|Dear Martin OMalley...|
Congratulations on becoming the Mayor who will lead Baltimore into the new millennium. It is certainly a glorious challenge.
I am writing to you in hopes that you are open to the notion of racial healing in our beloved Baltimore. In order for the City of Baltimore to have a renaissance, we must uproot, deal with truth, and heal causes; not continue to bandage symptoms of what truly divides us, the lack of love.
I am saddened by the state of our city; the disintegration of moral and ethical values. I am heartbroken to see the talent, imagination, and creativity of my neighbors go wasted, hidden in the name of Progress. I no longer want to live in a country that does not apologize and atone for its mistakes. I no longer want to live in a city whose government does not recognize that its only priority is to serve its citizens in the light of democracy.
Many wonderful organizations are working on loosening the strife that binds us to hate; they have made some progress, and have brought issues and awareness to light. Yet the story remains the same-one step forward, two steps back. There is something missing.
What is missing is the starting point; a public apology by the Baltimore City government to its citizens for the outrageous cruelty and incomprehensible oppression and genocide visited upon the ancestors of Native Americans and Afro-Americans. It will be easier to forgive present racial thoughts and misfortunes, when we can see and accept the past for what it is. Germany has publicly apologized as a nation for the atrocities committed against Jews. World War II ended 54 years ago; but in contrast, the United States as a whole has yet to apologize for immoral and inhumane crimes that began over 500 years ago and continued for centuries.
Baltimore, Maryland, part of an original slave state, has the opportunity to lead the United States into the 20th Century as the Set Example city, the first in the nation to take a stand on this issue. This apology, this atonement, as wonderful as it will be, must be followed with a plan of action. What we have today is economic, educational, moral, emotional, and spiritual injustice--slavery of the modern era. We must create a case for the federal government to institute a Marshall Plan for Baltimore--for all ailing cities, for that matter. We can rebuild Bosnia, yet cannot rebuild ourselves.
Baltimore and other cities need to achieve a level of maturity. It starts by saying, If I or any of my ancestors have ever done anything to hurt or offend you or your ancestors, please forgive me and please forgive us. It would continue with carrying out the promise of a Set Example city: the city that has Zero Tolerance for anyone or any product hurting any of its citizens; the city that works with the vision that opportunity and prosperity are indeed unlimited; the city that is not afraid to say compassionate love is the central focus of politics.
I invite you, Councilman OMalley, to participate in creating such a legacy for Baltimore City. On December 7th, 1999, the responsibility being turned over from Mayor Schmoke to you can be significant in uniting Baltimore.
On behalf of Baltimore Citizen Circle members, and thousands of others all across this country who hold the vision of a healed America, I ask you to meet with me to discuss this endeavor. I have met you in person and hope that my perceptions are right.
When you said, Baltimore is the greatest city in America as you ended your acceptance speech on general election day, I hope you meant it.
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This story was published on December 1, 1999.