The neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester has seen its share of high profile individuals wanting their picture taken in front of the spots which mark Freddie Gray’s death. Today it was a presidential candidate.
Led by Empowerment Temple’s Pastor Rev. Jamal Bryant, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders walked the streets that Gray called home. His visit came as the prosecution rested in the trial of Officer William Porter.
Following the walking tour, Sanders and selected clergy met at the Freddie Gray Empowerment Center. Bryant pointed to items absent from the Sandtown-Winchester, banks and grocery stores. He went even further noting that “18 to 20 Black-owned businesses are still closed because their insurance companies have not stepped up to the plate.”
Sanders is largely unknown to those who live and raise their children in this environment and he has had difficulty connecting with Urban America. Angela Francis, who lives in the adjoining neighborhood of Harlem Park stood in the frigid temperatures with her husband and son hoping to get a glimpse of the senator. They know he’s an unknown in this community. She said teens who threw bricks during Baltimore’s unrest last year are “not interested in building libraries but, rather is looking for an opportunity.”
The Sanders campaign is well aware of this disconnect and released a racial justice platform to address the number of police shootings and criminal justice reforms. “We need to start investing in communities all over this country today who are hurting and often forgotten about.”
While none of the pastors at this event endorsed the candidate they listened and Sanders heard a message he is unlikely to hear in Iowa or New Hampshire. For Reverend Bryant it was simple, “we look like a strip from a third world nation,” he said. “This is not just a Baltimore problem it is a Black America problem.”