Looking North From Orleans & Central

20170529_132711 I’ve been working and working and working lately, totally overwhelmed by work. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been riding my bike, but it does mean I’ve largely been riding to work, to meetings, to acupuncture appointments, and to dinner and drinks and play when I can sneak it in. Grades are in for the spring semester, though, and summer school doesn’t start until Wednesday, so by Saturday afternoon I started to feel the loosening of vacation and a glimpse or two of the me that emerges when I have time to get just a little bit bored. And today the rain let up and the winds died down, and I got to take a bike ride just to see what I might see.

I had a vague idea that I wanted to see what was happening at Old Town Mall so I headed south and then east and then south again, through Barclay, Latrobe Homes, and Somerset Homes. I rode through the quiet campus of Dunbar High School and then got off the bike to walk west on Orleans. There’s no easy way to cross Orleans from the campus, and I wondered who they’re trying to keep out of where. I snapped this picture at Orleans and Center, this big patch of asphalt fenced off as developers plan what to do with land that used to be home to someone, I’m sure. I got back on my bike and rode north, past Old Town Mall and took a right again to ride east on Monument. Just a few blocks later and I was at Johns Hopkins and their “Eager Park” development. Oh, I see, that’s why there’s talk of redeveloping Old Town Mall–stretch that Hopkins stuff over here.

The displacement of folks from just west of Hopkins has been in the works for years. People are still here, though, if the smell of cookouts and friendly how-you-doin’s are any indication. What will this next phase of development look like? Given that development is spurred by the chance for a significant return on investment, and demands big money up front, what is the model for development that wouldn’t displace people–African American people, in particular–from their neighborhoods? I also snapped a picture of a sign on a building in the EBDI development. It reads, “Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership Expresses Its Gratitude And Respect To The Men And Women Whose Talents Are Invested In This Building And Honors The Generations Of East Baltimore Families Whose Legacies Serve As Its Foundation.” What if instead of a plaque honoring those whose “legacies” are the “foundation” of these new developments, development worked to build those legacies in place?

And then I rode home, up Broadway’s bike lane, a left on Chase, a right on Aisquith, a left on Oliver, and zig zagging to North Avenue through neighborhoods that show all the signs of mass displacement and none of the hints of developers traipsing through with false promises. I don’t know that that is any better, so how in the world do we go forward in justice? Community land trusts, social impact bonds, reparations, for real? What will capitalism let us do? What can we do in spite of it?

Summer bike rides, I’m so glad you’re back.

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