Last Wednesday afternoon gunshots were fired right across the street from Brehms Lane, one of my three ABI schools, at 1:45 in the afternoon, about an hour before dismissal. A lockdown ensued. Teachers rushed to scoot dozens of students— playing outside— back in to the building. A night later, there were four more shootings, all within yards of the school.
In the Baltimore Sun, Councilman Brandon Scott said, the “word on the street is there’s a fresh beef that’s broken out, and the shootings are the result.” The real result is an increase in anxiety and fear among those who live and work and, yes, try to play in the neighborhood. Tuesday of this week I talked at length with the principal of Brehms Lane, Diya Hafiz, about the pros and cons of taking second graders on a walking tour of Herring Run Park, located a few blocks away. On the one hand: sunshine, fresh air, a playground, a scavenger hunt, the smell of mums in the autumn time. On the other: the potential for violence. The fear is real.
The best ice cream in Baltimore, without question, can be found at The Charmery in Hampden. Go there, order up some pure vanilla with peanut-butter sauce, and you’ll understand why life is good. I read the other day that The Charmery is expanding its little empire, moving up to Towson, right next to Uncle Wiggly’s. A fresh beef is breaking out in the ice cream business, I think to myself, a thought preferable to gangs banging in Baltimore.
Diversions and school-excursions are necessary distractions. We need ways to release the tensions of life in our city. (Is it really true that Baltimore, where fewer than 620,000 people reside, has more murders so far this year than New York City, which has a population of 8.5 million?) We need to try and live well even when living well is hard work.
Afya, our middle school in Belair-Edison, has begun a new initiative this year. In partnership with Towson University and physical therapist Brett Clarke, Afya’s formidable team of physical education teachers—Mike Morgan, Sarah Brown, Malaika Lesesne and Luis Arauz—along with community schools coordinator, Scott Johnson, has started the Afya Wellness Ambassadors Program (A-WAP). The idea brings 15 or so of our families together, monthly, to spend time learning about health and wellness. The group participates in a fun fitness activity, eats good food, sets goals related to wellness, and works with skilled practitioners to monitor progress. During the first meeting, we ran the steps, walked the neighborhood, meditated, talked, ate pasta from Gertrude’s, and laughed a lot. This group will become ambassadors, leaders, a gang of Baltimoreans committed to goodwill and good health, and willing to work at it.
In a world that is a lot wigglier than it needs to be right now, something like this, small though it is at the moment, is as enormously pleasing as pure vanilla ice-cream with piping hot peanut-butter sauce. If we can grow this group, this idea, which we plan to do next year, we’ll have a few more people in Baltimore beefing about the merits of eating beef, a debate preferable to talk of gangs banging on the corner.