This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting with Principal Perry at Edmonson West High School. I remember Edmonson back in the day when I was in school being a pretty unruly place. But this fall morning it was in tip-top shape. Mr. Perry, who has been at Edmonson since August, says he sees progress but he's not standing still. After pitching the project, Mr. Perry didn't hesitate: "I'm on board." I have received nearly identical reactions at every high school I've visited. Principal Kyles at Dunbar. Director Caswell at Independence School. And we're just getting started. Wednesday I'm headed to Digital and then next week to Mervo.
When I talk to students about the goals of the IHP, they look at me the way I assume they look at most adults they are trying to give respect to, with cool reserve. They see me as a potential employer and they want the job. But when I ask if they've had an experience in the Inner Harbor with the police, their eyes light up and I know that means there's a story.
I interviewed K last week and he told me he was concerned about media coverage of the events in the Harbor. He thought it was strange that all reports from this last 4th of July boasted no violence. "It's like if there isn't any crime against tourists, then it's not reported." But K told me he took the metro to Charles Center on the 4th and emerged in the midst of an aggressive crowd. "Half the people were yelling East side and half were yelling west. I wasn't yelling nothing but people around me were so I got maced by the police." Experiences like K's create distrust between Baltimore youth and authority figures. K saw himself as an innocent victim that was grouped in with those acting out.
I offer Ks story as one of the less severe stories I've heard. All of the student leaders cope daily with violence in two forms, both systemic and individual. Often the line cannot be drawn between the two; they bleed into each other.