The Board and staff of Open Society Institute-Baltimore are deeply affected by the events in Baltimore over the last several days. We join with millions of individuals in Baltimore and beyond in extending our deepest condolences to the family of Freddie Gray, and we, too, are angry that the life of another young black male was cut short while in the custody of those who are sworn to protect and serve. While we are saddened by the recent destruction, we choose not to lose sight of the issues that precipitated these events or the solutions that are needed to bring about healing, peace and justice in Baltimore.
Open Society Foundations has been resolute in its support of those advocating for police accountability and policing reforms, most recently in Ferguson following the killing of Michael Brown and in New York following the killing of Eric Garner. OSI-Baltimore now stands with the Gray family and those organizing peaceful and purposeful protests to demand the truth, hold officials to account and leverage these moments to uplift Baltimore, get at the root causes, and prevent additional tragedies.
We do not know what the investigative reports will reveal. We do know that Mr. Gray, like tens of thousands of African Americans in Baltimore, belonged to a community reeling from Baltimore’s failed policing strategy, where young black men report being regularly and unfairly profiled and harassed by the police.
We also know that many of the youth destroying parts of our City are disconnected, disenfranchised and largely unseen until they act out negatively. We in no way condone this destructive behavior. Dr. King told us 50 years ago, however, that a riot is the language of the unheard, and right now these young people are speaking loudly and clearly. We applaud those responsible adults—neighborhood, faith, non-profit and political leaders—who are committing themselves to teach these youth a new language and help them convert their energy into a constructive force that answers not just to the events of the moment, but creates a movement that leads to lasting change.
OSI-Baltimore stands ready, with resources and expertise, to help make this change happen. For 17 years, we have worked with hundreds of grantees, Community Fellows and other partners throughout the city to bring about just policies and practices that respect the rights and advances the potential of each resident. Today, and in the weeks and months to come, OSI-Baltimore will work even more closely with the many wise community leaders among us to determine how best to deploy our resources and expertise to accelerate the pace and permanency of peace and justice in Baltimore.