“Why are you here!?” asks the leader. There is silence. The silence is broken by a voice from the back: “To discuss injustice.” Another man chimes in: “To figure out a solution to the injustice we are seeing.” There is a stillness among the nearly 100 black men, a focus in their eyes on a Thursday night. Inside this gathering in “Pigtown” located south Baltimore they have come together to target the incidents which have taken place in Missouri, New York, and Ohio.
Munir Bahar is the leader of this event. Bahar is the founder of COR Community and creator the 300 Men March” last summer. “I felt like there should be a discussion that young black men have amongst themselves,” he said, “in order to get a fresh and clear understanding on what’s going on from an internal or intercultural perspective.”
After hearing from the assembled, he quotes from a pair of books Morihei Ueshiba “The Art of Peace” and Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”Bahar juxtaposes these two books to protest which have raged in Ferguson, Mo. to Baltimore, Md. Bahar says that “we are indeed at war and that there are different ways to fight in wars.”
The atmosphere is very spiritual, organic, and purposeful. There are no easy answers. “You don’t go to war, unless you’re ready,” Bahar reminds, noting that he’s glad that people are protesting, but there must be a plan.
War is a metaphor for this group. It’s been a bad week for black men in America. To 12 year-old Donte Pendleton, the issue is clear: “You can’t just kill somebody and get away with it.” Police violence is a conversation he’s had at home and thought it would be discussed at school. He says his teacher “doesn’t like to talk about the subject in class” nor is he allowed to discuss the situation with his peers.
Protests by black people against police violence is an unspoken truth. It’s an uncomfortable conversation for some, even when the talk is about ways to staunch the flow of police-drawn blood. While the men are upstairs talking strategy, downstairs a similar conversation is going on with mothers who brought their sons. The ladies who wait for the meeting to end have had “the Talk.” It’s a conversation parents have had with their sons about their interaction with authorities and especially the police. The ladies who wait recognize the collective nature of these meetings. They are hoping their young men find another outlet, “something must be done.”
Travis Reynolds has taken up that mantle. He’s wearing a black 300 Men March shirt. Reynolds’ is a part of the 300 Men street team, and they go out every Friday night from 8 to 1 a.m. in rough areas in Baltimore. The problems they tackle and those out protesting are multi-racial in scope, “It’s not a black thing” says Reynolds.