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By Derick Ebert (as told to Youth Radio)
Derick Ebert is the 19-year-old Youth Poet Laureate of Baltimore. Youth Radio producers talked with Ebert to gain insight into the protests in Baltimore sparked by the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. What follows are notes from that conversation. Mr. Ebert comes to us thanks to Dew More Baltimore and Youth Speaks.
This is a much bigger issue than Freddie Gray.
What the media deems as riots, I call a movement. We’ve had peaceful protests that’ve been going on in different parts of the city. People are just finally coming together to take on this issue.
Racial tension is something big in Baltimore but it’s not talked about. It’s almost as if it’s on the hush: no, no don’t say anything about it.
Last Saturday, a peaceful protest went all the way from West Baltimore to the downtown area of Baltimore. When protesters went through the bar section of Baltimore city they were met with confrontation by white citizens calling them the n-word. The white citizens began to disrupt the march, if you will.
TURNING POINT: THE MOVEMENT
I remember watching when we would find out whether George Zimmerman would be found guilty or not. I was in the room with my mother and brothers. We had the discussion of like, “what’s the value of a black man’s life in America?” We were almost in tears.
Since then, I’ve been trying to be within the community, helping and using youth voice as a tool to talk about issues through poetry.
“DIFFERENT THAN FERGUSON”
We had hopes in Baltimore as youth that it would be different than Ferguson. We were hoping that it wouldn’t have to come to this. That we would find an answer. That the police department wouldn’t withhold information like they did. As soon as we saw that we weren’t getting information is when we realized that we needed to take action.
That’s when things started to go out onto social media sites, and I started to see things on Facebook about “Let’s create this movement. Let’s protest. Let’s go to City Hall.”
People are obviously upset about this situation. As I’ve said before it’s not just a Freddie Gray situation. It’s more than just police brutality. It’s systematic oppression and violence. Youth here are fed up with it.
It’s more than just being angry. It’s having rage. Which is political action, in my opinion. So that’s what we saw yesterday. That’s what we’re gonna continue to see most likely.
“ONE OF MY PLACES IS AT THE MIC”
For me as a poet, one of my places is at the mic where I have the most reach. And that’s what I want youth to know, especially the ones in high school. To try and find your reach. Try to find your place in the movement to keep it rolling, and not let it die down.
They’re calling us thugs, but this is the result of voices that have not been heard for decades now in Baltimore. This is the result you get.
When people use the word “thug” for me it’s just a synonym for the n-word.
“WE KNEW THIS WAS GONNA HAPPEN”
This has been an ongoing issue. You know, this was gonna happen. This was basically, you have a soda bottle, you shake it up and then when you open it things fizz out. The shaking was gonna eventually bust the cap.
Where were the adults? I’m not blaming the adults, but I’m saying it would have been helpful for adults to have been in schools. To show us this is how you peacefully demonstrate, these are the things you do. Don’t make the same mistakes we made in the 1960s.
Mr. Ebert’s statements have been edited for length and clarity.