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Carnage in the streets fuels soul-searching (and conflict) on the page

Following several especially violent weeks in Baltimore, essayists take on City Hall, race, class . . . and each other

Above: People are getting fed-up with Baltimore – and writing about it.

It’s been hard to keep up with all the grim essays and reportage on life in Baltimore lately.

Already plenty troubled Baltimore has started 2014 with an especially ghastly sequence of murders, stabbings and beatings, and this has prompted some fed-up citizen essayists to try and make some sense of life in the city.

We’re not going to jump in with the opining, we’re just going to supply a few links for those who may want to catch up.

There’s fear, there’s anger, there’s race, there’s class, there’s data, there’s drama. Lots of sadness.

“Baltimore City, You’re Breaking My Heart,” by resident Tracey Halvorsen in Medium has spread across town in viral fashion.

Starting off with the recent story of the 12-year-old girl being held up at gunpoint while she walked to school, Halvorsen says, “I’m growing to absolutely hate it here.”

“Whose Heart is Baltimore Breaking, Really?” by Lawrence Lanahan, who produced WYPR’s “The Lines Between Us” series, takes Halvorsen to task on race and class.

“Crime is not the ‘elephant in the room.’ It’s all anyone talks about here,” Lanahan writes in his personal blog. “The elephant in the room is inequality.”

Another recent take on Baltimore that went viral, and stirred controversy, was a piece published by Salon on Tuesday.

“Too Poor for Pop Culture,” by Baltimore writer and Coppin State University teacher D. Watkins, is a bleak but writerly slice of East Baltimore life:

Two taps on the door, it opened and the gang was all there — four disenfranchised African-Americans posted up in a 9 x 11 prison-size tenement, one of those spots where you enter the front door, take a half-step and land in the yard. I call us disenfranchised, because Obama’s selfie with some random lady or the whole selfie movement in general is more important than us and the conditions where we dwell.

Then comes a Baltimore City Paper piece noting that some commenters on the Salon story have questioned Watkins’ bona fides as a disenfranchised Baltimorean.

“A scan of Watkins’ Instagram account revealed pictures of a swanky hotel room, a Rolex watch, trips overseas, an event with boxer Mike Tyson, and, yes, several selfies,” CP’s Brandon Weigel wrote. Ouch.

(Watkins, in an interview, explains some of this to Weigel, defenders in the comments say this dust-up should not distract readers from a well-written piece, etc. You’ll have to read it.)

Finally, not an essay but some reportage about Baltimore worth reading if you haven’t caught up with it is this piece in Al Jazeera.

“$10 an hour, with no way out,” by Naureen Khan, is the product of spending time with a security guard during his 11-hour shift at Harbor East.

Most of the time, his workplace seems a universe away from the Baltimore that Barnett grew up in — the women who do acrobatic yoga in the window of Lululemon, the drunk homeless man he had to remove from the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott on a frigid night when temperatures dipped to single digits along the East Coast, the condominiums that one tenant told Barnett he pays $5,000 a month to live in. The sheer quantity and variety of lentils sold at Whole Foods.

“They don’t sell this kind of stuff in the market near my house,” Barnett observes.

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