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Why I am thankful for the city of Baltimore | COMMENTARY

A girl reads a plaque at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore. The man the museum is named after, a graduate of Baltimore's Dunbar High School, was the first African American to build a billion dollar company.
A girl reads a plaque at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore. The man the museum is named after, a graduate of Baltimore's Dunbar High School, was the first African American to build a billion dollar company. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun)

When I moved to Baltimore 19 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina, a guy I knew told me he hoped I didn’t get murdered. Needless to say, I didn’t keep in contact with him. But he wouldn’t be the last to take an unnecessary swipe at the city. Baltimore has too often become an easy target for haters. From county folks who disdainfully talk about their dysfunctional neighbor with turned up noses and judgmental views on how to make the city better without really understanding its problems. From random folks whose only reference is TV shows about crime. And more recently from President Donald Trump and wannabe politicos like Kimberly Klacik, who routinely held up Baltimore during the election season as an example of all that is wrong with America.

Sadly, these folks have a one-dimensional view of the city, many times tainted by biases. So, in this season of Thanksgiving, I want to let those with this limited scope in on why I think my adopted hometown is so great.

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A foodie’s dream: If you like a good meal like me, Baltimore has plenty of options. Many restaurants are struggling because of the pandemic, and sadly too many have closed, but there are still lots of choices my family has come to appreciate even more as part of our newly adopted “take out Fridays” ritual. You can find just about every ethnic food type, high-end restaurants, dive bars, hole-in-the wall hidden gems, crab cakes and burgers. And the city’s independent dining establishments are far better than chain restaurant suburbia.

A strong running community and plenty of places to go for a run: Eating all that good food means finding a way to burn it off. For me, one way is getting in a good run, and Baltimore is a runner’s city. Pick a neighborhood city park or go for a jaunt around the Baltimore harbor. It’s the perfect pandemic activity. If you prefer company, there are plenty of running groups, such as the Baltimore Pacemakers and Black Girls Run. Races throughout the year feed the desires of the more competitive runners. Two running retailers, Falls Road Running Store and Charm City Run, will fit you for shoes and other gear, and offer running tips.

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Speaking of parks: Baltimore’s parks have served as a place for release for many stuck-at-home residents during the pandemic. But even before COVID-19, parks offered a place to get a taste of country without leaving the city. There are more than 4,000 acres of parkland and public space, according to Baltimore City Recreation and Parks. Plenty of space to ride a bike, go for a walk or have a picnic.

Brown Lecture Series at the Enoch Pratt Library: Baltimore is fortunate to have a wonderful library system in the Enoch Pratt. One of my favorite events the library has featured of late is the lecture series sponsored by Eddie and Sylvia Brown. It has brought in some of the most relevant authors of our day, and the best part of all is it features racially diverse speakers that reflect the largely African American population that makes up Baltimore. And now, thanks to COVID, you can hear the speakers virtually from your living room couch. (And people are watching from around the country).

Museums: It was disappointing that the Baltimore Museum of Art abandoned its efforts to sell paintings to promote diversity. Those who led the charge against it claim they support such diversity initiatives, but if that was the case why haven’t they provided an alternative plan? I’ll be waiting for that to happen. That said, we should still celebrate the numerous museums in the city, including the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, The Walters Art Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. There’s never a reason to be bored on the weekends in Baltimore.

A rich African American history: Baltimore has produced many African American heroes, such as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Reginald Lewis, the first African American to build a billion dollar company; jazz great Eubie Blake; and singer Billie Holiday. It was also the home to Parks Sausage, the first African American firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange. And I am just scratching the surface.

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A large network of nonprofits and supports groups: Yes, Baltimore has its issues. Poverty, crime and systemic racism are something we obviously can’t ignore. But it is also a city of resilience. A city of community groups and nonprofits, both large and small, that provide food to the hungry, and stage cease fire events against violence. It is a city with problems, but also with caring people and big hearts. The critics often forget the real people who make up Baltimore.

So while we can’t afford to ignore all that is wrong with Baltimore, we also can’t ignore all that is right. After all there is something that keeps around 600,000 of us here. They don’t call it Charm City for nothing.

Andrea K. McDaniels is The Sun’s deputy editorial page editor. Please send her ideas at amcdaniels@baltsun.com. Her Twitter address is @ankwalker. Tell her what you love about Baltimore.

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