The News: Masks Off Maryland (Including Baltimore), Efforts to End Gun Violence, Safe Space for Black Trans Youth

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: Mask requirement retires on July 1, two groups’ efforts to end gun violence, Maryland civil rights leaders react to events in Ocean City, and more reporting from Baltimore Magazine, The Trace, okayplayer, and other local and independent news sources.



Image via YouTube

Hogan to end Maryland’s COVID state of emergency, lift mask requirements and other restrictions on July 1
by Marcus Dieterle
Published June 15 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced that he will end the COVID-19 state of emergency and lift most remaining coronavirus-related restrictions on July 1.

Maryland will no longer require people to wear face masks “in any setting, anywhere,” including schools, camps and childcare facilities starting in July, Hogan said.

“With all of this amazing progress and thanks in large part to the hard work, sacrifices and vigilance of the people of Maryland, we have finally reached the light at the end of that long tunnel,” Hogan said.



Image via CharmTV

Mayor Scott To Lift Baltimore’s Mask Requirements July 1, Following Hogan’s Lead
by Emily Sullivan
Published June 16 in WYPR

Excerpt: Baltimore City will lift remaining mask mandates and a 15-month long pandemic-related state of emergency on July 1, Mayor Brandon Scott announced Wednesday.

The Democrat’s decision comes a day after Gov. Larry Hogan announced that Maryland’s state of emergency will end next month. Local leaders have had the authority to set tighter restrictions than those of the state throughout the pandemic; Scott historically maintained stricter mask, dining and occupancy measurements in the city.

But even as he followed in Hogan’s footsteps, Scott warned residents, especially those who are unvaccinated, that the pandemic is not over. “We will continue to follow the science and allow the data to drive our decision making. Folks must continue to get vaccinated so that we can leave COVID behind for good,” he said.



AP Photo/Brian Witte

How women in Maryland are trying to stop gun violence
by Barbara Rodriguez
Published June 10 in The 19th*

Excerpt: Del. Vanessa Atterbeary walked around the halls of the Maryland legislature, surrounded by people in white T-shirts that read: “WE WILL NOT COMPLY.”

It was February 2019, and the Democratic state lawmaker was entering a hearing on her bill to require background checks on the private sale of long guns. The T-shirts were being worn by people who opposed that legislation and related bills up for discussion that day. They argued the bills would restrict their Second Amendment rights. One sheriff even suggested law enforcement officers could be endangered by hypothetical gun confiscations.

Atterbeary’s bill failed that year, as it had the year before — another example of the power of the gun rights lobby.

But that day, the Maryland Capitol was also brimming with other people — predominantly women — in red T-shirts from Moms Demand Action, the national organization that has become synonymous with efforts to curb gun violence. The group supported Atterbeary’s bill, arguing it would close a loophole on background checks for gun sales in Maryland. Atterbeary said seeing the women that day bolstered her confidence that the legislation could happen with time, and it did — a year later.

“I was incredibly proud to be a mom,” she said.



Photo by SHAN Wallace

Inside One Baltimore Group’s Effort to Stop Youth Violence Before It Starts
by J. Brian Charles
Published June 10 in The Trace

Excerpt: The game of cat and mouse had played out for months on the corners of West Baltimore. Jamal West would pull up in his minivan. Miayan, 18 years old at the time, would run. The 46-year-old West stands at 6-foot-4 and is built like a NFL lineman — no match for the wiry teenager in a footrace. So West would come back in his van the next day. And when Miayan saw the van, he would flee again.

All West wanted was to talk to Miayan. This was in early 2019, not long after Roca, a violence prevention program, launched in Baltimore.

“I was running the streets,” Miayan said. “Running the streets, getting into everything I could.”

Miayan was working corners, selling drugs, often making more than $700 each week. His crew earned enough from drug sales that they became the target of law enforcement. And just like he did when he saw West’s minivan, when the cops came, Miayan ran. Most times Miayan won that foot race. (The Trace and The Guardian are not using his full name, or that of other young people, since many of their offenses occurred when they were minors.)

What Miayan had in speed, West surpassed in persistence. West, Roca’s youth work supervisor, kept coming back, sometimes with his partner, Teshombae Harvell. They hoped to begin the therapy needed to unpack the experiences that weighed on Miayan. He grew up watching family members struggle with drug addiction and get drawn into the drug trade only to be snatched away by the criminal justice system. For his 20 years, Miayan had seen arguments turn violent, violence turn deadly, and friends’ lives cut short. Not much to hope for.



Image via CharmTV

New travel rules approved as Marilyn Mosby haunts a virtual meeting
by Mark Reutter
Published June 9 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: This simple headline from City Hall – Baltimore’s spending board approves new travel policy for elected officials – offers little context to the procedural intrigues that arose today from the demands of a close ally of Nick and Marilyn Mosby.

As a body that approves government contracts, the Board of Estimates restricts public comment to vendors who have legal standing as suppliers of city goods or services and who file a written notice of their proposed protest by noon on the day preceding the meeting.

But today the president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP participated like a full-fledged member of the board, invited to join the virtual meeting just minutes before it began by City Council President Nick Mosby (who, in turn, said he was directed to do so “I guess” by Comptroller Bill Henry).

Handed an online megaphone, Rev. Kobi Little proceeded to instruct the board “to put a full halt” to the new travel policy, denouncing the rules as “officious,” “gratuitous,” “stifling” and “anti-democratic.”

“I would say to you, and the NAACP would say to you, do not subvert the democratic process and the will of the voter by passing a policy that reduces elected officials’ ability to decide how to use their time and which conversation is important to them.”



Photo by Schaun Champion

Baltimore-Based Cinematographer Bradford Young Creates Movies and Art on His Own Terms
by Max Weiss
Published June 15 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: It’s almost impossible to imagine now, but world-renowned, Baltimore-based cinematographer Bradford Young came this close to being a mortician.

“I come from a long tradition of morticians,” he explains. “My uncle was a mortician. My great-grandfather was a mortician. My grandfather. My cousins. My aunts were in the game, as well. It was expected—in my mind that’s what I was always going to do.”

Growing up in Louisville, he’d always been exposed to the arts, especially Black-focused arts. His grandparents took him to see Porgy and Bess at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. There was work by mainly Black artists on the walls. He had an uncle, Leon Bibb, a musician, activist, and actor, who was close friends with Paul Robeson and had marched at Selma. (In a full circle moment, of sorts, Young was the cinematographer on Ava DuVernay’s Selma). His cousin Eric Bibb is an internationally famous blues guitarist and songwriter.

Still, the 43-year-old Young admits, “I was too scared to be in that narrative.” At that point in his life, he had yet to see himself as an artist.



Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

What just happened? The year, so far, in review
by Lisa Snowden-McCray and Brandon Soderberg
Published June 12 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: We blinked and the first six months of the year 2021 passed—or so it seems. There’s always a lot going on in Baltimore, but this year has felt heavier than usual. That’s why we are using this week’s Battleground Baltimore to reflect on what we have been through and highlight what we have learned and how the city has failed its residents.



Photo by SHAN Wallace for

Iya Dammons Is Creating a Safe Haven for Black Trans Youth in Baltimore
by Lawrence Burney
Published June 9 in okayplayer

Excerpt: In late May, a crowd descended on Central Baltimore’s 6,000 square foot Ynot Lot for a day of free food and entertainment. Local artists like the contagiously candid Lor Choc, the sharp-rapping Fmb Foreign, and decorated Baltimore Club DJ Scottie B took the lot’s stage. Onlookers danced in their respective circles, many holding cloudy, ice cold bottles of water to contend with the sweltering sun. Others occupied shady spots to permanently plop down in.

Just outside the Ynot were mobile stations providing confidential STI/HIV testing, as well as COVID-19 vaccines from pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer. By all accounts, the star that day wasn’t the artists onstage, but the person who facilitated the event: Iya Dammons, founder of Baltimore Safe Haven (BSH), whose leadership was clear from the outset. Dressed in a sleeveless pink wraparound top and a blue denim skirt, she was on the move nonstop: calling people over to give discreet directions, checking in on employees who occupied white folding tables and making sure artists were ready to start their sets. People in the crowd gazed at her as she walked around handling her business. But even as an authority figure, Dammons had an ease in her approach.



Photo by Josh Kurtz

Civil Rights Leaders Increase Pressure on Ocean City Officials at State House Rally
by Josh Kurtz
Published June 16 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Maryland civil rights leaders ratcheted up pressure on Ocean City officials Wednesday, threatening Maryland’s number one tourist town with legal action and an economic boycott in the wake of recent incidents involving the police and Black visitors.

More than 50 activists gathered at Lawyers’ Mall in front of the State House in Annapolis, expressing their outrage and alarm over incidents captured on video that showed police tasing and hog-tying Black teenagers who had apparently violated Ocean City’s ban on vaping on the boardwalk.

Many speakers suggested that the best way to apply pressure on the beach resort was to avoid spending money there. They noted that like all visitors, the Black teens who traveled to Ocean City from Harrisburg, Pa., for a traditional post-graduation beach week celebration before their fateful encounter with police were there to have fun and spend money.

“The frame is on economics at this point,” said Willie Flowers, president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference. “…Let’s take the money off the table. If Ocean City, or any other municipality in this state, doesn’t respect your dollars, then you can spend them elsewhere.”



Courtesy photo

Verizon 5G aims to invigorate the ‘economic engine’ of Maryland
by Grace Shallow
Published June 16 in Baltimore

Excerpt: Verizon believes its 5G network can bolster economic activity in Baltimore. But on a more individualized level, access to 5G should mean convenience for the average Baltimore citizen’s day-to-day routine, said Eric Fitzgerald Reed, Verizon’s state government affairs VP for public policy and local engagement in the east region.

“5G can make everything easier from an education, healthcare, personal, public safety and entertainment standpoint,” Reed said. “It can support and automate everything from buying coffee at your local shop in the morning to figuring out the best way to get to a Ravens game at night.”

In October 2020, Baltimore became the first city to have Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband connectivity in Maryland when Verizon made that service available in parts of downtown and in other parts of Baltimore County. At the same time, Baltimore was included in Verizon’s rollout of 5G Nationwide, which serves a larger population swath across the country.



Header image: courtesy of Formstone Castle Collective via Baltimore Magazine. All images from referenced articles.

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