which they played the role of a journalist and wrote headlines for pictures from the protests that were published by major news outlets. They were then shown what the actual headlines were. Participants said the news exaggerated situations and highlighted negative aspects of the uprising.
Neighborhood Voices is produced by Creative Alliance, a group dedicated to building communities and bringing together artist and audiences to engage in cultural and educational programs.