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Black History Month Voices: Lawrence Brown | Commentary

During February, Maryland residents are commemorating Black History Month by studying and celebrating the past. Meanwhile, what’s being called the racial reckoning of 2020 is barely in the rearview mirror. Those recent events — Black people killed by police and marches demanding systemic change — are prompting some Baltimore-area residents to explore what needs to be done to ensure there is substantial progress toward achieving racial justice and equity.

The Baltimore Sun asked residents: What will it take to move the region ahead in 2021 and beyond? Specifically what do they want to change, and how will they help make those changes happen? Each week this month, we will share some of their comments about how they hope to move forward after a tumultuous 2020.

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The essays have been edited for clarity and length.

Lawrence Brown, director, Black Butterfly Academy

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Lawrence Brown, director of the Black Butterfly Academy, says in his Black History Month essay that it's time for the Baltimore region to reckon with its 110-year legacy of apartheid.
Lawrence Brown, director of the Black Butterfly Academy, says in his Black History Month essay that it's time for the Baltimore region to reckon with its 110-year legacy of apartheid. (SHAN Wallace)

As I argue in my new book “The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America,” the entire Baltimore region must reckon with its 110-year legacy of apartheid.

Baltimore City passed the first residential racial zoning law in December 1910. Since then, the Baltimore region has endeavored to build that wall of urban and suburban apartheid. Governments and institutions have worked to keep those walls standing tall.

Those walls must come tumbling down. Every entity — including the mayor, City Council, city departments, corporations, philanthropy, nonprofits, neighborhood associations, churches, real estate agents, etc. — must wrestle with how they have contributed to building those walls. The next step entails a swift and thorough disassembly.

Given the task before us, I will be spending 2021 calling on Baltimore’s political leaders and civic society to repair the damage inflicted and to desegregate resources.

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The time for merely discussing racial equity is over. Now is the time for bold, concrete action to make Black neighborhoods matter.

— Compiled by Sanya Kamidi

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