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Thank You For Writing About Lefties Without Leftiness

Posted 5/21/2008

Kudos and orchids to Joe Tropea for his exposition of the Catonsville Nine and Baltimore Four anti-Vietnam War actions along with ample background material on the people involved and on similar actions elsewhere in the country ("Hit and Stay," Feature, May 14).

Contrary to what I expected when I saw the article highlighted, Mr. Tropea did not glorify the activists but stuck to the facts and without adding unneeded left-wing rhetoric to his reporting. It's as objective a reporting job as I've ever seen in City Paper. I commend him for writing it and City Paper for publishing it.

An added note to Mr. Tropea's report of the opening of the Catonsville Nine's 1968 trial in Baltimore federal court:

Having recently returned from Vietnam, I was in Baltimore for the Martin Luther King Jr. riots and then in Chicago covering the police riot there during the Democratic National Convention. Given how Chicago Mayor Richard Daley met the demonstrators with armed (and thuggish) police and National Guardsmen, I asked Baltimore Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro on the flight home how he planned to handle the demonstrators expected for the trial in our city.

"I'll have them greeted at the city line and give them a police escort all the way," he told me.

The mayor was as good as his word, and no violence ensued. The only untoward incident was when a number of Baltimore police officers removed their name tags (in emulation of their Chicago counterparts) apparently in anticipation of some free-swinging enforcement.

When I asked superior officers about this, they immediately ordered the police officers to restore their nameplates and the demonstration went off peacefully.

It was a marked contrast from Chicago, and in my opinion Mayor D'Alesandro never got enough credit for ensuring that peace reigned during the trial.

While I disagreed with the actions of the Catonsville Nine, I had opportunity to interview most of them in advance of their 25th anniversary commemoration of the event. I found them to be ordinary people who believed sincerely in what they had done in an extraordinary time.

Robert A. Erlandson

White People Aren't That Bad

I am a recovering black militant. My new favorite saying is: I was a black militant, but black people cured me of it ("A Eurocentric Masculinist Responds," The Mail, May 14). I honestly believe that, in today's climate, I have more reason to fear potential harm from my supposed black brother than from a white person. As a former militant, I like to believe that I can see both sides of the white/black schism.

There is a pathology that exists in the black community. This pathology is partly caused by the existence of the system of white supremacy. Although whites have greater access to the largess in this country, which was partially created by white supremacy, each individual white person should not and cannot be blamed. We might not have our fair share of the wealth in this country, but we also benefit from the American way of life, even though it was created from the legacies of slavery, the near-annihilation of the Native Americans, and the theft of their land. We are tacit supporters of American imperialism, despite our feverish protestations to the contrary. A cursory glance at the history of human civilizations would show that the people who control a society will, of course, enjoy more benefits from the status quo than those without control.

Often, white behavior vis-à-vis blacks is misconstrued as racist, when whites are actually reacting to our aberrant behavior. To paraphrase Tony Brown, when a black woman walks down the street by herself late at night and sees young black men approaching her, she is thought of as streetwise if she crosses to the other side, while a white woman who does the same thing is considered racist.

A major flaw of the '60s civil-rights movement is that it created the fallacy that the responsibility for racial harmony lies solely with the white community. Many of us carry around the attitude that it is every white person's duty to adapt to us, and that, in turn, we are not obligated to alter our behavior one iota in order to get along with them. This is an unrealistic assumption; we are only 13 percent of the total population, and people who are white control the military hardware, the legal system, and the supplies of food and money. There is a limit to the impact that we can have on this society. White obsession with us is more of a reflection of their fear than it is of our power or influence. I have another favorite saying: Go to any nation in black Africa and ask the tribe that's 13 percent of the population how they feel they are being treated by the other 87 percent.

I will close this letter with the only thing Eldridge Cleaver ever said that was worth listening to: "Watch out for some white people, and also for some black people."

Gregory Logan

There Are More Homeless Than You Think

In "Councilmania" on May 7, it is noted that Baltimore City is proposing to spend "$30 million in `services for homeless persons.' . . . The city has estimated that some 3,000 of its 720,000 citizens are homeless, so the expenditure amounts to about $10,000 each."

Not really-the city estimates that AT LEAST 3,000 people were sleeping outside or in emergency shelters on ONE night in January, but perhaps 30,000 different Baltimoreans experience homelessness each year. The expenditure actually amounts to about $1,000 per person, an amount equal to less than two months' rent. With more than 40,000 poor households competing for 20,000 subsidized housing units, these funds are important-and inadequate.

By the way, the last time Baltimore had a population of 720,000, the Orioles won a World Series.

Jeff Singer
President and CEO, Health Care for the Homeless

Edward Ericson Jr. responds: Regarding Baltimore's overall population: good catch. That should have been 620,000. Regarding Baltimore's homeless population: nice try. The city counted 3,000 on a given January day. It makes sense to compute the cost on a homeless per-diem basis, and the $30 million would cover the rent all year on at least 3,000 one-bedroom apartments, twice that many SROs.


I wrote this message to Bret McCabe to comment on his review of The Re-Up by TEOP (Know Your Product, May 7).

You write very well, but WOW, you sure did get personal about this artist rather than focus on just the music. You stated, "not quite soul-sucked by the streets just yet." How do you tell that from a song if you haven't met TEOP or lived his life? As a professional writer for a major newspaper, don't you have the responsibility to state truths and facts? Isn't it unprofessional to assume? How can you as a writer make bold assumptions about someone whom you never met or ever interviewed?

Comparisons to other rappers and comparing his music to other artists is something that I have seen writers do because it is an easy way for indolent writers to grasp the audience's attention rather than focus on the artist himself and critique and analyze the music for what it is. Criticisms are great and allow an artist to assess and improve his or her music, but you seem to focus on slamming the artist's character by continuously stating untrue and incorrect information. The opinion you stated, "It's not that Teop can't snarl and growl; it merely sounds ill-fitting on him, like Michael Dukakis in that tank," is a valid opinion based on you listening to the music. When you state, "The hypnotic `How Down tha Hill Fell' is a pulsating bit of neighborhood nostalgia, as narrated by a young man who didn't witness back in the day with his own eyes but heard stories from a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was there," it is a prime example of how you distorted the truth and stated this as a fact when it is absolutely not. I can fully understand a writer stating that the music sounds like the artist is using another man's experience to write this song, but your statement is stated as a fact. What research was done on TEOP to base your statements?

I would suggest to you that you go to, where TEOP was critiqued, to learn how to write unbiased, musically based opinions rather than taking a hating stance on an individual. I can see why hip-hop doesn't succeed in Baltimore. There is absolutely no support for music because people like you, in your position, tend to distort and exaggerate to make a story more enthralling to readers to capture their attention and to allow rumors to spread from unsubstantiated thoughts you conjured up. I hope next time you review TEOP's music you will focus on the music and not belittle an artist's reputation. Please do research on an artist so that your article can be credible.

Caroline Pandian

alvin brunson street

What a loss! That was my feeling when I read "Hot Property: Why Did Baltimore City Give Rubble to a Dead Man?" (Mobtown Beat, April 23).

I am deeply saddened by the death of another black man. From 1998 until 2006, I lived in Baltimore, but I never had the pleasure of meeting the local historian Alvin Brunson of the Pennsylvania Avenue community. A lost opportunity that I deeply regret.

I hope Wilson Street will be renamed "Alvin Brunson Street" and I hope the Brunson family will build an "Alvin Brunson Museum" on the site of the collapsed building where Mr. Brunson died.

If Mr. Alvin Brunson was given the right to work in the building for his dream museum, how often did the building inspector look in on the work progress being done on the building? Are there records available for citizens to see if a building inspector made periodic visits to the work site?

We must not allow Alvin Brunson's dream of a museum to die. The city of Baltimore owes Mr. Brunson a museum because blood is on somebody's hands in the matter. God will fix this situation, and the wrong will not be hidden. I'll leave it to God to take care of the revenge that I want to see done.

Larnell Custis Butler

Editor's note: We are proud to announce that City Paper has been nominated for several 2008 Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Awards. Staff writer Edward Ericson Jr. is nominated in the Public Service category for "Watching the Inspectors" (Feature, Nov. 7, 2007) and his ongoing coverage of the city's housing department. Staff writer Jeffrey Anderson is nominated in the News Story: Long Form category for "Juvenile Disservices" (Mobtown Beat, Nov. 28. 2007) and "The Colonel" (Mobtown Beat, Dec. 12, 2007), both about (now former) head of the Victor Cullen Academy Christopher Perkins. (Jeff is also nominated in the Investigative Reporting for his "The Town the Law Forgot" series for LA Weekly.) And CP contributing photographer Rarah is nominated in the Photography category. The winners will be announced at the national AAN convention in Philadelphia June 7.

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