BALTIMORE VS Y'ALL WHORES ...And Why
Baltimore VS Y'all Whores is an attitude meets t-shirt line cultivated by B Mores own DJ Harvey Dent. Its an ode to the city's unique colloquialism that wasn't meant to go as far as it did. Harvey Dent, who is known not only for his skills on the 1's and 2's, has one of the biggest collections of rare and obscure t-shirts that he wears proudly during every performance. While gearing up for BMORE Dillah 2015, Dent decided to take the phrase to screen print and wear it the night of the show. Interest was immediately sparked amidst the hip-hop community and its supporters. From the first 50 t-shirts sold birthed a movement of sorts that pumps the bulk of its profits directly back into the community. To be of that community is to know exactly why its Baltimore VS Y'all Whores and I've been a member for over ten years now. As a DC native, my Baltimore pride may seem a bit out of place when observing the infamous beef between the two cities. But allow me to explain why my pride for Baltimore grows stronger every year as the same zeal for my hometown grows weaker with every visit.
Let me be the first to say that living in either city is by no means a cakewalk. In both places i've been robbed, harassed and have accepted gun violence and racially charged crimes as a sick new normal. From the outside looking in, people who dont know would say theres not much of a difference between the neighboring cities. But anyone who's experienced both would say otherwise. I grew up in Northwest DC during the 90's. I lived amidst a dwindling awareness of black culture on the eve of gentrification. The upheaval of these once familiar neighborhoods left behind a soullessness that sometimes I find hard to articulate. On one hand Its nice to see the city undergo a much needed facelift but at what cost to the culture who once called it home. In Washington DC, I find I have no real place. Plenty of pretentious, top notch bars and eateries dispersed between million dollar loft apartments, upscale hotels and luxury shopping but alas, no reestablishment of soul.
Soul occurs now in small doses. As a young painter and performance poet wandering the once colorful streets of chocolate city, I was always in the company of artists and creative thinkers. I came into my own in establishments like Mocha Hut, Sankofa, Almaz, Gala Hispanic Theater and the first ever Busboys & Poets located on 14th & V street. All that remains now is a whitewashed reminder of what once was. The hispanic theatre still stands while the novelty of Busboys is a distant memory as it is now a chain of trendy hotspots where both enlightened white hipsters and nouveau negroes treat re appropriated culture as a hobby. I see less and less black and latino owned business these days. Families who have inhabited these hoods for generations have been bought out because the cost of living was too high. All for what, a couple hundred Starbucks'? Well I guess you can't have your latte and eat your pupusa too.
Upon being accepted to MICA, I made my 40 mile move to Baltimore during the summer of 2006. I half expected to stay within the realms of the campuses illusive safety and security but the sheer amount of culture-shock and naiveté amongst my predominately white peers was enough for me to want to put a gun to my own head. After all. I was no stranger to this city. I was well aware of its "charm" Enough weekends spent as a kid visiting relatives in West Baltimore had me already somewhat acquainted with these parts. The art institutes urban campus made it too easy to break from the confines of what was then known as the "MICA Bubble". So as classes began to let up, I found my once culturally up-rooted self begin to sew new seeds in the wake of an emerging renaissance. I fell in love, found an apartment, conquered art school and discovered the soul I was searching for.
It was here in Baltimore where my brush strokes began to make the most sense, where poets met in the rain to rally with words. Its where music mingles with misery and births a symphony to soothe its people. Baltimore is where tragedy often strikes but never prevails. It was during the Freddie Gray case that my love and respect for Baltimore grew stronger.The Uprising depicted in the news showed a gross, barbaric display of rage and anger towards the justice system. What was sparsely documented were the artists, musicians and community organizers taking to the war ridden streets to reset the entire tone of a people plagued by violence. I believe that soul saved Baltimore from total destruction.
Bravery marched to the sounds of Rufus Roundtree And Da B More Brass Factory led by West Baltimore native David Miller better known as Rufus Roundtree. Their entire brass ensemble along with various drum, dance and prayer circles provided a soundtrack that shook the rage right out of the hands of our people. Founder of the 300 Men March, Munir Bahar recruited city youth to take their message of non-violence all the way to Washington by foot. "It's symbolic of what we're willing to do to address the violence in our city," Bahar said. "The solution is simple. We need to go above and beyond." and that they did.
Beyond Baltimore's radical resilience, I find that there is an overall ease to living here among the locals. People dont impose their entire person upon you as frequently as they do in DC. There is a prevalent pretentiousness that runs rampant in glossy metropolises like Washington and other cities like it. Just walking to grab coffee is a battle of the elite and bougie. Ive gone home to visit my old stomping grounds only to be met with cold gestures of new entitlement. Upon a simple "hello" one is passive aggressively judged on status symbols that mean so much to a privileged few. In DC its, "Hi, who are you, who do you know and how much do you make?" Whereas in Baltimore its "Hi, whats your name, where are you from and what do you stand for, let me buy you a Boh". Some may argue me on this but I welcome it. In Charm City you can stumble into a bar on a wednesday night and without even knowing, be amongst some of the most important, most valuable, prolific, and provocative, untapped sources of our generations cultural scorekeepers. Just because the spotlight isn't shinning favorably upon us (yet) doesn't mean we aren't over here conjuring up one hell of a legacy. Come through and judge for yourself.