By Laetitia Clayton, News staff
On May 1, Miesha Rice marched proudly — and peacefully — with others through the streets of Baltimore, following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose spinal cord was injured while in police custody on April 12. Gray died from his injuries on April 19.
“We marched for about four hours, all throughout the city, where Freddie Gray was transported around in the van, his neighborhood (Sandtown-Winchester), Penn-North. It was amazing,” said Rice, who grew up in Penn-North, which borders the Sandtown-Winchester and Upton/Druid Heights neighborhoods. “I got choked up because it brought back memories of me as a child, walking to Mondawmin, and even going to the beauty supply store at the corner of Penn-North with my late grandmother.”
Not all protests in Baltimore were peaceful, however, with violence, fires and looting erupting in and around some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and a state of emergency declared in the city limits.
Rice, who graduated with an MSW in 2013 from the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, said some people act surprised when she tells them where she grew up — and she isn’t sure how to take it.
“I came from a great home and community,” she said. “We all knew each other, became families, and loved each other as if we were blood-related. I believe drugs and alcohol, and unspoken mental health issues, have caused a demise in many African-American neighborhoods.”
Gray’s neighborhood and those around it have also been the most blighted and impoverished areas in the city for years, and the struggles the residents in these communities face can lead to anger and frustration.
Racism, lack of equal rights for everyone, few job opportunities, and abuse and harassment from law enforcement officers are other factors, Rice said, that can ultimately lead to violent uprisings.
From the July 2015 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story here.