Eastcoasttrek ’22


For this year’s trek we decided to stretch things out. In addition to flying to our initial destination which was BWI (Baltimore-Washington International airport) our mode of getting around was Amtrak. Of course getting to/from Canada we rented a car. Once we got back to the states we opted for public transportation via metro (District of Columbia and New York City) and resorted to a lot, and I mean a lot of walking – based on our smartwatches in seven days we trekked 94.3 miles walking. Oh yeah, one confession but only due to several emergencies where time was not on our side – we opted for Uber on three occasions. Trekking is not for the weak or feeble or those who enjoy the usual comforts of travel. On the other hand our style allows us to experience many things most miss. As usual once we got back into the District of Columbia we were joined by our foodie extraordinare, Renie Hale. As we moved to New York we were joined by my sister Angela.

Countries Visited

United States

Canada

States Visited

Maryland

Connecticut

Vermont

Massachusetts

New York

Cities Visited

Springfield

Baltimore

New Haven

Colchester

Montreal

Plattsburgh

New York City

District of Columbia

Hanover

Highlights of the trek

We knew this trek would require more laser-focused planning. Our funds were limited as was our time but we were willing to move it from 5 days to 7 days. This allowed us to visit Canada, New York and some places we simply did not have time in previous treks. The highlights are goals of this trek was:

Visit Montreal

Experience the Amtrak/Acela

Go to the CITIFIELD Rotunda, home of the New York Mets

CitiField pays homage to Jackie Robinson and even though it is the home field for the New York Mets, the stadium resembles historic Ebbetts Field which is where the Dodgers played.

Visit the new Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City.

This venue just opened and luckily we timed our trek to be able to see the exterior. Luckily one of management staff saw us peering through the windows and came outside to tell us about the museum. It is easy to find and right off the “canal” street subway stop as the entrance is on Vartick Avenue.

Visit the Capitol and go to Statuary Hall to see the new statue of Dr. Bethune. This indeed was the historic highlight as it was recently installed.

This installation had been delayed for over a year due to the insurrectionist and Trump acolytes who damaged the Capitol after falling prey to Donald Trump’s hustle that the 2020 election was stolen. Anyway, there is a process to enter this sacred building. Your congressional rep must coordinate your visit and you will receive a letter (via email) granting entry. The statue of Dr. Bethune representing the state of Florida is magnificent and very historic as she replaces a confederate general (each state is allowed two statues).

TO SEE FULL CEREMONY CLICK HERE

Visit Metropolitan AME as they just recently started back to having full worship.

Built in 1838 this historic cathedral is one of our must-stops when in DC. Due to Covid they recently started in-service worship so we were blessed to be able to be in attendance.

Visit Brooklyn to see where Judith lived

Arriving in 1972 this is the spot she called home and it had been years since she last saw the property.

Visit the Goodman League at Barry Farms to see some playoff games.

The housing projects were removed four years ago but the spirit of the Goodman League remains. It is outdoor basketball at its finest and represents more than just a game played within the rectangular courts. The diversity of the community is on full display. Miles Rawls and his team bring a first-class operation for all who are bold enough to go “inside the gates” at the BF arena to take part in this cultural phenomenon.


PHOTOS these are some of the images captured – CLICK LINK

Our Foodie experience

As you can imagine burning 94 miles requires a lot of fuel so yes we did lots of eating and drinking. Some spots were our favs and of course part of trekking or globetrekking is experiencing new venues. Most are good and a few were just terrible so in fairness we attempt to communicate accuracy……..based on our perspective.

Rita’s Italian Ice

Rhode Island NE, District of Columbia

Rita’s was a great find by Renie. Even though they are franchised you will appreciate their consistency. We opted for their famous Gelati which is 1/2 Gelato & 1/2 shaved ice – refreshing and outstanding.

Ooh’s & Aah’s

5933 Georgia Ave Washington, DC 20011

Oooh’s & Aaah’s specializes in soul food or down home southern – very tasty.


Ben’s Chili Bowl

1213 U St. N.W. Washington, DC 20009

A DC institution and one of the best half-smokes to be found.


Dallas Bar-B-Que

241 W 42nd Street New York, NY 10036

Known for tasty Q and amazing cocktails. Located in Times Square a great find by Angela.


Jimmy’s Seafood

6526 Holabird Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224

Jimmy’s is a Baltimore institution known for their great crab presentations.


Cheesecake Factory at the Live in Hanover

7002 Arundel Mills Circle Hanover, MD 21076

Located in the Live Casino complex, great selections at affordable prices.


K Coffee & Bagel – 7th Avenue & 34th Street – Times Square, NY

Located across the street from the Moxy, this is a great option versus the more fancy coffee shop located next door.

Bergen Bagels

473 BERGEN STREET – Brooklyn, NY

Great options and muffins as big as your head. Plenty of variety at affordable prices.

Sylvia’s

328 Malcolm X Blvd New York, NY 10027

A Harlem institution, Sylvia’s has earned its reputation. Food is great and a nice variety of southern specialties.


Citifield Stadium

41 Seaver Way – Flushing, NY 11368

We opted for the philly cheesesteak which was very tasty and topped it off with a Brooklyn lager.

Aloha Poke

50 Massachusetts Ave NE Union Station, L027, Washington, DC 20002

A great light lunch while waiting for the train.

Legasea at the Moxy

485 7th Ave. (at 36th St.) New York, NY 10018

A bit pricey but great presentation. Now, the rolls are the best I’ve had in years.

BF Coliseum vendor

Barry Farms Housing Project – Anacostia, District of Columbia

This is one of my favs for all of those hard-working folk who bring great food to those watching games at the Barry Farms arena. Slim only serves platters and you get bang for your buck and during this trek his homestyle mac and cheese complete with his country crust made for an unbelievable meal. What a bargin for $20 bucks.

Sweet Home Café

1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560

This is a must-stop. I opted for the southern fried chicken, mac and cheese and greens.


Jab’s Ice Cream

A great change of pace. Shaved ice seemed a bit pricey but it was hot/muggy and this offering was very tasty while hitting the spot.

Alexandre et fils

1454 Rue Peel, Montréal, Qc H3A 1T5

A very nice cafe in Montreal. Service was outstanding and fish and chips was tops as was the chilled wine. The cesar salad was very tasty as it came with bacon bits.

Le Centre Sheraton

Their cafe is adequate but could use some creativity in their menu selections.

Monopole’s

This is a historic venue but they are in desperate need of some find tuning. We opted for the pizza and chicken tenders and while tasty we were disappointed of the limited menu selections or everything being one dimensional of either being fried or baked in a pizza over.

Wahlburgers

Very tasty but a bit pricey.

Café Vasco da Gama

1472 Peel St, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1S8, Canada

A great cafe and coffee bar. I was able to grab some Lily espresso sets.

Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates “We Were Eight Years in Power – An American Tragedy”


Ta-Nehisi Coates “We Were Eight Years in Power – An American Tragedy” is a must read for those who desire to stay informed in our current environment.

CLICK PHOTO ABOVE TO VIEW ENTIRE VIDEO.  (L-R), Ta-Nehisi Coates, author and national correspondent for The Atlantic, and moderator Michele Norris, freelance journalist and author, participate in The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC hosted “A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates: We Were Eight Years in Power”, on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto)

We Were Eight Years in Power” showcases Coates’ voice who is a Gen X’r but offers credible perspectives as seen through the African-American lens, or at least from those such as his. The book weaves eight essays and demonstrates a new thought of how our world is changing. The notion of Barack Obama running for president, let alone thinking he could get elected seemed like a lark, if not an impossible reality to so many. Yet, people like Coates and later generations such as millennial’s write with pride as Obama defied the odds to become President and successfully completed two terms. Starting as a Blogger, Coates joined the team at the Atlantic and in a short period has taken off.

The content of the book takes you on a journey of historic reality. Some may be troubled from how Coates portrays racism and how it has shaped our culture. He admits there has been progress but while so many dismiss the gains as we are “so better off,” his point is to remind you of the vestiges created from the notion of using race as a benchmark.

Regardless of whether you agree with some of Coates perspectives or not, the book is chalk-full of personal examples and other documented facts which allow you to better appreciate his writing style. He is unapologetic and reminds you how African-American’s have risen to tremendous levels of success, despite the barriers of how life is conducted in the United States.

Through his credibility as a journalist/writer he was given the opportunity to be in the company of Barack Obama. The first meeting morphed into a relationship where then president Obama invited him to the White House for more robust discussion centered around race and progress. Coates writes how much he treasured the invite and subsequent relationship.

The chapter “My President is Black” came from an essay which received international acclaim. Despite your feelings of Barack Obama, Coates allows you to better understand the rise and how he and first lady Michelle took the notion of being the first African-American president with pride and conducted themselves impeccably.

As this review is being written, Coates is concluding his book tour. Also, the recent elections of November 7, 2017 which brought a solid rebuke to Donald Trump, his politics and the rhetoric he spews is a point Coates makes, still in disbelief the voting public elected him as the 45th president is very interesting. The book references this point with a unique twist. Coates brings it home by helping the reader understand the dilemma and pressures Obama had to contend while, while Trump with just the reality of being a “white man” desiring to be president never had to deal with the continuousness. His primary issue was brought on by his own actions, not from systemic racism.

Coates admits not trying to be a “voice” for people or causes, but through his writing and how he has penned this book you quickly are thought to elevate him to a credible voice, which will be prominent for years to come.

The book which is a tad under 400 pages is a quick read. The good news is each chapter is its own separate essay and does a very good job of referencing how Coates saw things during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. It is a worthy investment for your library, especially if part of your frequent communication is on politics and race, and you truly desire a different perspective.

SANDTOWN: Out of the darkness comes light! *A Special Report*


Like a “Raisin in the Sun” or a “Phoenix Rising from the ashes”, out of all the darkness in a place called Sandtown, there is light!!  That light is in the form of residents and leaders from the greater West Baltimore community who are determined to demonstrate what engagement is all about.

new home development in Sandtown. photo (c) Fredyt123

This past week as part of my annual EastCoast trek, I needed to revisit the Fannie Lou Hamer community agriculture garden.  Luckily several leaders were present and I was warmly greeted by Durreshahwar Smith who affectionately goes by “Durre.”   I was at ground zero and witnessed first-hand how the group embraces basic self-awareness principles to reclaim a sacred portion of the Sandtown community.

Durre, Vice President of The Tubman Organization showcasing cherry (small) tomatoes. photo (c) Fredyt123

Durre, Vice President of The Tubman House, showcasing carrots ready for harvesting. photo (c) Fredyt123

Empowerment

Durre is Vice President of The Tubman House organization also known as “1619”, a fledging group of community activist dedicated to cobbling together resources to benefit the residents.  It is of consequence the group formed around the time of the Freddie Gray take down and one of their primary plots of land (the other is on Mount and North Calhoun Streets) is directly across the street on the corner of Presbury and North Mount streets.  The mural provides a powerful image that is worthy of reflection.

“Our leadership understood the importance of building relationships with the residents.  This was critically important for those who operate on the other side of the law.  An agreement was reached where our projects were labeled as safe havens or areas where the youth would feel free of danger.”  Durre

Fannie Lou Hamer garden across the street from the iconic Freddie Gray mural. photo (c) Fredyt123

A critical strategy of the organization is to leverage the expertise of adult leadership while focusing on creating opportunities for the youth of Sandtown to take a direct role to participate in a variety of projects.

photo (c) Fredyt123

Perspective 

Sandtown is a community in West Baltimore that full of blight and neglect.  It is not the type of place you venture into with naivety, gullibility or lacking common sense.  In other words, it is not a place for those considered “weak or feeble.”  Typical to many communities in what is known as urban or inner city, you see failed public policy, drug infestation, crime, high unemployment, apathy among residents, lack of personal accountability and other negative attributes all which lead to very deplorable conditions.

As bad as the conditions may be, it’s the type of environment where it is easy to offer assumptions or make stereotypical comments with very little basis of facts.  As an example, when Donald Trump boasts about the “Inner City” with a very condescending and ignorant voice suggesting it is a place where ONLY blacks live, places like Sandtown come to mind.  No doubt places like Sandtown have generational effects where segregation and the lack of positive public policy have helped to perpetuate a sense of despair. To the point, I have friends who are black who would be a nervous wreck or scared for their lives if they were forced to venture down the many streets in places like Sandtown.  That is because so many have been conditioned to be fearful of those considered poor or “less-than” That is not to say because you are black you should have some type of immunity to poverty or crime as that is where people like Trump get it wrong, as blacks live in all types of environments and many of them enjoy thriving lifestyles.  However, to deal or understand the urban core and feel comfortable in engaging the people you simply need inner courage and humanity so that you can deal with them at a basic level.

When asked a question to a Baltimore Policeman who knows Sandtown well as to why there appears so many young people just hanging out or otherwise appearing to be loitering his response was, “you gotta understand Baltimore is a city where after 15 years of age youth are allowed to emancipate or otherwise drop out of school.  So those without options are easy prey to the streets.” 

 

April 12, 2015

Civil unrest or riots is not a new phenomenon.  Oftentimes you will be able to document conditions which have festered for years and like lighting a match, it takes only a flame to allow all that pent-up frustration felt by local residents to explode in the form of outrage.   During that April day in 2015 many who unleashed their emotion against a system they deemed to marginalize or keep them mired in the negative position didn’t personally know Freddie Gray.  What they did know is his death was the spark plug that ignited the riots.  That is a fact for most uprisings.  The person or focal point of the issue may have some controversy, right or wrong but like the Freddie Gray incident, it is a metaphor and justification of a reaction.

Power to the People. Photo (c) Fredyt123

You don’t want to go there!!

 

I first visited Sandtown in August 2015, just four months after the day of destiny on April 12,2015.  I recall many insisting I should not go to Sandtown, let alone by myself!!  As a matter of fact, I was in the Inner Harbor section of the city and needed to jump on the Marc subway so I could get to Sandtown.  At the Shot Tower Marc station, I asked the transit worker, who happened to be an African-American female which stop I should exit to get to Sandtown?  Her look was one of bewilderment, “oh! You really don’t want to go down there – it’s very dangerous.”  All while shaking her head as to admonish me for asking what she felt was a question that could result in great peril for me.  Being the hard-headed, if not determined person I claim to be I finally made it to the Penn North Station and once I came up to the street level, you could still smell the effects of the CVS store which was looted and destroyed during the riots.

 

I walked a good majority to Sandtown by foot, going street to street and it took most of the afternoon.  The reason this was necessary was so I could get a feel of the community.  I do not profess to be some bold, Shaft like character who is fearless but it’s a sense you develop.  Either you are not afraid to venture into harsh urban areas or you are?  I knew for me to be able to accurately offer a perspective of Sandtown, it was necessary to brave the elements and soak in as much information in the form of sounds, smells, or something as simple as hearing the chatter from people talking, etc.

“This work is not easy but it is something we felt needed to be done”.  Durre

2016

With a better idea of Sandtown I looked forward to visiting in 2016.   Joining me was Judith and my aunt, Maryum.  A figure across the street caught my eye.  As dangerous as we were told venturing into Sandtown might be, I assured them everything would be alright.  Again, Sandtown is the type of community where there are many people who congregate outside their homes or at various spots on the streets.    Some, not knowing any better might define it as basic loitering.  I approached the figure who caught my attention and he introduced himself as “Soldier.”    He was tending the lot across the street from the Freddie Gray mural and proudly stated a group he was affiliated with was reclaiming parts of the community by starting basic farming projects on lots which were abandoned.  Like the scene I witnessed during my first visit, adjacent the lot Soldier and I found ourselves were many row homes (typical housing stock in that region) which appeared to be in disrepair or ready for demolition.  It was an incredible sight.  Soldier confessed to me, but not apologetically that he had been incarcerated for a very long time and how he took pride in the agriculture project because it gave him a sense of purpose.  I was impressed the group had the vision to name the plot of land after one of my heroines, Fannie Lou Hamer.  Soldier agreed to pose for a picture with Judith and my aunt and proudly spoke about the determination the group had in being a positive force in what is good about Sandtown.

Soldier proudly proclaiming the determination and strength of the project. Photo (c) Fredyt123

He spoke to me about “The Tubman House” and gracefully invited me inside.  Once inside he directed me to the spot where there was a remarkable mural which one of the members had painted.  It was an outstanding sight and tribute to Harriet Tubman.

The famous mural of Harriet Tubman inside the Tubman House. Photo (c) Fredyt123

The Freddie Gray connection

Urban blight is not new.  Sandown’s are scattered all across the United States.   You don’t have to be a social-scientist or social worker to see how generational behavior crisscross with public policy, or the lack thereof which leads to a stark and dangerous environment.  Better stated, some define it as “life in the hood!”

 

Last Friday we were fortunate to gain access to a Baltimore City policeman who happens to be African-American.  His name will remain anonymous as his remarks were unfiltered.  He was very quick to state Sandtown is a very dangerous place.  “There are pockets in the city, particularly in Sandtown where they hate the police.”  Part of that sentiment could be because they are viewed as a disruptive force to the elements which thrive in a criminal environment where selling drugs and other substances is a lifestyle.

 

He went on to state it was then Councilman Nick Mosby who responded to pleas from Sandtown residents to crack down on all the illegal activity which held them hostage to those who benefited from the condition.  Thus, more law enforcement was put in place with the goal of weeding out the negative forces.

 

His contention is the public did not have all of the facts regarding Gray’s capture and subsequent death.

 

“Freddie Gray was one of those who was known as a petty drug seller.  One of the drugs he sold was heroin.”  The officer offered the viewpoint that as Freddie Gray was being chased down North Mount he swallowed the product in his possession, rather than being caught “red-handed.”  He further mentioned the officer’s capture and subsequent removal of Gray was done in a routine process.  Additionally, he mentioned Gray was recently involved in an auto accident and was recovering from his injuries.  Therefore, he offered the opinion that it was swallowing the heroin combined with a flair up of his injuries which caused him to mysterious die, not the behavior of the officers who took him into custody.

 

Gray is gone.  Sandtown still has a dangerous feel and in some parts, you are at ground zero but people are people.  In any community, you have the good and the bad.  Sandtown did not get into the condition it is in overnight.  As mentioned, it is generational and indicative of crime and unemployment.  At the same time, you see streets being reclaimed as the standard row houses are rehabilitated or rebuilt designed to give hope to the residents.

 

The same is true for what is going on at the Tubman House.  To see the youth taking pride in the project is encouraging.  To see the tangible result of their work in the agriculture garden is inspiring.  The notion the food they grow is donated to the local residents is not viewed as a hand-out but more of a gesture to motivate the community to embrace the project.  The sight of having passerby’s stop by to see what is going on and to see watermelons that came from the garden which could easily be sold for a handsome profit as some of the more trendier markets is incredible.

The youth grew them, now time to sell them! Fresh melons. Photo (c) Fredyt123

Youth take a break to sample what they grew. Photos (c) Fredyt123

Sandtown needs a lot of work.  The Tubman House is just one group staying in their lane to provide uplift.  As big as the area is, I am sure there are more groups with the goal of empowerment but they are just basic workers who quietly go about their business of doing their part.

 

In meeting Soldier, Durre and other adult workers as well as the youth there is no doubt they embrace the philosophy of Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Marcus Garvey and others to demonstrate to the community, bringing light out of the darkness starts with their passion, commitment, dedication and faith in each other.

Fannie Lou Hamer garden. Photos (c) Fredyt123

Group’s second parcel on North Mount and North Calhoun Street. Photos (c) Fredyt123

 

Photos (c) Fredyt123

More information on the Tubman House can be found here

Tubman House Organization

A place of their own

Coalition of Friends/Tubman House