Writing on salon.com this week, in a think piece headlined "Black history bulldozed for another Starbucks: Against the new Baltimore," the Baltimore-raised and Hopkins-educated professor at Coppin State University takes issue with what he sees as the ongoing gentrification of his hometown, and wonders if there's a place for people like him in Charm City anymore.
"I don't know this new Baltimore, it's alien to me," Watkins writes.
The neighborhood basketball courts where he grew up with his friends, he notes, are gone, paved and/or built over. The Lafayette Housing Project, where he hung out with his cousin, Damon, has been bulldozed.
Thinking about his cousin, Watkins writes, "Visiting his old unit after his murder would've been therapeutically nostalgic for me but that place is gone and will never be back again."
The businesses, higher-priced homes and other byproducts of gentrification, he writes, are a poor substitute for the Baltimore of his youth. His city is "Chicago or New Orleans or any place where yuppie interests make black neighborhoods shrink like washed sweaters. A place where black history is bulldozed and replaced with Starbucks, Chipotles and Dog Parks."
Watkins piece, which you can read in its entirety here, seems to have struck a nerve. By Wednesday morning, more than 40 comments had been left on the site, split about evenly between those who agreed and those who disagreed with his ruminations.