BALTIMORE – The images of April’s unrest flashed around the world: shots of a CVS drug store looted and burned, as Baltimore youth –outraged over the death of Freddie Gray after his arrest by police – took to the streets.
Since then, a summer of bloodshed and murders has dominated the headlines, with Baltimore posting record numbers of homicides in June, July and August.
But aside from those headlines, Baltimore is home to uncounted stories of hope and resilience, of recovery from addiction and promise for a better future. There’s little doubt the city has been hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs, by widespread poverty and an epidemic of heroin use.
Beyond those problems, there are remarkable people and institutions fighting to rescue their city. In a special Saving Baltimore report, America Tonight visited a library at the center of the riots, where children can find a safe haven from the troubled streets outside. We met a woman, whose life had been torn apart by heroin, now finding new purpose through a construction job, tearing down some of Baltimore’s 16,000 abandoned buildings. And, in a digital exclusive, we encountered some of the city’s most agile youth, gathering in the colorful Graffiti Alley to showcase the Baltimore dance style known as “shake-off.”
These voices impressed and inspired us, with their resolve and determination to save their beloved city.
In our first report above, Adam May explored how the Enoch Pratt Free Library has long served as shelter for hard-pressed residents, never more so than during the April protests that followed the death of Freddie Gray. Situated directly across from the CVS that was burned by rioters, the library emerged unscathed and remains an integral part of a neighborhood weighed down by drugs and joblessness. Branch manager Melanie Townsend Diggs told America Tonight that the library's mission is providing shelter and inspiration for children and adults looking to build a better future.
Hit hard by the decline of manufacturing, Baltimore has long struggled to find adequate jobs for working-class people, especially ones with a criminal conviction on their record. In our second report, America Tonight highlights an innovative program called Details Deconstruction that's addressing the problem of joblessness by training former felons to tear down, or “deconstruct,” some of the city’s 16,0000 abandoned properties. See how ex-offenders can pick up basic construction skills and steady wages that allow them to leave behind their troubled pasts.
Twice a week, groups of Baltimore youth gather in the city’s colorful Graffiti Alley to show off their dance moves. Through dance contests, these youth have developed their own style, called “shaking off,” which bridges the many divides of a troubled city. Together, they have found a creative outlet in a city ravaged by poverty, joblessness and the drug trade.