Tag Archives: Baltimore

Charm City: Upton The Jewel of the Chesapeake

There have been many segregated cities created by white folk thanks to the system of white supremacy. I’ve told the story of “Black Wall Street”, Black Bottom, Harlem and, in fact, the many other such places all over America. But did you know there was a place called Upton in Baltimore, Maryland that hosted one of the most affluent African American neighborhoods in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. For the “Colored folk”, it was known as the “Jewel of the Chesapeake”.

Today, B-more is called “Charm City” which should have been the name given to this splendid community back in the day. Rather, today Baltimore is known for its despair and of course the murder of Freddie Gray who the system say killed himself while in police custody and the unrest that ensued.

In Upton, Pennsylvania Avenue was the main drag connecting all African American life in the city and beyond. To the south and west of Upton lay the poor and working class African American neighborhoods of “The Bottom”; to its east were the German American and Jewish American neighborhoods. Upton is about a fifteen minute walk from Downtown Baltimore, but blacks of that era had no need to go downtown, for obvious reasons. Because of segregation they were not allowed to patronize or enter through the front door of the white establishments unless they were working.

Baltimore is best known for crabs, crab cakes, delicious seafood, and, of course, a good time, but let’s never forget its rich history. Upton was home to the most educated African Americans, property owners, and professionals to include doctors, lawyers, retailers who served the middle class and upscale clientele. On the Avenue, as it was called, was home to a premiere shopping strip for black Baltimoreans, inspiring comparisons to Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Upton had it all jazz clubs, dance halls, theaters, as well as other public and private institutions for the black community.

Upton was also the staging ground for much of the local and national civil rights initiatives. It was a crossroad for many great African Americans who fought for equality and improving conditions for communities suffering from the ridged “separate but equal laws” and cruel amoral agendas. People like the great Frederick Douglass, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey all visited Upton and organized in its local churches. The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP was based in Upton as well as the New Negro Alliance, who rallied for justice from this proud community.

In the mid-20th century, Upton’s population swelled due to the popularity of the neighborhood and the pressures of segregation that kept African Americans confined to certain areas. Single family homes were subdivided into small apartments, and Pennsylvania Avenue’s sidewalks were crowded on Saturday nights, as loud music and heavy drinking became popular vices on the strip. There were several notable venues hosting great entertainment like the New Albert Hall, the Savoy and the Strands that drew many performers and partygoers.

But it was the Douglass Theater, renamed The Royal Theater, at Pennsylvania and Lafayette, that became famous and a mainstay on the Chitlin Circuit on par with the legendary Apollo Theater. Cab Calloway grew up in Upton and Eubie Blake performed his debut in a club on Pennsylvania Avenue. Stars such as Ethel Water, Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations all performed at the Royal. It was like the Apollo in the sense that you had to play the Royal to get your chops.

Churches were also a huge part of this community providing safe havens for its people. Since the 18th Century, African American churches have nurtured their souls, feed the hungry, clothed and housed the poor but their role was far more important. The church community was a launch pad for activism and served as a communication networks, which was the backbone of the community. The church community fought for civil rights, supported business initiatives, and job placement. From the beginning, going back beyond the Underground Railroad, Baltimore’s churches were a place of empowerment through worship and served as incubators for organizing and planning regardless of denomination or faith.

Baltimore produced prominent businessmen such as Raymond Haysbert, who was the owner and founder of the famed Parks Sausage Company that became the first black-owned company to go public in 1969. The Parks Sausage Company was a legend in Baltimore, and you could hear its slogan “more Parks Sausages mom” everywhere. After the company, experienced financial difficulties two former National Football League Hall of Famers Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris partnered to come to its rescue maintaining the company’s black-owned legacy. James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul”, was also a prominent businessman in the city owning WEBB, a local radio station, and several other businesses.

Upton also produced its share of colorful characters known as “hustlers” who were legendary. One of the most famous was “Little Willie” Adams. Mr. Adams or “Little Willie”, as he was known, opened a shoeshine stand on the Avenue when he was 18. Sources say he was an ambitious young hustler with dreams of being his own man. One day a flamboyant numbers man got in his chair; he popped his rag like a firecracker while talking jive making him laugh.

He convinced the numbers man that he too was a businessman, solid and dependable, and he wanted in on the numbers game. The hustlers slapped palms, and Little Willie started at the bottom the next day as a runner. By age 34, the young dapper Adams was already a living legend and the King of B-more. Little Willie was known to say, after he became the numbers czar, “This was our thing started by slaves”. I’m told he would say “prayer is good but when you get up off your knees. You’ve got to hustle”.

Then there was the late Melvin Williams, who was the inspiration for the enormously popular HBO series “The Wire.” Known as “Little Melvin”, also featured the documentary “American Gangster” where he told his story, his way. Before he was old enough to shave, Little Melvin possessed a genius I.Q. of 160 but he says it’s closer to 200. Despite being a high school dropout, he can talk tax codes, interstate commerce, calculus, and physics with the best of them. Little Melvin, a legend at age 15 years old had made a few hundred grand in the gambling haunts and alleyways along glittering Pennsylvania Avenue. For three decades, Melvin ruled as the uncrowned king.

Pennsylvania Avenue is now lined with sneaker shops, dollar stores, other low-rent commercial uses, and many abandoned storefronts. The Avenue Market sells produce and holds occasional events such as jazz shows. According to the city, 60% of Upton families with children under 5 are living in poverty. The median home sale price in Upton in 2004 (not including Marble Hill) was $28,054. Many of the row houses in the neighborhood are vacant either abandoned by their property owners or owned by the city.

Yes, the ghost of what was our creation has been stained, and the Jewel of the Chesapeake has lost its luster. Unfortunately, the city of Baltimore, known as Charm City, forgot that Upton was responsible for a large part of its charm but African Americans know it lure looms large, and its legacy will never die. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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Commentary: The Hate That Hate Produced

290_10000One of the last things Dr. King said before he was murdered – “We have some difficult days ahead.” If last years disturbance in Baltimore is any indication; that is a very true statement because the language of the unheard was loud and clear. Over my lifetime, I have seen civil disobedience at both ends of the spectrum. From extremes, such as kneeling peacefully and praying at the Edmund Pettis Bridge on Bloody Sunday to Watts and Detroit – all happened fifty years ago. In Watts, the cry was not hands up don’t shot. It was “Burn Baby Burn” and “kill the pigs”. The cry directed at the police today is “you started this”!

The question is – how far have we really come? If you asked black people they will say we have not come very far at all. Most black folk will say just as it was fifty years ago, and beyond, as sure as things change they remain the same. The reason the police were born was to be slave catchers who were violent and immoral people who killed and maimed as directed in the course of their duty capturing runaway slaves. They watched as white folk lynched, dismembered, and burned black people for entertainment and today as the kill unarmed black men they claim to be the victim.

What I found interesting or maybe disturbing is that the machine continues to operate from the same playbook after each horrible event. First, they put a black face in the picture, even though people from the black community know these people are likely bought and paid for. Honestly, those folk do not have the interest of black people at heart. Next, they will parade every black member of the clergy before the camera’s to give the same message of “peace” and nonviolence. This generation can see through this ploy like Superman with his X-ray vision. This is not your grandfather’s kind of Negro. They see their parents and grandparent in the same hopeless position as they have been all of their lives and frankly see no hope for their future.

After violence and death have been inflicted upon black people the chant’s of American values and the Constitution is brought into the conversation. Therefore, it is very interesting that the treatment of the least of thee result in protest and rage, which is because the system has been purposely derelict in their duties. Then, they ask the question why are these folks angry? The answer is, and Ray Charles can see it, the system disenfranchises them, occupy communities where they live with overbearing oppression and get away with murder; while blaming the people. Take note; every riot has come from a situation where the police murdered someone or an act of police brutality.

Last year as I watched the violence on the streets of Baltimore it reminded me of how the Palestinians react to Israel, who throws rocks at that occupying force. In fifty years, since the devastating riots of the 1960s nothing has changed. Therefore, I say, and we all know, the bottom line is “We have not overcome” and they know it. Poverty is up; unemployment is up, and racism is at an all-time high, and white folk continue to ask the same question – what is the problem? They use the same terms except today the language is coded. For example, they use thugs instead of nigger, as their forefathers did.

Nearly every day there is a police killing of an unarmed man or some extreme act of brutal that goes unpunished as a result of the blue wall of silence, cover-ups, and lies. However, now they face a dilemma. The populous have video cameras and have caught these acts of lawlessness and crimes on camera, and a reasonable person will find it hard to dispute the wretchedness of the brutality. Yesterday, the police repeatedly talked about street gangs have come together against them, when the community says they are the more brutal gang. They have been caught lying, filing false reports, supposedly losing documents to cover up their crimes, and always claim to be in fear of their lives as justification for their actions.

In the Gray case in Baltimore that is the flash point. This young man had 80% of his neck broken, and they want people to believe that while handcuffed and under their control; he broke his own back. Let’s be honest, “nobody is dumb enough to believe that lie”, but they continue to use their favorite talking point; “the victim caused his own death.” I guess the logic is, as history shows if you repeat the same lie long enough people will believe it.

I find it troubling that there are those who dig up Dr. King during all of these troubling situations. So I will do the same with one of his profound quotes:

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard”.

All of this results in the hate that hate produces. Let us not forget that slaves have always rebelled. This is merely a manifestation of that deeply embedded conditioning. Now, I do not profess to be a prophet, but I will say this if the killings and brutality don’t not stop. It is going to be a long hot summer. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

A MUST SEE VIDEO – HIDDEN COLORS 


Where Is The Protest And Rage

th (4)The disturbing events from Ferguson to South Carolina that we’ve witnessed seemed, according to the media, to have come as a surprise to many. Honestly, I don’t know why and frankly there should be outrage. If the despicable acts done to black people we done to a dog, white fold would be in rebellion! The only thing different here is the level of disregard the police exercised against unarmed black people. They think black people are still chattel and are expendable. What happened was the result of how America has trained its people to forget that it has always been this way, just look back at the racial strife a generation or so ago during the civil rights movement.

Then like now, they found a black face to calm the unrest or find some preacher to tell you to love thy neighbor and turn the other check after you have been beaten and bruised. Back in the day, they put dogs on peaceful “Negro” protestors and used fire hoses against unarmed men, women, and children. These attacks were done even when these folks left their staging areas, which was a church with real preachers leading the marches and the forces of evil still beat and trampled them.

If you go back far enough in our history, the police came about to be slave catchers and to control the oppressed people. The common wisdom, then like now, was to hire and put more black people on the force to use them to occupy the communities where blacks live. Let’s not forget, the FBI, America’s top law enforcement agency would not hire black agents, and it took lawsuits to make that happen. If this was the case, what do you think happened in Mayberry?

The riots sparked by the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown or in Baltimore resulted from the murder of an unarmed black man. Most scenes of protest, rioting, and an iron-fisted police crackdown emerged from similar situations history has shown. From the Civil War through the early 1900s, what is now called “race riots” were expressions of white rage. Frankly, history does not report the vile outrage of white who were the instigators of race riots.

Many, dare I say most were spurred by labor strife, rumors of a crime committed against a white person, or fears of black families moving into primarily white areas, whites would set entire black neighborhoods to the flame, destroying property and murdering blacks at will. Of course, this was justified because “they” said so.

Ferguson’s name has been added to the long list of uprisings that have taken place in nearly every city in America. Like the Harlem riots and many of the 1960s uprisings were sparked by conflict between the community and the police. In Los Angeles, the Watts neighborhood went up in flames in 1965, after three family members were arrested during a clash with police following a drunk-driving stop.

St. Louis, which is near Ferguson, has a history of racial strife dating back to the Dred Scott Decision. The city fell into chaos in 1965 after a 19-year-old black youth was killed as he fled police officer Israel Mason, who said the familiar excuse, the suspect tried to grab his gun during a traffic stop. Detroit burned for five days in 1967 after police tried to arrest dozens of people during a raid of an after-hours speakeasy. The primary period of black urban uprisings, which was 1963 to 1970, nearly all of them were sparked by confrontations between African-Americans and the police. Almost every single one!

So you see nothing much has changed, even though they will tell you it has and America is the greatest country in the world. The puppets and the conspirators of those who keep black people as second class citizens. In the two weeks of demonstrations featuring calculated violence by planted insurgents that manifested itself in Ferguson. We have had over four hundred years of frustration like you saw in Ferguson. Violence as harmful and self-destructive as it sometimes works. However, the popular reaction is the same since the African was dragged onto these shores; “There’s not a black-white divide the Negro are happy!”

The recipe for urban riots since 1935 is remarkably consistent and the ingredients are almost always the same: An impoverished and politically disempowered black population refused full American citizenship, a heavy-handed and overwhelmingly white police force, a generous amount of neglect, and frequently, the loss of Black life at the hands of the police. Yet, they are always surprised when tension is released.

Back in 1968, a report produced by the Kerner Commission an 11-member panel convened by President Lyndon B. Johnson to get to the heart of a series of violent riots in 1967 concluded:

White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture that has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II. Actually, since the days of Nat Turner! What the rioters appeared to be seeking was fuller participation in the social order and the material benefits enjoyed by the majority of American citizens. Rather than rejecting the American system, they were anxious to obtain a place for themselves in it.

Police actions are always the spark because their Gestapo tactics have come to symbolize white power, white racism, and white repression. And the fact is that many police do reflect and express these white attitudes. The atmosphere of hostility and cynicism is reinforced by a widespread belief among black American’s in the existence of police brutality and in a ‘double standard’ of justice that is clearly one for Negroes and one for whites.

Much has been made of angry young black men, tattooed, with their pants sagging and their faces covered in shirts and bandanas. Some of them sometimes answered saying what black people have always said, “I am a man” when asked their names. That’s why I love these young black boys for saying enough is enough. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Politics Of America – Somethings Never Change


COMMENTARY: Day Of Reckoning Convict The Six

290_10000First, I want to give high praise to Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby – WELL DONE! Mosby was clear, focused and forceful in her accusations against the officers. She was absolutely correct in bring charges and delivering the stinging indictment of the six officers involved in the events leading to Freddie Gray’s death. The charges could bring more than a half a century of jail time for the so-called protectors of justice who now can be seen as the “real thugs”. Mosby in revealing new allegations about Freddie Brown’s arrest and ride in the back of a police van depicted utter inhumane treatment of the young man.

Based on her account, the officers had no probable cause to chase him, handcuff him, search him or restrain him. Something statistics says happen “more often than not” too black men, and young black men in particular! They placed Brown in a dangerous position, unsecured and face down on the floor of the van with his hands and feet bound. The charged officers, and I use that word loosely, displayed utter indifference to his calls for help and no sense of urgency to determine whether or how badly he had been injured – much less to render assistance. We would be shocked if an officer treated a dog that way these six are accused of treating Freddie Gray.

The most significant thing about her taking swift actions was she did what other prosecutors failed or did not want to do. For example, what didn’t happen in Ferguson, Mo., where prosecutors made a half-hearted (at best) effort to secure a grand jury indictment in the death of Michael Brown; nor in New York, where a grand jury declined to indict officers in the death of Eric Garner; and so far not in Cleveland, where a grand jury is still considering the death of Tamir Rice. Among recent, highly publicized incidents of black men killed at the hands of police officers, the only one resulting in criminal charges so far was the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina and it remains to be seen if he serves time.

Mrs. Mosby has set the precedent that officers can and will face charges of assault, manslaughter and even murder for a case that is less clear cut than many that previously resulted in no prosecution at all. She displayed considerable skill and poise in denouncing their actions. What struck me most was that they thought so little of Gray’s cries for help that they took an extra stop on the way back to the Western District to pick up another prisoner, and when they got to the station, they didn’t turn their attention to Gray until after they had taken that other man inside for processing.

We should know and expect the forces of evil to come after her. Actually, the moment the press conference ended there were calls for her to recuse herself by the police union. The Fox crowd lost their minds telling their loyal bigots; she threw the police under the bus. No doubt this is going to be a long battle against good and evil. The question is – who is good and who is evil? Regardless, for her courage and commitment all of us will have her back. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Charges against the gang

The thug cops charged in Freddie killing of Brown (c) and what some had to say. 

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Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr.: Second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle, misconduct in office. He spends a lot of time with his family and kids, said a neighbor.

Officer William G. Porter: Involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office. Is said to be a good, humble kid, and I have never seen him in trouble, says a neighbor.

Lt. Brian W. Rice: Involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment. It is reported that his weapons seized by Carroll County sheriff’s deputies after an ex-girlfriend reported she was alarmed by some of his comments. He was taken to a hospital for mental care.

Officer Edward M. Nero: Second-degree assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

He was an outstanding and dedicated firefighter… He was never in trouble. He was generally a good guy.

Officer Garrett Miller: Second-degree assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment. A neighbor said – it was just a ‘hi, bye’ kind of thing, adding that Miller struck him as a nice guy.

Sgt. Alicia D. White: Manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office. She was just promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

(READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF HER REMARKS)

NOW CONVICT THE SIX


The Analogy Of A Police Killing

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Legacy – A New Season

COMING SOON!!!

It’s been several years since “Just a Season” and it’s time to move on. Generations have come and gone, life is bearable after all, and hope lives in a little boy and in a man who almost lost all hope.

It’s been said that there are no words that have not been spoken and no stories that have never been told but there are some that you cannot forget! “Legacy – A New Season” is the perfect complement to that statement. It is the sequel and the continuation of “Just a Season” and a stand-alone story rich in history on a subject rarely explained to children of this generation concerning the African American struggle.

This long awaited saga to the epic novel “Just a Season” will take you on an awe inspiring journey through the African American Diaspora, as told by a loving grandfather to his grandson in the oral African tradition at a time when America changed forever.

http://johntwills.com


Upton – “The Jewell of the Chesapeake”

The next city in the “Brownsville Series” is Upton in Baltimore, Maryland where I found one of the most affluent African American neighborhoods in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. As I continue my quest to resurrect the ghost of those honored segregated communities of a time long past I will examine the “Jewell of the Chesapeake”. If you’ve never been to Baltimore you’re really missing something special. Today, it’s called “Charm City” which should have been its name back in the day or at least that’s what Upton should have been called.

In Upton, Pennsylvania Avenue was the main drag connecting all African American life in the city and beyond. To the south and west of Upton was the poor and working class African American neighborhoods of “The Bottom”. To its east were the German American and Jewish American neighborhoods. Upton is about a fifteen minute walk from Downtown Baltimore but blacks of that era had no need to go downtown, for obvious reasons, they were not allowed to patronize or enter, through the front door anyway, the white establishments unless they were working.

Baltimore is best known for crabs, crab cakes, delicious seafood, and of course a good time. The neighborhood was home to the most educated African Americans, property owners, and professionals to include doctors, lawyers, retailers who served the middle class and an upscale clientele, jazz clubs, dance halls, and theaters, as well as other public and private institutions for the black community. On the Avenue, as it was called, was home to a premiere shopping strip for black Baltimorians, inspiring comparisons to Lenox Avenue in Harlem – Upton had it all.

Upton was also the staging ground for much of the local and national civil rights initiatives. It was a crossroad for many great African Americans who fought for equality and improving conditions for communities suffering from the ridged “separate but equal laws” and there cruel amoral agendas. People like the great Frederick Douglass, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey all visited Upton and organized in its local churches. The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP was based in Upton as well as the New Negro Alliance who rallied for justice from this proud community.

In the mid-20th century, Upton’s population swelled due to the popularity of the neighborhood and the pressures of segregation that kept African Americans confined to certain areas. Single family homes were subdivided into small apartments and Pennsylvania Avenue’s sidewalks were crowded on Saturday nights, as loud music and heavy drinking became popular vices on the strip. There were several notable venues hosting great entertainment like the New Albert Hall, Savoy and the Strands that drew many performers and partygoers.

But it was the Douglass Theater, renamed The Royal Theater, at Pennsylvania and Lafayette, that became famous and a mainstay on the Chitlin Circuit on par with the legendary Apollo Theater. Cab Calloway grew up in Upton and Eubie Blake performed his debut in a club on Pennsylvania Avenue. Stars such as Ethel Water, Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations all performed at the Royal. It was like the Apollo in the sense that you had to play the Royal to get your chops.

Churches were also a huge part of this community providing safe havens for its people. Since the 18th Century, African American churches have nurtured their souls, feed the hungry, clothed and housed the poor but their roll was far more important. The church community was a launch pad for activism and served as communication networks, which was the backbone of the community. The church community fought for civil rights, supported business initiatives, and job placement. From the beginning going back beyond the Underground Railroad Baltimore’s churches were a place of empowerment through worship and serve as incubators for organizing and planning regardless of domination or faith.

Baltimore has produced prominent businessmen such as Raymond Haysbert who was the owner and founder of the famed Parks Sausage Company that became the first black-owned company to go public in 1969. The Parks Sausage Company was a legend in Baltimore and you could hear its slogan “more Parks Sausages mom” everywhere. After the company experienced financial difficulties two former National Football League Hall of Famers Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris partnered to come to the rescue maintaining the company’s black-owned legacy. James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul”, was also a prominent businessman in the city owning WEBB, a local radio station, and several other businesses.

Upton also produced its share of colorful characters known as “hustlers” that were legendary. One of the most famous was “Little Willie” Adams. Mr. Adams or “Little Willie”, as he was known, opened a shoeshine stand on the Avenue when he was 18. Sources say he was an ambitious young hustler with dreams of being his own man. One day a flamboyant numbers man got in his chair, he popped his rag like a firecracker while talking jive making him laugh. He convinced the numbers man that he too was a businessman, solid and dependable, and he wanted in on the numbers game. The hustlers slapped palms and Little Willie started at the bottom the next day as a runner.

Hustling was a family business and Little Willie was taught by his grandfather who ran an after-hours gambling house on Madison Avenue were most of Baltimore’s established hustlers and entrepreneurs enjoyed their favorite vices. Little Willie was a welcome star at grand pop’s gambling house as he was eager to learn this way of life, as early as age seven. By age 34, the young dapper Adams was already a living legend and the King of B-more. Little Willie was known to say, after he became the numbers czar, “This was our thing started by slaves”. I’m told he would say that “prayer is good but when you get up off your knees. You’ve got to hustle”.

Then there was Mr. Melvin Williams who was the inspiration for the enormously popular HBO series “The Wire.” Known as “Little Melvin”, he has also been featured on “American Gangster” where he told his story, his way. Before he was old enough to shave Little Melvin possessed a genius I.Q. of 160 but he says it’s closer to 200. Little Melvin, a legend at age 15 years old had made a few hundred grand hustling pool and shooting dice. He’s a high school dropout who can talk tax codes, inner-state commerce, calculus and physics with the best of them. No one doubts that he was a prodigy in the gambling haunts and alleyways along glittering Pennsylvania Avenue.

When heroin addiction exploded in the 1960’s, Mafia drug traffickers sought out connections in big cities that were accustomed to dealing in large sums of cash and were smart enough to keep their mouths shut. They needed to look no further than to Melvin, known in street lore today as “the man who brought heroin to Baltimore.” For three decades Melvin ruled as the uncrowned king. Frustrated with their inability to penetrate his operation, Baltimore police framed him by planting a hand full of pills in his pocket during an orchestrated bust. Five years later, Melvin emerged from prison a bitter man out for revenge. He accomplished his mission accumulating untold millions in narco-profits but ultimately paid the price by serving 26.5 years in prison.

His street legend was larger than life, when the Baltimore riots erupted after the 1968 killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there came a knock on Melvin’s door on the fourth morning of fire and rage. In walked National Guard Gen. George Gelston, state Sen. Clarence Mitchell III, and Police Maj. William “Box” Harris. “We think you can help stop the rioting,” they said. “We’ll give you a bullhorn and a bullet-proof vest.” Williams says he told them “I’ll take the bullhorn. Give the vest to Senator Mitchell.” That afternoon, as thousands stood at Pennsylvania Avenue and Mosher Street, Williams told the crowd that they’d expressed their rage, they’d made their point — and now it was time go home. The streets quickly emptied, and that day the riots were over.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, controversial urban renewal projects destroyed much of Upton’s historic architecture, especially in the southwestern portion of the neighborhood. However, it only replaced a portion of what was removed. Once the buildings were razed it was difficult to secure developers to build new construction. The famed Royal Theater was demolished in 1971. Further problems faced Upton during this time in the form of economic depression, housing abandonment, crime, and racial rioting.

Pennsylvania Avenue is now lined with sneaker shops, dollar stores, other low-rent commercial uses, and many abandoned storefronts. The Avenue Market sells produce and holds occasional events such as jazz shows. According to the city, 60% of Upton families with children under 5 are living in poverty. The median home sale price in Upton in 2004 (not including Marble Hill) was $28,054. Many of the row houses in the neighborhood are vacant, either abandoned by their property owners or owned by the city.

Yes, the ghost of what was our creation has been stained and the Jewell of the Chesapeake has lost its luster. Unfortunately, the city of Baltimore, known as Charm City, forgot that Upton was responsible for a large part of its charm but African Americans know it lure looms large and its legacy will never die.

Visit: www.justaseason.comJust a Season is a must read novel…


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