Dr. Ray Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University talks about their recently published report on the history, current state and proposed future of this legendary Baltimore community
JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore. As a kind of followup to our previous coverage of the Cherry Hill community in Baltimore, specifically the report conducted by our colleague Jaisal Noor about Cherry Hill’s ability to prevent crime and violence better than the police, we sit now with Dr. Ray Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, also here in Baltimore, to discuss a new report he and his colleagues have recently presented to the community titled A Comprehensive Demographic Profile of the Cherry Hill Community in Baltimore City. The report gives both the history of that section of the city, assesses the material conditions of the residents, and offers programmatic steps going forward designed to address persistent articles to advance. Welcome, Dr. Winbush, back to the Real News. DR. RAY WINBUSH, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: How you doing, Jared? BALL: As good as can be expected, my man. So let’s start if we can with where you conclude, saying in your report that this is even a departure from what you normally do in terms of offering recommendations, where you do recommend that the 2008 Cherry Hill community master plan that you say was shelved be reinstituted and applied to the people of Cherry Hill, the community of Cherry Hill. So if you would tell us what that plan calls for, and why you recommend that it be followed up on. WINBUSH: Well, a lot of times when you do these reports it’s already been done. And recommendations that have not been implemented, you know, just are in the past. We decided to do something very different. We decided, said, look. We’ve got this excellent report that was done under the Sheila Dixon administration that outlined over 100 points with accountability, who was supposed to be tasked to do it, and they gave them five years to put it in place. So we used that as our conclusion rather than say, let’s put another 100 points out for the community. And in doing that we feel that we did a service because we reignited interest in what the Dixon administration had already recommended for Cherry Hill, which was excellent stuff. I mean, I think just from a cultural point of view one of the biggest issues that they recommended is the cultural preservation of Cherry Hill historically. And the idea of gentrification was something that was going to be viewed as a no-no, rather than something that should be welcome. Cultural preservation of African-American communities around the country, very important. And a lot of times developers neglect that. BALL: So we started at the end, so to speak. Let’s go back a little bit. Because as we were talking a little bit before, when people hit in this general area here, Cherry Hill, even for those of us who grew up out in the county, back in the day Cherry Hill brings a certain connotation. WINBUSH: Bang, bang. BALL: Bang, bang, you know, that’s been associated with many black communities in this country. And really around the world, actually. So give us, your report does a great job of outlining the history of Cherry Hill. Tell us that history if you would, and what actually is the community all about? WINBUSH: Well that area, down by the Patapsco area, was always isolated from the rest of Baltimore City. So if you talk about the ancient history, it goes back over 200 years, when you lived in that area–white settlers of course–that it was kind of viewed as being kind of outside of the city. BALL: And is that the southern–. WINBUSH: Southern, kind of southwest of the city. Baltimore City. BALL: Like a peninsula. Yeah. WINBUSH: It is a peninsula, actually. So in the 1930s and 1940s, World War II was kind of gearing up. The big issue was all of the black folk from the great migration were moving to Baltimore. Baltimore was one of the most heavily populated African-American cities in this country. But after World War II they said, we have to have a place for the black veterans who didn’t want to go back south to Mississippi. In fact, many of their relatives during the war had moved up there. BALL: Which by the way is part of that great migration, for those who may not know. This is African people moving from the South to the North to escape all kinds of horrors and find jobs. WINBUSH: Exactly. Racism and all this stuff. But see, they encounter–I always say that moving to Maryland was like moving from down South to up South. And specifically the residents of white Baltimore didn’t want that integration. They had seen enough black folk between Baltimore and Washington, DC. I always tell people that Washington was becoming chocolate city at that time, maybe whatever the early stages of chocolate would be. And they said, well, where can we put these residents? They said, let’s put them in Cherry Hill. Cherry Hill at that time was polluted. The city incinerator was down there. The water was nasty, all type of stuff. But white folks go, put them over there. The NAACP actually protested it. The Afro [day 2] editorialized against it. But that’s where Cherry Hill became Cherry Hill, if you want to mark it right at about the cusp of World War II. BALL: So we’re talking about Cherry Hill becoming, as we talk about the first African-American planned suburb, or what was at one point called the model negro village. WINBUSH: It was literally called that. And Baltimore bragged about it nationally. They said, we’ve got a suburb. And it’s kind of an exaggeration. But when we think about suburbs we think about mowed lawns, white picket fences, all of that. It was an area where a lot of middle-class black folk moved because they didn’t experience some of the racism that was going on in Baltimore City. So it was a suburb in a very loose definition of the term So it was a suburb in a very loose definition of the term, but it was planned. Lot of opposition. But it’s almost like the residents eventually said, look. We want to be here. We’ll make the best of it. And it’s just almost like the way HBCUs were planned to fail. Cherry Hill was planned to fail, the Cherry Hill community. But it succeeded. Very much so. BALL: And developed a sense of community that still exists to this day. WINBUSH: Still to this day. BALL: That defies the popular image of Cherry Hill as this wasteland of violence. In fact, the report we were talking about from Jaisal Noor was talking about how that community had in its own way reduced the violence to almost nonexistent, relatively speaking, without police help, without the state officially drawing, assuming at least, on this history of a sense of community. WINBUSH: Well, yeah. And you know what it is, Jared, that it seems that historically neighborhoods that were all black, that were self contained, had their own sense of community, were viewed as dangerous. On a personal note, I was raised on Huff Avenue in the East side of Cleveland. When you said you came from Huff, you know, the old saying. Huff is rough. Harlem. South Side of Chicago. Bill Street in Memphis. BALL: Southeast DC. WINBUSH: Southeast DC. And Cherry Hill. In fact if you look at the history, there was violence in these communities but it wouldn’t be like they were moreso than other parts of the country or anything else like that. So now we find that Cherry Hill most recently has gone 400 days, over 400 days, without a homicide. Baltimore City can’t say that. And some communities in the nation–. BALL: This is happening in the midst of Baltimore City’s–some are saying it’s the most violence in many decades. WINBUSH: In decades. So the answer, what we want to know, why. Why is that. There is a remarkable–and this sounds very abstract and kind of new-agey. But there’s a remarkable sense of community in that community. We made several trips down there doing this research, and people know each other. You walk down–hey man, what’s going on. Not just hello, but call [inaud.] and so and so. There’s another thing, and I know some people might be upset about–there’s not that many churches down there. And the number of churches that are there are very involved with the community. So you have this sense that we want, we were just surprised that all the meetings we called, especially because Morgan State and not Johns Hopkins, another white institution, people came out. They wanted to talk. They’d love their community. They’d brag about the fact that Montel Williams, Dewayne Wickham are from that area. And other famous people as well. It wasn’t the stereotype I believe is one that has been created by white America historically to demonize these communities, to make people feel afraid of them. And in fact, these communities are very good places to live. I would live in Cherry Hill right now, and I’m not just saying that. I would live in it, because it’s a place that you can feel the sense of safety surrounded by your people, and people belong, and they feel that in the community. BALL: Now in just the few minutes we have left, there were a couple of things I wanted to quickly address with you that are not all perfect about Cherry Hill. But most of it seems to stem not from the people’s behavior as often as reported, but from a history of institutional and state-sponsored inequality. So you talk about in the report that Cherry Hill is a food desert. You talk about the difficulty with transportation. And the, as you mentioned already, the general resistance to a desire for gentrification, which again goes against the popular tide in terms of what we often hear about these communities. But you, if I read it correctly–and please correct me if I’m wrong here. You are saying that a lot of these issues have their origins from the impact of segregated housing as it was developed there from the 1940s and ’50s. Could you just say a couple words about that? WINBUSH: We found that almost every problem that Cherry Hill has comes from poor governance, history, not of the community but I’m talking about coming down from City Hall, institutionalized racism and classism, where people said we’re not going to do certain things for this community. Cherry Hill is over there. Transportation, for example. We had several residents tell us that buses will pass them. They’ll be at the bus stop with groceries because they’ve got to go outside of their community to get groceries oftentimes, because it is a food desert by definition. And buses will pass them. And then some bus drivers will open up the door and say, you can get on the bus, but you can’t let your groceries get on the bus. Which doesn’t make sense. What does that do? Residents have to catch cabs, paying more money just to get food. So all of that has nothing to do with the residents of Cherry Hill. Those are policies both deliberate and tacit saying well you know, that’s Cherry Hill, let it go. The buses are not as new in Cherry Hill as in other parts of the city. And all of those type of things go to make the community under stress–Mindy Fullilove and her book Root Shock talks about communities that are under shock, and Cherry Hill has always been under assault from the powers that be. BALL: Well Ray Winbush, I want to thank you very much for talking to us about this report. We want to let people know they can get it at the Institute for Urban Research website at Morgan State University’s website, to see the whole report. And we’re going to do a quick transition, and to have a part two of this conversation coming up, to talk–because I want to talk with you about how, or why maybe, the same issues that are faced by people in Cherry Hill have been faced not only historically but today in other parts of the country, but have been responded to very differently, including what’s happening there in Ferguson. So thank you very much, and thank you for joining us. We’re going to have a part two with Prof. Winbush here in just a second here at the Real News. For all involved, again, I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore. And as always as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody. We’ll be back in a minute.
JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome back to the Real News Network. Again, I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore. We’re continuing our conversation with Dr. Ray Winbush of the Institute for Urban Research here at Morgan State University in Baltimore, as well. And we’re transitioning from the conversation we had in part one, so if you missed that please go check it out, about Cherry Hill, the Cherry Hill section of Baltimore and all that it has struggled against historically, to a conversation now about what’s happening in Ferguson in the aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the Watts rebellion in 1965. We have Ferguson uprising again. And my question to start this is, we just did a conversation about Cherry Hill facing all the same problems that you would find in basically, basically any black community. But finding other ways to respond. Finding other things that you talked about, maybe in the history of that community, that have allowed that community to respond a bit differently. Or maybe there are different options that they have in terms of response. But we’re seeing folks in Ferguson again saying we don’t feel we have any other option but to get back into the streets, to make some more noise. What are you feeling about all of that right now? What is your sense of what’s happening? DR. RAY WINBUSH, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: There’s an agonizing similarity between African communities throughout this country. I think Paul [Muy] said that it’s funny how we say what about Chicago, what about Ferguson, what about Watts. This is America. It’s like these communities don’t really, these communities come out of the whole fabric of what America is all about and what it has done specifically to black Americans. I was in Ferguson in March of this year and I was surprised that in ’14 when Mike Brown was killed, that up until then they only had one murder in that city up until Mike Brown was killed, and it was Mike Brown. Ferguson was a town where black folk who wanted to escape some of the violence–I mean, it’s a suburb of St. Louis. They moved there. Very middle class, very warm community. So these are not black folk who are like, inner city, which is another term for the dangerous black folk. These are very middle class people. I think when people get to the end of their rope that they’re going to–I’m always amazed how people say they’re not demonstrating correctly. I hate the term legitimate protesters. Like, what is an illegitimate protester? Does that mean the ones who specifically say, well, we’ll just be peaceful all the time? It’s no justice, no peace, and we say that like a chant. And I think the people who don’t want that will say, well, you’ve got to give us peace before we give you justice. And in fact, we will give them peace and there still will be no justice. Darren Wilson’s still walking around free someplace. BALL: It occurred to me, actually, in looking at your report on Cherry Hill. One of the things that I did not see in that report that is very present both in the historical incident in Watts and in this incident with Mike Brown obviously in Ferguson is police brutality. And we know that historically that there isn’t, that all these uprisings are in response to police violence, every single one of them. So is it that something in Cherry Hill is happening that’s preventing police brutality? Or is it just better masked there? Or it just occurred to me that that was the piece that’s missing here. WINBUSH: Well you know, it’s interesting. We heard reports when we did our focus group that there was police brutality, but nothing compared to what we here in places like Sandtown-Winchester where Freddie Gray was killed. Or in Ferguson, or Eric Garner on Staten Island. Cherry Hill, I think because of the sense of the community and police who knew that community well, some police who actually lived there. And I’m not talking about recently. I’m talking about over the years they were part of that community. I think we always hear this term, every time we have one of these uprisings people will say well, we need to go back to community policing. I say, well, what does that mean? In Baltimore, we know for a fact that half of the new rookies here in Baltimore Police Academy come outside of the city. Police are no longer inside–the guy that killed Tamir Rice in my hometown of Cleveland came from outside of the city. The idea of Officer Friendly who lives next door and walks the beat is nothing but an American myth. BALL: The other part is that you’ve also, we had talked about last segment about Cherry Hill, is that the media depiction of black people generally, but obviously those in some form of protest or resistance. Tyrone Harris who is the young man shot by police in Ferguson this past week, the video of him now–. WINBUSH: It’s in rotation. Every rotation. BALL: Showing apparently him pulling a gun from his waistband. And then on social media there’s been a lot of pictures people have been putting up, including a lot of white supremacist groups of him and his friends posing with guns, and brandishing weapons and photos and things like that. Giving the media both the radical right-wing racist, overtly racist media, and their conservative or the mainstream liberal, equally racist in many cases, media this open door to now say well, where you–literally have been saying on social media, where are your pictures of him in his graduation gown, in his football uniform? In other words, he deserved what he got. WINBUSH: Well, what if he did bring a, pull out a gun? And let’s say he did. And he ran towards the cops with it. So what? I mean, you’ve got this white supremacist separatism group called the, what do you call them? BALL: Oathkeepers. WINBUSH: Marching around with, under the sanction of the police. And you know, Jared, I’ve got to ask the question always, what if black men and women walked into Ferguson right now with automatic weapons, in flak gear, and camouflage, whatever they call that stuff. Camouflage clothing, or whatever. BALL: World War 10. Skipped all the other ones. WINBUSH: Exactly. So there’s a tolerance for white supremacy. Look, a response to violence. If your children are getting killed, a proper response to violence is at least self defense. We don’t know what–we still don’t know how when this brother was running with the gun what he was doing. We still don’t know. That–I have seen, I was looking at some show last night, I was on the show, and I put it on mute while I was on the phone. They must have played that tape, and I’m not exaggerating, at least ten times while the voiceover from the newscast–. So the idea that media says one brother with a gun, somehow this will quell the uprising, because we can prove that he was going after police is ludicrous, and it’s the idea that they want to rush to the so-called peace and not rush to the so-called justice. BALL: I saw, looking it up last night, the Oathkeepers claim that they are none of these things, in fact, that you use to describe. In fact they say, we are not white supremacists and separatists. We are former military and police officers who want to protect, even said in part, protesters. That we’re here to protect protesters, because they learned their lesson from last year in Ferguson, that the community was not prepared to deal with protecting property and protesters from the outside agitating violent element that wants to take advantage of these things. So that’s their claim. But I think to your point, were black women and men dressed similarly with similarly outfitted weaponry to do the same thing, making that same exact claim, that there would be as I said a moment ago World War 10, 15, 20. The other thing, though, that I’m noticing with the release of this video is that it seems to be the same thing happening after Freddie Gray was killed here, where the apparent abuses of the community by a handful of people changes the narrative. So now the question goes from, why are people in Ferguson upset? Why was Mike Brown killed? Why were the conditions of the community, as people are reporting there, still not changed? To can we get peaceful protesters, and aren’t the police justified in their violence because of young men like this with guns? WINBUSH: Well, I looked at Jon Stewart–I love Stewart. His last show, I can’t say the word on tele–we’ll call it bovine feces, for lack of a more appropriate term. A lot of what the media portrayed is just bovine feces. It’s in service of white supremacy. My friend Harry Allen of Public Enemy always said, he always asked the question–. We always asked the question, Harry always says, he said, is there racism in the media? Is there racism in education? Is there racism in law enforcement? He said, well, we ought to say is there media in the racism? Or is there education in the racism? And when I apply what Harry says to the portrayal of all these uprisings, the strangling of Eric Garner, I actually had a police officer say to me here in Baltimore, I asked him, was Eric Garner killed by police? He said, well, you got to look at it in a lot of different ways. It’s a rationalization. And the media is in service to the system of white supremacy. And so I’m looking for media, which is supposed to be objective, fair, like Fox News said. And it ain’t there. It’s not there. You’ve got to discern it, you’ve got to critique it, you’ve got to deconstruct it. But if you accept it at face value, not at all. BALL: Ray Winbush, thanks again for joining us here at the Real News Network. And thank you again for joining us at the Real News. And for all involved, again, I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore. And again as always, as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace, if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.