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Unambiguous Role

Posted 1/21/2009

Jeff Anderson's otherwise thoughtful take on Anna Sowers last month suffers an unfortunate lapse into innuendo that I'd like to fix ("Antihero," Feature, Dec. 17, 2008).

In a few passages about my assistance to her activist efforts, Anderson describes unnamed civic leaders as "confused" about my role. His context further implies that I've been some sort of Svengali who manipulates Sowers for some mysterious hidden agenda. He vaguely associates the innuendo with my past career in Baltimore journalism.

Let's be clear. I'm a formerly visible media sort who quietly disappeared into the woodwork of an institution that hired Sowers and me into the same unit on the same day. We were simply colleagues, and I was just among the many in our office who offered to help in any way we could.

Her entry into civic activism prompted more contact between us, as I tried to help her sort out her activist ideas. Sometimes she liked my recommendations; sometimes not. But one thing's been constant: At all times during our alliance, Anna has never displayed confusion over whether she controlled the direction of her efforts to memorialize her stolen young husband.

This should shed light on what happened with the disputed "Black 25" part of our efforts. Anna liked it at first, but chose to shift her energies to ideas that seemed more promising. She still wanted to build a bridge across the racial divide that threatened her goals, but she became disenchanted with the prospect of walking though such a minefield, especially given the array of more attainable goals that lay before her.

To her description of the Black 25 notion as "Flynn's idea," I plead guilty as charged. I still think our larger community would greatly benefit from a timely "intra-black" argument that can tackle chronic cancers like the "Stop Snitchin'" problem in a way that no mixed-race group ever can. I clearly spelled this out in my initial contact with former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, who instantly agreed.

Black leaders like UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski and Councilman Jack Young also quickly recognized that such an initiative could address ticklish topics in a community no longer defined by silly things like skin pigment. Baltimore could have--and still could, in my view-- enormous benefits from a conversation in which morally strong black leaders could turn on the young thugs in their communities who have too long taken comfort in the idea that a rising black establishment would somehow protect them.

Thanks for the opportunity to set the record straight, and for the fine work in keeping the spotlight on Anna's magnificent quest to create a positive legacy for the late Zach Sowers.

Ramsey Flynn

Correction: The statistics cited in the text of last week's feature on 2008 murders ("Outnumbered," Jan. 14) were correct, but due to an editing error, the representations for those statistics in the graphic representations for Murders by Police District and Murders by Race: Victims didn't match up with the figures. The correct versions of those graphic representations have been uploaded to the online version of the story. In addition, a reader pointed out that the percentages in the Murders by Race: Victims pie chart don't add up to 100 percent. That's because the race of two 2008 murder victims were classified as "other" by Baltimore Police. Since the demographics on which the city population comparison was based don't include an "other" category, those two victims were left out of the calculations.

Editor's note: If you're reading this in a hard-copy edition of City Paper, you can hardly help but notice certain changes about the publication you're holding. First, the paper is physically smaller--about 2 inches shorter than our old tabloid size--the result of a move by our press to a 44-inch print web in order to counter the rising cost of newsprint. Second, it looks terrific, thanks to a much-needed, long-in-the-making redesign, courtesy of our talented and hard-working art director Joe MacLeod. There are other changes that will only become apparent once you've looked closer, including a revamped Baltimore Weekly and front-of-the-book columns Political Animal, Mr. Wrong, and Social Studies rotating every three weeks in a single column spot in place of their previous rotation. Look for more paper and web site changes and improvements coming soon.

Also, don't forget City Paper's Free Valentines. You can express your affection for your sweetie in our Feb. 11 issue if you get your message of love in by Feb. 4; enter yours' here.

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