A year ago today, the Baltimore Uprising reached its boiling point, in West Baltimore, at the corner of Penn & North where the now-infamous CVS was burnt down. I visited Sandtown-Winchester last weekend, where a new CVS stands in its place, rebuilt with new bright red brick and white banners welcoming shoppers, assuring the community that they are open for business. It's a striking development, a new building standing proud above the Penn-North Metro station, a bustling corner full of life.
What hasn't changed in Sandtown? Almost everything else. Grand rowhomes marred by decades of vacancy line North Avenue, and the police presence in the area is still heavy, surveilling the community as residents walk outside, take their children to playgrounds, and socialize with each other. There still isn't a full-service grocery store in the community. Last summer, just a few months after Freddie Gray's death, women who lived in Gilmor Homes, a public housing community in Freddie Gray's neighborhood, came forward to allege that they were sexually harassed and abused by maintenance workers of the Baltimore City Housing Authority (the case was settled in January, but City Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano remains in his position, despite many calls for his resignation). Trials of the officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray remained tied up in court for most of 2015 and 2016 so far, with the first to begin a few weeks from today. Yesterday, a primary election seemingly decided the city's political future for the years to come. The groundswell for change is overwhelming, and yet, Sandtown, and many other areas in Baltimore City, look and feel largely the same as they did before Freddie Gray died.
As we reflect on our city a year after events that have changed Baltimore forever, the Baltimore Abortion Fund again offers support and solidarity with every person in Baltimore City who continues to strive for justice for themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods, in the face of what can sometimes seem like overwhelming odds. As an organization that deals first hand with issues of discrimination, poverty, and healthcare access inequity, we can attest to the struggles those calling our hotline experience. In a city where race and class divisions have simmered for decades, Baltimore citizens have been crying out for help, and have been largely ignored. The homicide of Freddie Gray was not the first case of extreme police violence against Black residents Baltimore has seen, nor was it an isolated incident.
An organization that strives for reproductive justice is one that must publicly stand against racial discrimination because we know too well that race plays an integral part in the reproductive lives of our callers. Lack of housing, jobs, quality education, and safety are forefront in the minds of people who are choosing to raise, or not raise children in Baltimore. High rates of overzealous incarceration split families from their children. Parents in Baltimore struggle to provide for the families they have. People struggle to pay for abortions they need. Baltimore residents are resilient and resourceful, but the system is stacked against many people, no matter how hard they work. Racism needs to be acknowledged in that struggle. Historic racism segmented our city, and present day racist policies keep it that way.
We will continue to offer our assistance to those engaged in the fight to offer all the residents of Baltimore options and opportunities regardless of their race and income. A movement for reproductive justice necessarily includes us working together. Racism has always been deeply felt in the struggle for abortion access, with women of color more likely to need abortions, and less likely to be able to afford them. Until racist policies that codify those barriers are eliminated, there will always be a need for abortion funds, and the Baltimore Abortion Fund will continue to stand with those united against racism.
There are many events in Baltimore commemorating the anniversary of the Uprising this week. See here for a partial listing, and listen to WEAA's thoughtful coverage of Baltimore after the uprising here.
We are a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds, almost 100 funds across the US and beyond. NNAF offers their 2015 statement of solidarity with the protesters here.