What I Witnessed in Baltimore

By Dominique Hazzard


This is me trying to process, trying to share what I witnessed yesterday in Baltimore, trying to amplify voices. Mostly what I saw were young black people overflowing with pain, exasperated at their core, keenly aware of the structural violence they have been subjected to for their entire lives, and willing to do whatever they need to do to end it because everything else they have tried has failed. One young man said he is willing to die for liberation.

I met a young man who in one breath grieved ‪#‎FreddieGray‬, said Freddie used to buy his son candy, and in the next breath lambasted tax policies that subsidize second home ownership for the rich “Who owns these houses? People who don’t live here, and buy them for cheap to get a tax break, then let them sit here boarded up.” He talked about the problem of so many Baltimore police officers commuting into his neighborhood from the far suburbs. He stayed out at Monday night’s uprisings as long as he could, until he had to go pick up his son. He said he’s marched and that didn’t work, he’s boycotted and that didn’t work, he’s voted and that didn’t work, and asked “So just what the hell am I supposed to do? But the police tryna tell us we can’t have human emotion.”

Another talked about looting, about its roots in economic despair. “I saw my people out here gettin’ toilet paper. Toilet paper. Because they need toilet paper to wipe their ass, to wipe their kid’s ass. You gon’ send em to jail over toilet paper? I want a job. People want to take care of their families.”

I saw a small business owner and her daughter, Asian Americans, sitting in the busted doorstep of their store. They said everything had been taken. It was sad. Even sadder, to me, and I promise you this is not hyperbole, is that the state of that store looked indistinguishable from some of the homes that the students we were delivering lunches too LIVE IN. I could not tell the difference between blocks that had been hit by riots, and blocks that had not; that is the level of economic violence people are living under. I am now even more flabbergasted by the questions of “Why are people destroying their own community?” Folks straight up told me “We don’t own anything here,” and it was crystal clear to me that communities had already been destroyed by poverty, by exploitation, by structural racism long before any riots connected to the murder of Freddie Gray. As Jamilah Lemieux said in Ebony yesterday, “Baltimore Been Burning.

There are war tanks roaming the streets in groups in the middle of the day, passing kids playing tag like it’s normal, like any of this makes sense. There are SWAT teams taking over random residential streets just because they can, and elderly women with grocery carts stressing out trying to figure out how to get around them to get home. There are police harassing clean up crews of volunteers and city citizens; police would allow them onto the street and then 5 minutes later start advancing upon them, asking them “Why are you on my street?!”, forcing them to move. There are helicopters flying over neighborhoods constantly, and the woman I spent the day with told me that it isn’t because of the uprising, it’s like that every day, every regular ass day there are helicopters hovering over these citizens, surveilling them.

And in response: there are Baltimore heroes. There were churches opening their doors, and teachers knocking on their students doors to see if they had lunch.

There was Baltimore determination. I met a young woman who was shot by rubber police bullets on Monday night while standing in the crowd. She caught one in the back and one in the foot, and lost feeling in her toe. Still, she returned.

There was Baltimore bravado, self-affirmation. I heard a young man proclaiming loudly “They think we aint human cause I sell drugs? They think we aint human because we don’t speak the King’s English? We rejected that shit! And we are smart, smarter than ever. I know I’m smart.” He pointed to the broken-windowed apartments across the street. “I grew up in those apartments. My momma was a crackhead. I been out here since I was 11 years old. Surviving.” Another young man said, “Black brothers and sisters… we together out here against these police. I’m a liberator, I’m a revolutionary… I know my worth, I know my books because I study… What Malcolm X said?”

There was Baltimore resilience (resilience being, the things we do to bring ourselves joy during trauma) — two blocks down from one of the tank barricades someone had brought out a boom box. “They Don’t Really Care About Us” was blasting, a neighborhood man known as “Michael Jackson” was performing, and at least 40 people had gathered and were dancing with him.

I really encourage folks to get as much of your news about Baltimore as you can from social media. Try to read updates from organizers on the ground, listen to the stories of those most affected. Because the whole frame of so much of the Baltimore coverage is just trash.

Photo Credit: Dominique Hazzard

For Those Who Would Rather Mourn Property Damage Over People Lost by Police Brutality


By Victoria Massie

How could you forget? Has it been that long? I, too, was once a convenience you purchased at the corner. Was I not on your grocery list yesterday? “Slave F 26” written right below the milk and corn? The auction block still rests next to the market downtown. Was I not the gift you bought there for your cousin that one time? I think it was for his 18th birthday. How many times did you lease me out for Christmas? Each year, you promised, a new overseer. Never once was it me.

What about the times you still thought I misplaced myself? Remember those? How you lit the match? When I, too, was reduced to ash over the cackle of burnt wood and fried flesh?

Was I not once yours? Am I not still? Am I not property, just with a different price tag? Rent paid with a few bullets, severed necks and lasts breaths, instead of a few bucks, for my body?


Photo: Charlene Carruthers


Victoria Massie is a PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley currently doing fieldwork in Cameroon.

The Science Fiction of Freddie Gray

freddie gray

By Dominique Hazzard

Imagine, for a second, that Maryland governor Larry Hogan called for a state of emergency  when Freddie Gray’s spine was broken and his voice box was smashed he arrested for no reason.

Imagine that such violence toward a black life was so out of the ordinary, so horrifying, so damning, such a sign that swift and meaningful change was necessary, that it was enough to make an elected leader say, “This has crossed the line. The police state is out of control. We need to suspend our normal  operations and get some help from the National Guard. We need some outside resources to help quell these people, these actors of the state who are disturbing the peace.” Imagine that, in the absence of years of racial oppression, Baltimore ever knew peace in the first place.

Imagine that Freddie Gray was never arrested at all, that he wasn’t criminalized for looking at an officer the wrong way, for running from an institution that inflicts violence on black people every day.

Imagine that Freddie Gray never had to live in a city that is struggling to breathe under layers and layers of structural violence.

Imagine with me.


Photo: 4everginuwine


Dominique Hazzard laughs in the face of the white heteropatriarchy while skipping merrily through the District, creating interfaith tools to address poverty, and eating bacon. Follow her on Twitter.


This Zine Wants You To Know That Black Women Matter

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.50.50 PM

Black Women Matter, a zine created by Austin, Texas based artists, was created to make sure that no one forgets the black women killed by police.

Published four months ago, the zine highlights the black women and girls that have been the victims of police brutality. The zine is increasingly relevant at a time in which black female victims of police brutality do not receive the same national recognition as male victims. Read the zine here.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.39.40 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 2.33.08 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 2.33.32 PM



Photo: Black Women Matter

Amandla Stenberg: Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows

amandla stenberg

Amandla Stenberg, the 16 year-old actress that played Rue in the “Hunger Games”, broke down the appropriation of black culture in her short film project, ‘Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows’.

Originally posted on her Tumblr a few months ago, Stenberg asks an important question in her film: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”

Photo: Amandla Stenberg/Youtube Screenshot

‘First Gen’: Growing Up “Other” in America

first gen

By the looks of its official trailer, “First Gen” has the chops to make it from a pilot to a major network .

Created by Yvonne Orji, the show is based on her real life experiences. Orji completed undergraduate and graduate school with the intention to continue to medical school. Instead, she followed her real dreams and moved to New York to pursue acting and comedy. Orji’s goal with “First Gen” is to offer a “refreshing take on the modern day immigrant family,” while flipping the script on the usual images of Africans on mainstream media.

“An interesting shift is occurring where kids of immigrant parents are growing up and discovering America for themselves; not solely through the lens of their parents. This opens up a whole new world of opportunities. Until First Gen, we haven’t seen Africans portrayed in mainstream media as regular, everyday people. They’re usually warlords, cab drivers or fleeing genocide. The African immigrant story in America is so much richer than that. The success of entertainers like Lupita Nyong’o David Oyelowo, and Uzo Aduba suggests that mainstream America is ready to tune into a series like ‘First Gen’,” the creators told IndieWire.


Photo: Youtube/Screenshot