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The News: Mourning Michael K. Williams, Hot Sauce Collective, School System Struggles

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: Hot Sauce Collective, Hogan’s legal fees add up, Feds halt Maglev funding, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Brew, Maryland Matters, WYPR, and other local and independent news sources.

 

 

Actor Michael K. Williams, known for his role as Omar Little on “The Wire,” died Monday. Williams was 54. Photo by Howard Schatz.

Fans from Baltimore and beyond remember ‘The Wire’ actor Michael K. Williams’ on- and off-screen impact
by Marcus Dieterle
Published September 7 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Michael K. Williams, who brought life to the character of Baltimore stick-up man Omar Little on the HBO series “The Wire,” died Monday at 54.

Williams’ fans in Baltimore and beyond are remembering the late actor for his outstanding on-screen performances and heartwarming impact on communities off screen.

Recently, Williams portrayed Montrose Freeman, father of main character Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Major), in the sci-fi horror HBO show “Lovecraft Country,” a role that earned Williams an Emmy nomination.

Williams was also part of several “best ensemble” award wins and nominations for “12 Years a Slave.”

Some of Williams’ other acclaimed roles included Albert “Chalky” White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire; Jack Gee, husband of Bessie Smith (Queen Latifah) in the HBO biopic Bessie; LGBTQ activist Ken Jones in the ABC docudrama miniseries When We Rise; and Bobby McCray, father of Antron McCray (Caleel Harris), one of the five Black teenagers wrongly convicted in the 1990 Central Park jogger case, in the Netflix crime drama miniseries When They See Us.

See also:

Michael K. Williams, Omar From ‘The Wire,’ Is Dead at 54
by Julia Jacobs, Annie Correal, Matthew Haag and Jeremy Egner
Published September 6 in The New York Times

 

 

Photography by Christopher Myers

The Hot Sauce Artists Collective Spices Up the Baltimore Scene
by Huanjia Zhang
Published September 2 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: If traditional art galleries are a bit like restaurants, the Hot Sauce Artists Collective is more like a food truck—instead of people coming to see the art, they bring art to the people.

Since 2019, this band of Gen Z artists, all fresh out of art school and in their 20s, is quickly becoming one to watch, catering roaming exhibitions from locations as diverse as parking lots in Station North to greenspaces in West Baltimore.

“We want to be nomadic,” says co-founder Alpha Massaquoi Jr., emphasizing what he considers to be the antiquated notion of museums and galleries as the only spaces to experience art. “Art is everywhere around us.”

 

 

Photo by Kohei Hara/Getty Images.

Experts Point to Lack of Childcare to Explain COVID-Era Loss of Women in Maryland Workforce
by Elizabeth Shwe
Published September 8 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: While Maryland saw a net gain of 13,000 men entering the labor force from January 2020 to June 2021, the number of working women fell by 57,000 in the same time frame, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.

These numbers show that more men returned to work or began seeking work by June 2021, while many women had not, Jim Rzepkowski, the assistant secretary for the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning at the Maryland Department of Labor, told state lawmakers at the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Families on Wednesday.

Experts point to the disparate burden on women to take up the child care role as children attended school from home and child care centers closed their doors during the pandemic. More women than men left work to take care of their children, often without paid sick leave, said Usha Ranji, the associate director for women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Mothers who are Black or Hispanic are more likely to be the ones staying home if their children cannot go to school. Among mothers who are Hispanic, nearly two thirds lose pay when they miss work due to a child’s illness, she continued.

“It’s just really clear that women play an outsized role when it comes to health care for their children,” Ranji said.

 

 

Confirmed speakers for a November rally at Baltimore’s MECU Pavilion that had been planned by a Michigan-based far right Catholic group. (churchmilitant.com)

City cancels Pier Six rally where Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos were to speak
by Fern Shen
Published September 8 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: The Scott administration has canceled a rally whose speakers were to include ex-Trump advisor Steve Bannon, right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and commentator Michele Malkin, among others.

Michael Voris, founder of the Michigan-based Church Militant, says that City Solicitor James L. Shea violated the group’s First Amendment rights when he canceled the November 16 “Bishops: Enough is Enough Prayer Rally.”

Planned at the MECU Pavilion on Pier Six, the rally had been timed to coincide with the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to be held at the nearby Marriott Waterfront.

“They pretend it’s the tone, and in this case, some idiocy that we are going to firebomb the Baltimore harbor and attack the bishops’ conference, but it’s really about the content of what would be said from the stage. And everybody knows it,” Voris complained in a post on the group’s website.

Shea has not yet returned The Brew’s request for comment.

 

 

Rosem Morton / The New York Times / Redux

Classroom Time Isn’t the Only Thing Students Have Lost
by Kelsey Ko
Published September 7 in The Atlantic

Excerpt: Last December, I stood bundled up outside my car on a side street in West Baltimore, holding a “Thinking of you” card. I was also carrying the feelings of triumph and relief teachers typically have around the holiday season: elated at making it through the grind-it-out months of the fall, and ready for a much-needed break. Yet heavy on my mind was one student. She’d been so quiet in virtual class, and when I’d reached out, I’d learned she was grieving the loss of a family member, the third of her relatives to die in the past month. Some of my colleagues at my high school had pooled together money to help this student’s family out, but we all knew that she wasn’t the only kid struggling. So many of our students have lost so much during the coronavirus pandemic, and not just time spent learning in school, but the foundation that makes children feel loved and supported—family members and loved ones.

As schools reopen their doors this fall, much of the national-media narrative around education has centered on learning loss. More than 1 million children were not enrolled in school this past year, and many of those children were kindergartners in low-income neighborhoods. The virtual landscape that students have had to navigate over the past year has been particularly challenging for our most vulnerable learners. Students living in historically redlined neighborhoods are the most likely to lack access to adequate technology and broadband connectivity. Here in Baltimore, one in three households doesn’t have access to a computer and 40 percent of households don’t have wireline internet service. We must address these problems.

 

 

Baltimore County School Superintendent Darryl Williams. Credit: John Lee

Exclusive: Report Finds Multiple Problems Within BCPS
by John Lee
Published September 8 in WYPR

Excerpt: A scathing examination of the Baltimore County Public Schools finds a top-heavy school system with low morale, poor communication, and a dysfunctional school board. The report recommends nearly 200 changes the school system should make.

WYPR obtained a copy of a consultant’s 759-page study that is to be presented to the school board next week.

The report said the structure of the school system’s central office is ineffective and inefficient. It proposes a reorganization and streamlining that would save nearly $40 million over five years.

School Board member Lily Rowe said that’s money that could be used elsewhere.

“$40 million is what it costs to build an entire elementary school,” Rowe said.

Speaking for herself and not for the board, Rowe said the report has worthy suggestions that need to be considered.

 

 

A Stop The Steal sign is inside the U.S. Capitol Building after a pro-Trump mob broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

Md. Consumer Advocate Spotlights Utilities’ Links to Fossil Fuel Companies and Insurrectionists
by Josh Kurtz
Published September 8 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: At first, it sounds like the typical arcana associated with the regulation of gas and electric utilities: The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) last week intervened in a case before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dealing with industry trade associations.

But the filing by the OPC, the state agency that represents consumers in legal cases and regulatory proceedings involving utilities, touches on several high-profile and very current issues, including climate change, the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and political corruption.

At its most basic level, the OPC is seeking to prevent electric and gas utilities from passing the cost of their political activities, including hefty membership fees to trade associations, to their ratepayers.

“Under current accounting rules, customers may unknowingly and unjustifiably pay for utility trade association political efforts,” said Maryland People’s Counsel David S. Lapp.

 

 

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) at a reception during the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Bill For Hogan Administration Litigation Over Unemployment Benefits Totals More Than $380,000
by Danielle E. Gaines
Published September 3 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s administration spent more than $380,000 in legal fees attempting to end expanded federal unemployment benefits in Maryland early, an invoice shows.

The 17-page invoice released Friday is dated Aug. 20 and includes $381,952.50 in legal fees, as well as $696.56 in filing fees and court costs, for a total of $382,649.06.

The invoice, from Venable LLP, was released in response to a public information request from Maryland Matters on Friday.

Parts of the invoice are redacted, but a cover page indicates that the state received an unknown discount.

Typically, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) would represent the governor in legal challenges, but he publicly disagreed with Hogan’s decision to stop unemployment benefits early.

 

 

Custom illustration for Technical.ly by Penji

The federal government’s internet discount is slow to reach residents. These community leaders are offering a connection
by Adam Echelman
Published September 2 in Technical.ly Baltimore

Excerpt: Marguerite Woods has called the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) registration line for help eight different times since June.

Most recently, the registration portal required her to upload a letter verifying that she receives food stamps. But since she is blind, she can’t find the letter.

“They don’t set it up to make it accessible,” she told Technical.ly from her home in the Gwynn Oak neighborhood of Baltimore.

Woods is just one of the many people who have struggled to enroll in the internet aid program. Launched in May 2021 through federal stimulus dollars, the EBB is a subsidy designed to help close the digital divide that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. It provides a temporary discount up to $50 per month for internet as well as up to $100 off a computer, laptop, or tablet to low-income households and those who experienced a substantial loss of income during the COVID pandemic.

 

 

A train similar to the Maglev train that would connect Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail photo.

Federal Agency Hits Pause Button on Baltimore-DC Maglev Rail Proposal
by Bruce DePuyt
Published September 2 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: The lead federal agency charged with reviewing a proposed high-speed train between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. has “paused” its evaluation of the project.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s decision to suspend its review will — at a minimum — delay the controversial “Super-Conducting Maglev” proposal.

Whether it represents a true setback won’t be known for some time.

The rail agency’s decision to pause its review was posted to the “permitting dashboard” established to help the public track federal infrastructure projects.

It came after the agency received 4,000 comments during a public feedback period.

 

 

Header image: Mr. Williams as Omar Little in “The Wire,” a groundbreaking portrayal of a gay Black man on television. Credit: HBO via NYT

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