This past weekend I attended the Artscape Festival here in Baltimore. I went along with a good friend of mine on the second day of the three-day event. Most of the day was spent walking around, sightseeing and listening to the amazing live entertainment. There were dozens of food trucks, food stands, artist booths, and booths ran by corporate sponsors such as Prius, Xfinity, and Target. The ambiance was great and the people were full of energy and good vibes. If you missed out this year, make it your duty to attend next year.
At around 6pm, a group of friends and I were making our way back to the main stage when we walked into the middle of a Black Lives Matter protest ran by a group called Afromation. Initially, I was a bit confused as to what was going on but, after taking a look at the some of the signs that people were holding up, I soon figured it out and I could not have been more excited.
I am an advocate from BLM and I am not afraid to raise my voice in support of the equality of African Americans but, I had never been involved in an actual protest. There was a group of about 65 people of different races gathered at Penn Station. I can’t remember what they were chanting the moment that I arrived because I was caught up in the awe of it all. A crowd had already started to gather in support of the protest and there were a few police officers hanging around as well. A few minutes after arriving, the crowd began to move towards the Jones Fall Expressway and I followed them, capturing it all on my IPhone. The group went down onto the expressway and blocked the oncoming traffic. They were chanting, “Back up, back up! We want freedom, freedom! All these racist ass cops, we don’t need em, need em!” among other things.
I stood on the ramp and watched them standing up for what they believed in and I felt empowered. I began to chant along with them while taking photos and video. At some point, more cops began to show up and make their way down the ramp towards the protestors. The scene was like something out of a movie. Drivers were honking in support of the protestors, people were getting out of their cars to take pictures and video, and we were all chanting and holding up our fists in solidarity. There was unity amongst all people at that moment, both black and white.
The cops began to urge for the protesters to move off the ramp so that traffic could resume. At the same time, I heard a young woman tell another young woman that the cops were blocking off the top of the ramp and getting ready to arrest everyone who remained. At that, I began to panic. Not only was I on the ramp but, I was at the very bottom near the protesters who were still chanting and still standing their ground. Honestly, the bravery and strength that exuded from the crowd were contagious. Even with the threat of being arrested, I put my hands up and chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” with the crowd. I continued to snap photos and videos until I was yanked backward by my best friend as he was pulling me towards the top of the ramp. I looked up and saw that there was a line of police officers blocking our way out and I knew that I was screwed.
I ran up the ramp and a white police officer spread his arms to block me. There was a small amount of space next to him so I turned sideways and slid past him, rushing through the crowd to get away. After a few minutes, I moved back towards the front of the line and began to live stream the action. Another group of officers had already made their way down the ramp with a bunch of white zip tie handcuffs ready to lock up the protesters. There was a Paddy Wagon blocking traffic and the officers began to arrest the protesters.
I was outraged. The amount of anger that I felt in that moment was insurmountable. They were being arrested for protesting, for freedom of speech, for nothing! At that moment, I decided that I would take every opportunity to protest for what’s right. I want my voice to be heard.
For a while, I stood around and live streamed what was happening. I took photos and videos of the scene unfolding in front of me. There were 3 Paddy Wagons and 65 protesters. Most of them were packed into the wagons on the ramp and about seven or eight were brought up the ramp to Penn Station to be placed within another Paddy Wagon. We all began to chant “No Justice, No Peace” as the group was being escorted. We gathered in Penn Station and chanted, expressed our outrage, and continued to document everything. There were news reporters there as well. Fox 45 interviewed my best friend. After twenty minutes, I left to gather my things and go home because it had started to pour down and my phone had died. As I was leaving, I could hear the group chanting “We Got Your Back” and even though they were directed towards the protesters being arrested, I knew that it was for me too, that if I were in a situation like this, my people would have my back.
Overall, this experience was magical. I’ve never felt more in my element then I did while among the protesters. I had the energy flowing through me that ignited a spark that I didn’t know was there. I belonged there with my people, protesting for MY BLACK LIFE because IT MATTERS and I will make sure the world knows that.
To my people, if you can get out there and raise your voice then do it, please. Show the world who we are and let them know that we are not going down without a fight. Protest! Make your signs and shove them in the face of the cops and the racists. Make sure they hear you loud and clear.
Black Lives Matter
Signing off with Pride,