When the president attacked four congresswomen of color and said they should go back to where they came from, it hit me very personally. They are committed to their country and their districts, and so am I, and so are countless others who he demeans directly and indirectly. The president then made another blatantly racist verbal attack on Baltimore, a place where I have lived.
In every place where I have lived or visited, I have found people who have chosen to serve their communities, as elected representatives, as community leaders, as community organizers, and as active volunteers. I have also found that in every place, people take pride in their communities -- pride that is expressed through local team loyalty, favorite places to go and things to do, or historical facts they share when they have visitors.
I loved my time in Baltimore. During my time there, I met many people with very different life experiences than my own. While I didn’t always see people who looked like me in my daily experiences, every room I was in or public space I occupied included both Black and White people. In that sense, it was more racially integrated than many other places. Baltimore’s people are incredible, and my life is richer for the friendships I made and experiences I had in Charm City.
I worked in the Barclay neighborhood, located in Central Baltimore, at a small nonprofit community development corporation. I remember on the day I interviewed for my job, I met people who had invested in their neighborhood for years and who were working hard to turn the tide against the abandonment and disinvestment that surrounded them. Residents in this neighborhood were committed to their homes, their families, their neighbors, and their community -- the same as in any community. Our organization rehabilitated vacant rowhomes for both affordable and market rate housing, partnered with the community to support gardens on vacant lots, and worked on strategies to support local businesses. My predecessor helped to establish a historic district in the community, and part of my role was applying for historic revitalization tax credits on behalf of first time homeowners to provide them with additional subsidy. I was the project manager for a transitional housing project for formerly incarcerated men who were committed to improving their communities and to serving as role models for others who might be struggling with the same choices they once made. This project incorporated green design elements, demonstrating that affordable housing, energy efficiency, and sustainability can go hand in hand.
Aside from my professional endeavors, I have many cherished memories of my time in Baltimore. I developed a co-mentoring relationship with a coworker that blossomed into friendship -- I’d teach her how to use the computer, she’d teach me about community organizing, and then we’d go out for happy hour. I had one friend who imparted her amazing parallel parking skills, and another friend who I’d meet every Thursday night to dance to Bhangra music at a club in our neighborhood. On Saturdays, I would meet another friend at the farmers market under the Jones Falls Expressway and we’d walk around, eating mango sticky rice and people watching. I was tapped in to Baltimore’s creative community, spending many hours in writing workshops at the Creative Alliance. My husband Ravi and I had our first date at Vaccaro’s, a famous pastry shop in Baltimore’s Little Italy.
I have devoted my life towards building community, and along the way have cheered for local teams, have added to my list of favorite places, have stocked up on random fun facts, and have met people with whom I’ve built cherished memories. I have lived in many places before settling here in Melrose, and each place, including Baltimore, added nuance to my perspective and love in my heart.
For as long as I can remember, I have felt a deep sense of love and duty towards this country and its people. I still feel that sense of love and duty, even while learning more and more about our flawed, sometimes atrocious history, and I still feel that love and duty even when the president of my country seems to want to deny me of it. We cannot allow him to rob us of what makes us proud. I am heartbroken, but I will keep fighting for my country and my community.