Baltimore News: Sam Barsky’s Sweaters, Aaron Dante Interviews Justin Fenton, MICA Staff Unionizes

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This week’s news includes: Sam Barsky’s sweater chronicles, local journalist writes about his time as a jury member, a Baltimore teacher reacts to the Uvalde shooting, and more reporting from Baltimore Banner, The Daily Record, No Pix After Dark podcast, and other local and independent news sources.


Pikesville knitter gains internet following with globally inspired sweaters
by Marcus Dieterle
Published June 1 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Sam Barsky has knitted 157 sweaters freehand since he began his journey with yarn more than two decades ago – and he’s just getting started.

Many of the sweaters depict scenes from locations that Barsky has visited with his wife Deborah. Together, they’ve traveled to 33 countries and most of the 50 U.S. states, and Barsky said he has hundreds more places he wants to see.

“I have a long wish list,” he said. “I know I’ll never get them all done in my life. But if I have travel plans somewhere, I knit a sweater of that place in advance of those travels.”



EP 182: Justin Fenton. Author of ”We Own This City” and Investigative Reporter for the Baltimore Banner
Interview by Aaron Dante
Aired May 26 on No Pix After Dark Podcast

Excerpt: Justin discussed how working for The Baltimore Sun was his dream job. When he was offered a job out of college he knew Baltimore was where he wanted to be a reporter. We discuss his journey from The Baltimore Sun to now the Baltimore Banner. We talk about why he left and what he hopes happens next. We also discuss his book”We Own This City” . This book is now a hit HBO Show. We talk about his trials and tribulations while writing this book and participating with the TV show. We also learn more about the Baltimore Banner and being a reporter is his first love.



Trial Diary: A Journalist Sits on a Baltimore Jury
by Alec MacGillis
Published June 1 in ProPublica

Excerpt: By the end of our first afternoon of deliberations in the jury room up the narrow stairs from the courtroom, the water cooler was running low, the lock on the bathroom door kept sticking and the wheezing HVAC system was making it even harder to make out the audio in a crucial jailhouse phone recording. We were also nowhere close to a consensus on whether or not Domonic White was guilty of attempted murder and lesser charges in the 2021 shooting of Chris Clanton in the presence of Clanton’s 5-year-old son.

It was hardly unusual for a jury to struggle to come to an agreement. What made this case unusual was the context provided by the victim’s identity. Clanton was an actor on “The Wire” and is now appearing on “We Own This City,” the new HBO miniseries produced by the creators of “The Wire” and based on Baltimore journalist Justin Fenton’s nonfiction book about an eye-popping police corruption scandal exposed five years ago.

At the heart of the new series, which began airing one week before the trial, was the profound damage that police corruption had done to community trust in law enforcement. “Now, even if you find the witnesses and have a case,” says one cop in the second episode, “now when you need to get 12 people together to make a jury, 12 people to believe that you aren’t lying on the witness stand about who shot Tater or who robbed the Rite Aid, they look at you and remember when some other cop lied on them about their son or brother. The lawyers will tell you that you lost the city juries on that stuff.”



MICA staff votes to unionize, following in adjuncts’ path
by Johanna Alonso
Published May 26 in The Daily Record

Excerpt: It was a little under a year into the pandemic when Julia Clouser, then a part-time employee in the Maryland Institute College of Arts’ Graduate Research Lab, traveled to Utah with her family over Christmas break.

“It was one of those COVID vacations where you rent an Airbnb house and don’t leave,” she recalled.

Clouser, who is now a graduate admissions counselor at MICA, wanted to isolate for 14 days following her trip in order to protect the lab’s other two employees and the students who picked up equipment and prints from the lab.

But, she said, the school’s human resources department told her it would be illegal for her to use her sick days to isolate. She would either have to isolate without pay for that two-week period or come into work and risk exposing others to COVID-19, if she had picked it up on the plane rides to and from Utah.

“My supervisor basically told me, ‘I completely understand, you need to pay rent. It’s completely up to you,’” Clouser said. But, wanting to keep her colleagues and MICA’s students as safe as possible, she stayed home, losing two weeks’ pay.



‘More Vicious without a Badge’: Leaked Disciplinary Records Reveal a Notorious Baltimore Cop’s Shocking Behavior
by Brandon Soderberg
Published May 27 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: After almost two and a half years, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office released a list they maintain of Baltimore City Police Department officers they once said had credibility issues. Officers on the list, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby noted back in 2019, include cops who were involved in “theft, planting evidence, perjury, corruption and fraud.”

Baltimore Action Legal Team (BALT), a nonprofit legal service dedicated to police transparency and accountability, demanded Mosby provide them with the list. But Mosby’s office refused, claiming that the list was part of a police officer’s “personnel record” and therefore could not be publicly disclosed. Last year, a court ruled Mosby could release it. BALT announced this week that the list is finally in the hands of defense attorneys.

“BALT sought this information because an officer’s integrity matters,” BALT said in a statement. “The entire system (from initial engagement with a police officer to determining whether someone should be held pre-trial) relies on a police officer’s word. There is no room for officers with integrity issues on the stand or on the street.”



In “Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance,” the first novel by John Waters, the Pope of Trash makes the unbelievable believable
by Ed Gunts
Published May 27 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: A book-signing at the airport?

If any book deserved it, it would be “Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance,” a cautionary tale about a couple who steal suitcases at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Liarmouth is the debut novel of a local writer, filmmaker and fashion model named John Waters, who decided to become a novelist in his 70s to supplement his work in other fields.

Set in Baltimore before the COVID-19 pandemic, Liarmouth follows the exploits of an eccentric family that includes Marsha Sprinkle, the suitcase thief; her mother Adora, who performs plastic surgery on pets; Marsha’s daughter Poppy, who leads a cult-like band of trampoline bouncers; Marsha’s partner-in-crime Daryl; Daryl’s talking organ, Richard, and an extended cast that could only come from Baltimore. If it were a film, it would be a road movie. It’s both what fans of Waters might expect from him and yet different from anything he’s done before.



Baltimore plans to sue ‘ghost gun’ part maker as state law takes effect
by Ovetta Wiggins
Published May 31 in Washington Post

Excerpt: Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott said Tuesday that the city plans to sue Polymer80, one of the country’s largest manufacturers of “ghost gun” kits — untraceable firearms that have proliferated on city streets and contributed to a surge of violence.

Officials plan to file the suit Wednesday, the same day a state law to ban the sale, receipt and transfer of an unfinished frame or receiver that does not have a serial number by the manufacturer takes effect.

“Ghost guns are a devastating menace to the people of Baltimore,” Scott said in a statement. “The availability of these weapons — particularly to criminals, juveniles and other people who are prohibited from owning a firearm — presents a growing public health crisis. We do everything in our power to stop the companies involved in the proliferation of ghost guns and profit off of the destruction of our communities.”



“Those guys that robbed me – the police came after the fact”
by Fern Shen
Published May 27 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Last night, a Baltimore man did what city residents have been doing consistently in recent years when they testify at the annual Taxpayers’ Night:

Plead with officials to shift funding away from the police department and toward other purposes, while acknowledging that their effort, at this stage in the budget cycle, is futile.

“We’re going to come up here, we’re going to give you these stories, we’re going to tell you what’s happening in communities, were going to tell you that putting more money into police doesn’t really make us safer,” Shaq said. “And what’s going to happen is, we’re going to walk into the next fiscal year and won’t nothing change.”

Nevertheless, Shaq proceeded to tell his story.



I teach English and I’m out of words
by Kerry Graham
Published May 27 in Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: The morning after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas Tuesday, I didn’t walk into school thinking about what I still needed to do to prepare for that day’s lesson. I didn’t run through my daily checklist of which assignments I needed to grade.

Approaching my classroom, I wish I’d slept the night before. I wondered how it’s possible that this has happened — again.

By “this,” I mean gun violence. School shootings, yes, but also mass shootings. Police shootings. Baltimore shootings.

I’ve almost finished my eleventh year teaching high school English in Baltimore City Public Schools. During my career, I’ve deliberately avoided counting how many times bullets have ruined lives. Instead, following every shooting, I muster energy to try to support my students, who I call my lovelies, in the days after.

There are the shootings that have become synonymous with where they happened: Newtown, Ferguson, Las Vegas. There are the deaths of my lovelies’ friends and family, people whose names I often never know.



Hogan, Scott Swap Messages on City Crime
by Hannah Gaskill
Published May 27 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) penned a letter to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) on Thursday, alleging that no progress has been made toward addressing the rising murder rate in the city.

“With each passing week, more residents, more community leaders, and more elected officials are calling on you and [Police] Commissioner [Michael] Harrison to take definitive action to address this crisis,” Hogan wrote. “In light of these outcries, it is critical that the state and the public better understand what is — and what is not — being done.”

Since Hogan took office in 2015, Baltimore’s homicide count has consistently topped 300 deaths per year. According to the Baltimore Sun Homicide Database, 130 people have been murdered so far in 2022.

At a news conference last week, Baltimore City Councilmembers Eric T. Costello (D), Sharon Green Middleton (D), Mark Conway (D), Antonio Glover (D), Isaac “Yitzy” Schleiffer (D) and Robert R. Stokes Sr. (D) called on the governor for assistance in driving down the city’s homicide rate.

Hogan called the news conference “shocking,” and asked Scott to provide an update on the implementation of the crime plan that the pair discussed in February.



The Hard-Won Triumphs of a Life on the Corner in West Baltimore
by Susan Orlean
Published May 26 in The New Yorker

Excerpt: In the bad old days, Denise Francine (Fran) Boyd Andrews (1956-2022) could be found most of the time rooted on a stoop on Fayette Street, in West Baltimore, fuzzed out on heroin but still as ornery as she could be. According to David Simon, who chronicled her story in “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood,” a book that he began writing in the early nineties with Ed Burns, a former homicide detective, she was a “tough bird.” Convinced that Simon was a cop, Fran Boyd, as she was known then, wouldn’t speak to him for more than a month after he first showed up. He had low hopes for her. “If you had asked me then, is Fran going to get off Fayette Street, I would have said no,” he said recently. As described in “The Corner” (which was later adapted into a miniseries, on HBO), the tribulations of Andrews, her estranged partner, Gary McCullough, and their son D’Andre, all heroin users, seemed intractable. By the time that Simon met her, she had been an addict for fourteen years.

The odds were lousy. The neighborhood around Fayette and Monroe Streets operated as a sort of open-air drug market, and getting “off the corner” was a herculean task. Gary McCollough died of an overdose before “The Corner” was published. D’Andre died of his addiction in 2012. Andrews, who first tried heroin when she was twenty-three, had stolen money from her family and traded sex for drugs at her lowest moments. Even so, she made a reach for better outcomes. “No matter with all that was going on, we were always taken good care of,” another of her sons, De’Rodd Hearns, a Baltimore firefighter, said recently. “We were different from some of the other kids in the neighborhood, who weren’t taken care of.” After her brother and sister died, Andrews, despite being in the throes of addiction, even took over parenting two nieces and a nephew, and, later, D’Andre’s girlfriend.



Header Image: Photo courtesy of Sam Barsky.

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