BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A year ago Wednesday, all eyes were on Baltimore. The city erupted into violence after Freddie Gray’s death. Now, it’s a different scene in a city still trying to rebuild and move forward.
Ava-joye Burnett with a look at what has changed, and what has not.
Exactly one year ago, parts of the city were on fire. But now, the CVS at Penn and North — a store that became an unfortunate symbol of the unrest — now stands as a bold sign of what was and what will be.
“There are 1,000 Freddie Grays out here. It’s happening right now while we’re talking, probably. It’s not going to stop just because you say I’m going to put a picture, a face on it. It’s not going to stop,” said Teddy Fisher.
Among the CVS customers–the president of the housing project where Freddie Gray was arrested.
“God has brought miracles, but we work together ever since the riots started to help make a difference,” said Linda C. Moyd, president of Gilmor Homes.
On the one-year anniversary of one of the darkest days in Baltimore, there was singing and prayers. Local groups marched through West Baltimore’s Penn-North neighborhood as a display of unity.
It was the same time last year that riots broke out in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death.
“Regardless of what we look like and where we live, and the world would be a lot better place if we just kept that in mind with all our interactions with each other,” said Sharon Huber-Plano, Havenwood Presbyterian.
Students at Frederick Douglass High School shared their candid — and eye-opening — perspectives.
“You can’t say I’m destroying my community. No. I’m not taking that,” said one student said.
“What common sense did that make to just put up a line of militarized police officers? It looked like you were strolling through Afghanistan.”
“After that, we did have a lot of people come out to our school. They made a lot of false promises as far as what they would do to our school,” said De’Asia Ellis, Frederick Douglass senior. “But it opened our eyes and lot of our students’ eyes as to what to expect when people offer you something or when people promise you something–that most of the time–we’re going to have to go out there and grab it ourselves.”
Across the city in East Baltimore, there’s another sign of restoration. A senior center that was destroyed by fire exactly one year ago has been rebuilt.
“And ten years of our work and the resources that had gone into it seemingly went up into flames and left us with mixed emotions,” said Pastor Donte Hickman, Southern Baptist Church. “But we still didn’t give up our faith.”
Students are upbeat about their future, but sick of being blamed for the riots and upset about promises that went unfulfilled.
“I’m so sick of hearing that, because whoever said that, it’s a huge egregious lie,” one student said.
“If you’re going to say it, stick to your word and be here for the students,” said Ebony Cooper, teacher.
Across Baltimore, there are similar stories of rebuilding and new growth — a cause for celebration.
“And we are, basically, going to make this the Fells Point of North Avenue,” said Alecia Brown, Nerdz.
Another success story: the Nerdz clothing store that just opened in the North Avenue community — a symbolic gesture on the one-year anniversary of the unrest.
“We are showing that Baltimore is not defined by that day,” said Brown.
With trials for all of the officers ahead, the spotlight is still on what happened to Freddie Gray. Poverty and violence remain enormous problems citywide, but there is also an optimism for what’s ahead.
“It’s at peace now because there is going to be some justice in it all,” said Deborah Jordan. “It’s done, it’s over with and I don’t think it will happen again.”
The first of the officers’ trials starts May 10.