Pennsylvania Avenue, Mayor’s Race 2007 by Alvin Brunson
A SINKING SHIP ALWAYS REST AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN Pennsylvania Avenue, as most of us know is a main street in Northwest Baltimore with the rich history and cultural heritage of Blacks connected to Baltimore. Historic landmarks and cultural attractions can be found on almost every corner in this community. Supreme Court Judge Thurgood Marshall home; a statue of jazz singer Billie Holiday; the Arch Social Club and the St. Peter Claver Church to name a few. Recently, I overheard a clerk at a downtown hotel tell a guest. Whatever, you do, don’t go on Pennsylvania Avenue. Why are tourist told to stay away from this street? A street with so much Black history and culture. Mainly because this street is located in one of Baltimore’s most economically, psychology and socially depressed neighborhoods in the city. To say that “the Avenue” is in “the hood” would be an understatement. To visit some of these landmarks and attractions, a tourist has to go through a war zone. Maybe not as dangerous as Iraq but close. You have to do battle with 20-30 young Black males dressed in white t-shirts and blue jeans who operate an open air drug market from one end of Penny Avenue to the other with the “highest” concentration between the 1400 -1800 blocks. Every God fearing mother or father, walking their kids to school, church or to the corner store is at risk of being subjected to the screams of drug dealers yelling from the top of their lungs, the drugs of the day i.e., Barry Bonds out; Ray Charles out; motivation, motivation “hitting” right here. (Is this how we pay homage to our ancestors and living legends by naming drugs in there honor)? It does not help that in order to visit these historic landmarks, one has to walk by hundreds of vacant houses and abandon buildings; one has to walk thru filthy, dirty streets filled with piles of trash; not to mention the hundred of addicts chasing drugs. Pennsylvania Avenue without question is still an attraction but only for people searching for drugs.In an election year, where you have 4 or 5 African Americans running for the top job in the city, the mayor “ship”. I have not heard one candidate talk about what they plan to do to combat, save and rebuild Pennsylvania Avenue. This sinking ship is a vital part of Baltimore’s Black history. If we don’t save it, it will be lost forever. Is it because they don’t care about Pennsylvania Avenue or are they content with an annual parade or jazz at the Avenue Market once a year. Meanwhile, a handful non-profit Black businesses on or near Pennsylvania Avenue make a conscious effort to bring some life to this strip. But can barely stay afloat, because our “so called” leader “ship” i.e., political, church, community and business won’t stop this ship from sinking. I hope that this observation of Pennsylvania Avenue will put pressure on every politician running for office; every pastor recruiting new members and/or community leader to 1) stop this ship from sinking 2) build a better ship. As a result of years of neglect, Pennsylvania Avenue is sinking and everybody in the community is without a life boat. If the power that be, want votes, new members, new business then they need to clean up; fix up or shut -up. If you have no plans to allot funds and other resources needed to rebuild Pennsylvania Avenue then get off the boat, it’s carrying enough dead weight. Remember, an overturned ship remains afloat until something is finally done. If nothing is done, the ship sink and everyone drowns. Alvin Kirby BrunsonThe Center for Cultural Education Inc.