The News: Hogan Lifts COVID Restrictions, Renters’ Rights, City School Board Speaks Out

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: Masks off Maryland (actually, maybe keep them on?), the lasting legacy of police brutality, Bolton Hill church to pay reparations, and more reporting from Baltimore, Baltimore Magazine, The AFRO, and other local and independent news sources.



Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) visited the state's mass vaccination site in St. Mary's County on Wednesday morning. In the afternoon, he lifted the state's outdoor mask mandate and all restrictions for outdoor dining. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Hogan Lifts Order Requiring Masks Outside; Limits on Outdoor Dining to End
by Bruce DePuyt
Published April 28 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Citing progress in the state’s vaccination campaign and a new set of federal guidelines, Marylanders will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced on Wednesday.

Restrictions on outdoor dining and bar service are also being lifted.

Hogan said he made the decision to lift the outdoor mask order, which he imposed last spring, after weighing COVID-19 guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.

He also consulted with state and federal health experts, “all of whom agree that the risk of transmission outdoors is very low, especially for those who’ve been vaccinated.”

The governor said the state’s vaccine supply is now “even” with demand, meaning that everyone who wants a shot can get one.



Health Care for the Homeless health care workers Rosita Harris and Latia Page prep a dose of the Moderna vaccine. Health Care for the Homeless photo.

How Maryland Is Working to Vaccinate Its Homeless Population
by Tori Bergel
Published April 26 in Capital News Service

Excerpt: On March 5, 2020, Maryland’s first three positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.

On March 30, 2020, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R) issued a stay-at-home order, keeping residents from work or school, and setting in motion a new normal for the state of pandemic-related anxiety to which the world is still accustomed.

On Dec. 11, the Food and Drug Administration approved administration of the first coronavirus vaccine in the U.S., developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

This month, on April 6, over a year from when the pandemic began, Hogan announced that all Marylanders over the age of 16 were now eligible to receive a vaccine.

While the news gave the state its first true glimpse at a possible return to normalcy, some of the most vulnerable communities are still struggling to gain access to that same hope.

Individuals experiencing homelessness are one such population, and are highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a “particularly vulnerable group” for COVID-19.



Shawna Murray-Browne / Photo: Joshua Slowe

Navigating Virality From Baltimore’s 2015 Uprising
by Laurence Burney
Published April 23 in True Laurels

Excerpt: During the final week of April 2015, Shawna Murray-Browne and a couple friends decided to hit the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenue (locally known as Penn-North) on the city’s westside to make their presence felt. What brought them and thousands of others — from near and far — to the streets of West Baltimore was the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore City Police nearly three weeks prior. On April 12th of 2015, Gray was arrested by officers for possessing a knife. According to witnesses at the scene who filmed the incident around Gray’s Gilmor Homes, officers used excessive force, including knees to the back of his neck and bending his legs backwards to get him into the police van. Unable to move due to this handling, Gray arrived at the University of Maryland shock trauma center in Downtown Baltimore in a coma. During the week following his arrival, Gray had three broken vertebrae, including his spine being 80% severed at his neck. On April 19th, Gray died while still in a coma, a week after his arrest.

At the time of his death, Murray-Browne, an integrative psychotherapist, was working in Baltimore City public schools as a community coordinator and had become especially focused on what was happening in the wake of Gray’s passing. Her practice at the time was primarily centered around equipping Black children and their parents with the tools to process what was happening throughout the city in a way that resonated with them culturally.

“On the one hand it was really beautiful because you saw an outpouring of folks who are not from the city of Baltimore, ain’t never been here, and might not ever come, actually show some interest in solidarity,” Murray-Browne said during a stroll through Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park on a sunny, yet windy March afternoon. “But the downside of the white gaze and the way that media was portraying that experience meant that only certain stories were amplified. And the people who have been doing movement work were framed in a way that was commodified. Framed in a way that was clickbait and not really telling the depth of the work.”



Battleground Baltimore: The week in police accountability
by Lisa Snowden-McCray and Brandon Soderberg
Published April 24 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: The battle to keep Black, brown, and other marginalized people safe from police violence is like a fire that has burned for as long as this country has existed. Hot spots flare up when this country’s hatred for Black and Brown people becomes more apparent, making the heat more intense and the pain more unbearable. It feels like we are in one of those moments where the fire is burning especially strong right now.

This week, a jury found former officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd. In May of last year, Chauvin was caught on tape kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd begged for his life. We reached out to State Sen. Jill Carter and Del. Gabriel Acevero, two Maryland lawmakers who were instrumental in getting comprehensive policing legislation passed here in Maryland just a few weeks ago. Carter has a decades-long history of fighting for police accountability. Acevero has pushed for police accountability legislation named after Anton Black, a 19-year-old who died in police custody on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 2018.

“It was the right thing. The guilty verdict should not be a shock. There was irrefutable video evidence corroborated by a myriad of credible witnesses. The prosecution did its job and Chauvin will be held accountable as he should be,” Carter said. “Knowing 98.3% of excessive force cases do not result in conviction, I’m hopeful this conviction represents the new normal for officer accountability. In Maryland, we have just passed the strongest use of force law in the country. I expect through this, and other reform measures, we will finally begin to see a change in state-sanctioned police violence against Black people.”



Screenshot via Baltimore City Council President Nick J. Mosby

Renter Advocates Say Mosby Housing Town Hall Adds Insult To Injury
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published April 28 in WYPR

Excerpt: A virtual housing town hall that Baltimore City Council leaders held Tuesday night drew backlash from the city’s renter advocates.

“It was just insulting, and it was infuriating,” said renter and advocate Tisha Guthrie. “I had at least 10 questions in the queue on WebEx. And none of them were answered. None of them were addressed.”

The town hall, hosted by City Council President Nick Mosby and Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, centered on a bill that would create alternatives to security deposits.

Housing advocates, however, say the bill promotes predatory practices that harm renters.

The bill, which passed the City Council overwhelmingly, proposes “surety bonds,” which it calls security deposit insurance.

Mosby and Middleton have called the bill “renters choice,” suggesting that renters who can’t afford to pay security deposit upfront can either choose to buy surety bonds or pay their deposit in installments.

See also:

Baltimore Bill Requiring Landlords To Offer Lease Renewal May Conflict With State Law
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published April 28 in WYPR



Commissioner Durryle Brooks (top right) speaks at meeting of the Baltimore Board of School Commissioners’ policy committee. (Moving clockwise, Chairperson Linda Chinnia, Commissioner Ronald McFadden and executive staffer Christian Gant. (YouTube)

“Don’t muzzle me.” Limits on School Board members’ ability to talk to teachers and the media get pushback
by Fern Shen
Published April 27 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Policy changes proposed for Baltimore’s School Board – including limits on members’ ability to freely talk to staff and the media – are causing alarm and signalling a power struggle as the board adds new elected seats and potentially more independent members.

“Why is it that all communication has to go through one person on the board? It doesn’t make sense to me. Personally, I do not agree with that,” said School Commissioner Ateira Griffin, who was appointed to fill a vacancy by Mayor Brandon Scott earlier this year.

“Nobody’s going to muzzle me. I’m not there to be muzzled – I was born and raised here,” Griffin said at an online meeting last week organized by Baltimoreans for Educational Equity (BEE) to discuss moving Maryland’s only fully appointed school board to a hybrid or elected body.



"Nur Jahan Mughal Empress." Linda Kato, 2019. —Courtesy of Towson University AA&CC

Towson University’s Asian Arts & Culture Center Celebrates 50 Years
by Lauren LaRocca
Published April 27 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Anu Das’ series of necklaces—in silk, lace, and embroidered glass beads—address climate change and its effects on communities of people and wildlife. Molli Chang’s film short, Sweet Symphony, depicts a mother-daughter relationship—and the daughter’s (seemingly more loving) connection with her cello. A mixed-media collage by Marlo De Lara, with the accompanying ambient audio “Pandemic Scores,” elicits tense feelings experienced by those living through crises across the globe.

For 50 years, the Asian Arts & Culture Center (AA&CC), which operates as a nonprofit within Towson University’s Center for the Arts, has exhibited this type of impactful work by Asian artists as a catalyst to stimulate conversation and education about Asian culture.

Currently, paintings, drawings, screenprints, film, sculpture, and portrait dolls by two dozen regional Asian-American and Pacific-Islander artists are on view as part of the AA&CC’s third-annual Asia North Festival, which runs through May 15 and is a highlight of year-round programming celebrating the center’s 50th anniversary. The festival also features art, workshops, performances, cooking demonstrations, and talks at venues throughout the Station North Arts District.



Rev. Grey Maggiano, rector of Memorial Episcopal Church, stands in front of 1834 McCulloh St., where a Black family’s arrival in 1910 set off a “firestorm among white Baltimoreans.”

A Baltimore church grapples with its racist past
by Amy Scott
Published April 27 in Marketplace

Excerpt: You’d never know it just walking by 1834 McCulloh St. There’s no plaque or marker. But the three-story, red brick row house was the site of a dark chapter in this country’s history. In May 1910, George McMechen, a prominent Black lawyer, moved his family into the house on what was then an all-white block in west Baltimore.

“By his own account, the first night that he moved in here, he had rocks thrown through his windows, and the neighbors made it very difficult for him to live here,” said Grey Maggiano, rector of nearby Memorial Episcopal Church.

McMechen had crossed an invisible line separating Black and white Baltimore.



Op-ed: Finishing The Road Paved
by Brittany Young
Published April 24 in The AFRO

Excerpt: If you watched Lovecraft Country this summer, you might have wondered why the woman riding her motorcycle on the side of Tik’s car was significant. That woman was Bessie Stringfield: the first Black woman inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the beauty behind what we now call stunt riding, and the matriarch of an entire industry. Bessie was a pioneer who not only rejected society’s expectations of Black women — she established the motorcycle as a symbol of Black freedom. Bessie is important to the work of B-360, but she also serves as a constant reminder of the road my ancestors began paving that I have to finish.

This year, I won the American Motorcyclist Association’s prestigious Bessie Stringfield Award, for people who have pioneered a new industry and market in motorcycling such as the executives from industry players such as Kawasaki, KMT Racing and more. In the 20-year history of this award, I am the first and only Black person to win an award honoring the legacy of the radical herself. It’s a stark reminder that although the world has made progress, there is still much to do.

As I reflect on my journey in business, STEM, and motorsports, I can’t help but wonder if this was what Bessie envisioned for me, for Black women, for Black motorcyclists when she was riding through the Jim Crow south and risking her life against the oppression of the KKK. I imagine she thought her experiences would lead to the liberation of Black people and that her efforts to create a new lane in motorcycling would lead to greater victories. But in my lifetime, I’ve had to fight the same systems of oppression, not only in motorsports but in all areas.



‘This virus is no joke’: Baltimore youth and the COVID-19 vaccine
by Kristiana Smith, Khira Moore, and Shantika Bhat
Published April 27 in Baltimore

Excerpt: Earlier this month, teens who are 16 years of age or older became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Maryland. It will allow youth to join a growing group: As of April 26, 1.9 million Marylanders have been fully vaccinated.

There are many teens who are relieved to have an opportunity to get the vaccine, however, there are some who still have reservations about the vaccine’s reliability. In this feature, we will be sharing a CHARM editor’s experience with the vaccine, insights on the stances of two Baltimore teens and important facts about the vaccines.



:: BONUS ::

How snobby is Maryland? Snobbier than you’d think.
by Walinda West
Published April 28 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: On the snobbiness scale, it seems Maryland is much closer to Hello, dahling” than it is to Hey, hon.”

That’s according to a new survey that ranks Maryland as the 13th snobbiest state in the nation.

But there’s a way to crack the Top 10: Drink more wine.

The job and company research website Zippia has compiled a ranking of states based on snobbiness. To derive a score, the website tracked:

  • Percentage of the population with bachelor’s degrees;
  • Percentage of those degrees in arts and humanities (the most effete majors);
  • Number of Ivy League schools located in the state (only seven states can claim such a distinction, and Maryland isn’t one);
  • Bottles of wine consumed yearly per person.

By those ludicrously unscientific measures, the snobbiest state is Massachusetts — home to Harvard. Five New England states are in the top six. (Maine is in a class all its own.)

Maryland is sandwiched respectably between New Jersey and Illinois. West Virginia is the least pretentious.



Header image: Via the Brittany Young's op-ed in The Afro

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