9 September 2016

Oh Baltimore Blues

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)

The following commentary was transcribed from a prisonradio.org recording dated August 12.

The brilliant and beautiful Nina Simone in her classic lament, “Baltimore,” sings of a city by the sea, but one that she longs to flee from, because of its hardness and its meanness.

In her unforgettable refrain, she mixes her love of the city with longing to go elsewhere, singing:

“Oh Baltimore, ain’t it hard just to leave, just to live.”

Simone’s deep, rich contralto flew to mind when I heard of the government’s report of the city’s roguish police department; one seemingly bent on making the lives of black Baltimoreans as miserable as possible.

According to the report released by the Department of Justice, local cops routinely violated the constitutional rights of blacks and also used excessive force against them, largely with impunity. According to a high-ranking DOJ official, cops not only stopped and frisked thousands of people in an unconstitutional manner; they beat people, they punished demonstrators engaged in First Amendment actions, they falsely arrested people, and most shockingly they stripped people naked in the street in blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment governing search and seizure. And they did all of these things in Baltimore’s low-income and black communities, and they did this for years, for decades.

“Oh Baltimore, ain’t it hard just to leave, just to live.”

Baltimore is more than a Southern city; it’s a majority black city, with 64 percent African-American inhabitants. It has a black mayor, black D.A., and until recently a black police chief.

What difference did it make to tens of thousands of black Baltimoreans?

It didn’t mean a damn thing. Nothing.

Black politicians buried their heads in the sand while the people they claim to represent were subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment, humiliation, violence and terror.

Only the fires that burned Baltimore after the police murder of Freddie Gray brought light to a situation of mass unconstitutional behavior by the BPD.

And you better know, it ain’t just Baltimore.

From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

©2016 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1095, 9 September 2016)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.