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Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 05/19/2010

An African American cultural district for Baltimore?

By editors

Baltimore has a population of more than 630,000, of which 64 percent are African American, according to the most recent U.S. Census estimate. With these figures in mind, does the city really need a concentrated African American cultural district? The Rev. Al Sharpton recently visited Charm City to throw his support behind the push for one. Sharpton said such a district would bolster the self-image of local youths, in addition to being "an investment in the social order."

This might sound harsh, but it has to be said that such a district should not be necessary. For starters, boosting anyone's self-image should begin with one's self; ultimately, people are going to see themselves how they want. While creating positive influences to help young people make good decisions may be a worthy goal, sectioning off part of the city to accomplish this task won't work.

Those behind this project would be better off going directly to youths. Also, areas such as "Little Italy" and "Greektown" aren't a fair comparison to such a district, given to the historical significance of immigrants from Italy and Greece to the settling of those areas.

With attractions like the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, Baltimore's African American cultural footprint is pretty secure at this stage of the game.

It would be beneficial for all involved to promote these existing centers, in addition to lesser-known events, year round to everyone -- and not just African Americans, let alone African American youths.

Kenny Burns blogs at Maryland Politics Today. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By editors  | May 19, 2010; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Baltimore, HotTopic, Local blog network, Maryland  
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"Also, areas such as "Little Italy" and "Greektown" aren't a fair comparison to such a district, given to the historical significance of immigrants from Italy and Greece to the settling of those areas".

So African American aren't significant in the settling of Baltimore? How about an acknowledgement of the free slave labor that built the city.

Posted by: coolmikeperry | May 19, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I am sure had such a proposal been made for a white cultural district, Rev. Al Sharpton would be marching on Baltimore. I wrote about this on my own blog, The Hinterland Gazette, and it is counterproductive and unnecessary at this juncture. The consortium should be pushing for a cultural and entertainment district for all kids. Besides, why should a white person's tax dollars fund something of this nature?

Posted by: blackpoliticalthought | May 19, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

"Bolster the self image of local youths" Sure, but how about adressing real issues facing the African-American community in Baltimore, or at that the city itself, that really affect self image. Education and employment. A kid isnt going to care about some artist in his neighborhood if he knows he's getting a subpar education that will land him a minimum wage job. And if people want to get over race issues, stop making issues about race. Make a Baltimore cultural distric that reflects the whole city not just a portion. And I'm sure the African-American community would not like a moniker like Little Italy or Greektown, cause again it would be racially unacceptable. Little Africa just isn't right.

Posted by: whfr | May 19, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Having lived in the MD/DC area for about 4 years, I would beg to differ on the need for an African American Cultural District in Baltimore. Have you visited the Baltimore Harbor? Have you seen how the harbor and it's entities have slowly built up around the Black inner city community, leaving it to struggle and or forced out, yet, continue to build up the areas around the stadiums and the universities, (i.e., the UMD campus there, Univ. of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins, Loyala, etc.) The Harbor is a spectacular area and I remember when they built it when I was a teenager back in the 80s and it continues to expand, but it's definitely not there to promote the African American Experience. And yes those museums are there, however, if there is no concentrated effort and committment to truly recognize and define the African American culture in a city that is so obviously African American, it will continue to become gentrified, much like New York's Harlem and it's sister city Washington, DC, and other cities around the country. Yes the European cultures have their "cultural districts" and yes, the African American culture in Baltimore needs its area too.

Posted by: ivywriter | May 23, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

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