by Benjamin McKnight, III The MSU Spokesman Editor-In-Chief
Just over one year ago, Baltimore was the focus of news outlets across the globe as the city went into a state of unrest following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.
The 2016 Region I National Association of Black Journalists Conference was hosted at Morgan State University, with a focus on Gray’s death and the role that media plays in telling the stories of social issues. The final event, a town hall entitled “Together Baltimore,” featured prestigious guests such as democratic mayoral-elect Catherine Pugh and Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
”I thought all of it was important,” said Pugh, who beat out former mayor Sheila Dixon for the 2016 democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday. “I think it was an honest discussion around media, community, leadership, police conversations, how we’re covered, whether we think we’re covered fairly and how we improve our relationships moving forward.”
Beginning with August 2014 and the death of Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson, activism against police brutality has sparked many days of protests and turmoil in cities across the nation.
Gray’s death sent Baltimore into an uprising so enormous that current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake requested the Maryland National Guard to come to the City and restore order by way of curfews and physical presence. With the events came watchful eyes of news outlets from all over.
In that, a point was made on the panel that national outlets do more reporting on the problems than possible solutions. Baltimore City native and Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson noted that those same outlets do tend to be better at asking tough questions, in part because of their lack of needing to maintain local relationships with certain authorities.
Davis, representing one of the focal points of the Black Lives Matter movement, stated that every profession has to look on the inside to see where it can improve, be it the police, the government, or media. Throughout the discussion there were plenty of disagreements, but almost as many moments of the panel reaching a consensus on ideas.
”I think with all these discussions about policing and race and all these things that really emerged in a very real way in 2015, it’s important for me to be here.” said Davis. “It’s important for me to hear from other people and hear other perspectives. I learn from other people’s perspectives and it makes me a more thoughtful leader.”