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The Book of Lamentations, the Art of Jacob Lawrence and The City of Baltimore

The Book of Lamentations, a short poetic book of mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem at the hand of the Babylonians, consists of five songs of lament bearing the name of Jeremiah. 

The book a series of five poems the first four are acrostic meaning they are structured alphabetically according the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet; Chapter 5 is not acrostic.

THE BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS

The voice of Jerusalem 
Of Jeremiah 
Of the enemy

And it came to pass, after Israel was carried into captivity and Jerusalem was desolate Jeremiah, the prophet sat weeping and mourned with this lamentation over Jerusalem.  And with a sorrowful mind sighing and moaning he said: 

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CHAPTER 1: THE DESOLATION OF JERUSALEM

1. How solitary sits the city, once filled with people. She who was great among the nations is now like a widow. Once a princess among the provinces, now a toiling slave.

2. She weeps incessantly in the night, her cheeks damp with tears. She has no one to comfort her from all her lovers; Her friends have all betrayed her, and become her enemies. 

16.  For these things I weep—My eyes! My eyes! They stream with tears! How far from me is anyone to comfort, anyone to restore my life. My children are desolate; the enemy has prevailed.

20.  Look, O LORD, at the anguish I suffer! My stomach churns, And my heart recoils within me: How bitter I am! Outside the sword bereaves –  indoors, there is death.

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CHAPTER 3: THE VOICE OF A SUFFERING INDIVIDUAL

17.  My life is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is;
18.  My enduring hope, I said, has perished before the LORD.
19.  The thought of my wretched homelessness is wormwood and poison;
20.  Remembering it over and over, my soul is downcast.
21.  But this I will call to mind; therefore I will hope:
22.  The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; 
23.  They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness!
24.  The LORD is my portion, I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him.
25.  The LORD is good to those who trust in him, to the one that seeks him; 
26.  It is good to hope in silence for the LORD’s deliverance.

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CHAPTER 4: MISERIES OF THE BESIEGED CITY

1.  How the gold has lost its luster, the noble metal changed; Jewels lie scattered at the corner of every street.
2.  And Zion’s precious children, worth their weight in gold—How they are treated like clay jugs, the work of any potter!

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CHAPTER 5: THE COMMUNITY’S LAMENT TO THE LORD

1.  Remember, LORD, what has happened to us, pay attention, and see our disgrace:
2.  Our heritage is turned over to strangers, our homes, to foreigners. 
3.  We have become orphans, without fathers; our mothers are like widows.
4.  We pay money to drink our own water, our own wood comes at a price.

 

Suggested Readings

bishop braxtonBishop Braxton Writes a Letter on Racial Divide in the United States
by Messenger Editor on December 31, 2014

Bishop Edward K. Braxton has written a pastoral letter on the Racial Divide in the United States for the World Day of Peace in 2015. The letter includes a study guide for participants.

The study guide also gives an outline of ways to share among participants. “This study-guide should be seen as a flexible resource that can be adapted for use by large or small groups. While the guide is arranged for the participation of members of a group, it can also be used by two people or by an individual. It is for all who, with Christian faith, would like to examine the complex racial divide in our country that is documented in each day’s headlines and the personal experiences of many people,” Bishop Braxton says in the  guide.

Read the rest of this letter at the Belleville Messenger website.

wes-mooreThe world, and our kids, are watching Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray
by Wes Moore on May 1, 2015

Over the past week, I have been receiving text messages and emails from friends many miles away from all that is happening in our city of Baltimore. "Stay safe and thinking about you guys over there" a friend in England texted. "Praying for you and hoping all turns out well," came from one in Paraguay. "Thinking about the Gray Family," from a professor in Germany.

These messages remind me that the issues underscored by Freddie Gray's death in police custody are not Baltimore's alone, nor will the response to these issues impact our city alone. The mosh pit of reporters and cameras are here because our local story is global in impact. They are watching Us.

Let me explain a bit about "Us."...

Read the rest of this op-ed article at the Baltimore Sun website.

kaye-whiteheadKaye Whitehead' Blog

Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead is an assistant professor at Loyola University Maryland in the Communication Department. Her teaching and research focuses on the intersections of race, class, and gender.

 

 

eager-streetEager Street by Arlando "Tray" Jones

Born in Baltimore during the summer of 1968, Arlando "Tray" Jones, III, arrived in a world scarred by race riots that left Eager Street clouded by smoke and charred storefronts looted clean. One result of these tumultuous times was a spike in East Baltimore's drug trade, a business that Tray himself entered twelve short years later. Eager Street: A Life on the Corner and Behind Bars tells the story of Tray's rise to and fall from power in Baltimore's violent drug world. The tidal wave of drug culture and addiction washed over Tray, his family, and friends and often blurred the difference between who was good and who was evil. Young Tray was eager to make money. He was eager to gain respect. He was eager for discipline and direction, freedom and security. However, all these aspirations changed in a flash of gun fire. By the age of fourteen, Tray had become the trigger-man for one of East Baltimore's busiest dealers. By seventeen, he was tried and sentenced to life for murder. Written while in prison, Eager Street captures all the misery-raw and authentic-Tray has experienced as a direct cause of his decisions and actions. Eager Street is his story.

improving-urban-middle-schoolsImproving Urban Middle Schools by L. Mickey Fenzel

Nativity schools—there are over forty in urban areas throughout the United States—provide an important alternative to urban middle schools failing to provide their students with an adequate education. Nativity schools, which are privately funded, provide a year-round educational experience for at-risk urban children. They feature small classes, an extended day, and attention to students’ social and spiritual developmental needs. L. Mickey Fenzel visited eleven Nativity schools in seven cities, conducting interviews and classroom observations, and collecting standardized test scores and survey data. Fenzel examines features of the Nativity model that distinguish it from other educational programs and takes a close look at the controversial use of volunteer teachers. The Nativity model is also discussed with respect to its social justice mission that is rooted in Jesuit tradition.

not-in-my-neighborhoodNot in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila

Baltimore is the setting for (and typifies) one of the most penetrating examinations of bigotry and residential segregation ever published in the United States. Antero Pietila shows how continued discrimination practices toward African Americans and Jews have shaped the cities in which we now live. Eugenics, racial thinking, and white supremacist attitudes influenced even the federal government's actions toward housing in the 20th century, dooming American cities to ghettoization. This all-American tale is told through the prism of Baltimore, from its early suburbanization in the 1880s to the consequences of "white flight" after World War II, and into the first decade of the twenty-first century. The events are real, and so are the heroes and villains. Mr. Pietila's engrossing story is an eye-opening journey into city blocks and neighborhoods, shady practices, and ruthless promoters.

step-out-on-nothingStep Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life's Challenges by Byron Pitts

In Step Out on Nothing, Byron Pitts chronicles his astonishing story of overcoming a childhood filled with obstacles to achieve enormous success in life. Throughout Byron's difficult youth--his parents separated when he was twelve and his mother worked two jobs to make ends meet--he suffered from a debilitating stutter. But Byron was keeping an even more embarrassing secret: He was also functionally illiterate. For a kid from inner-city Baltimore, it was a recipe for failure.
Pitts turned struggle into strength and overcame both of his impediments. Along the way, a few key people "stepped out on nothing" to make a difference for him--from his mother, who worked tirelessly to raise her kids right and delivered ample amounts of tough love, to his college roommate, who helped Byron practice his vocabulary and speech. Pitts even learns from those who didn't believe in him, like the college professor who labeled him a failure and told him to drop out of college. Through it all, he persevered, following his steadfast passion. After fifteen years in local television, he landed a job as a correspondent for CBS News in 1998, and went on to become an Emmy Award-winning journalist and a contributing correspondent for 60 Minutes. Not bad for a kid who couldn't read.
From a challenged youth to a reporting career that has covered 9/11 and Iraq, Pitts's triumphant and uplifting story will resonate with anyone who has felt like giving up in the face of seemingly insurmountable hardships.

just-mercyJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

boom-townsBoom Towns: Restoring the Urban American Dream by Stephen Walters

American cities, once economic and social launch pads for their residents, are all too often plagued by poverty and decay. One need only to look at the ruins of Detroit to see how far some once-great cities have fallen, or at Boston and San Francisco for evidence that such decline is reversible. In Boom Towns, Stephen J.K. Walters diagnoses the root causes of urban decline in order to prescribe remedies that will enable cities to thrive once again.
Arguing that commonplace explanations for urban decay misunderstand the nature our towns, Walters re-conceives of cities as dense accumulations of capital in all of its forms—places that attract people by making their labor more productive and their leisure more pleasurable. Policymakers, therefore, must properly define and enforce property rights in order to prevent the flight of capital and the resulting demise of urban centers. Using vivid evocations of iconic towns and the people who crucially affected their destinies, Walters shows how public policy measures which aim to revitalize often do more harm than good. He then outlines a more promising set of policies to remedy the capital shortage that continues to afflict many cities and needlessly limit their residents' opportunities. With its fresh interpretation of one of the American quandaries of our day, Boom Towns offers a novel contribution to the debate about American cities and a program for their restoration.

our-kidsOur Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam

A groundbreaking examination of the growing inequality gap from the bestselling author of Bowling Alone: why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility.
It’s the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. This is the America we believe in—a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last twenty-five years we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. Now, this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.

the-other-wes-mooreThe Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.
"The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his."

 

envy-of-the-worldThe Envy of the World: On Being a Black Man in America by Ellis Cose

With a compassionate eloquence reminiscent of James Baldwin's Letter to My Nephew, Ellis Cose presents a realistic examination of the challenges facing black men in modern America. 
Black men have never had more opportunity for success than today -- yet, as bestselling author Cose puts it, "We are watching the largest group of black males in history stumbling through life with a ball and chain." Add to that the ravages of AIDS, murder, poverty, illiteracy, and the widening gap separating the black "elite" from the "underclass," and the result is a paralyzing pessimism. But even as Cose acknowledges the obstacles that confront black men, he refuses to accept them as reasons for giving up; instead he rails against the destructive attitude that has made academic achievement a source of shame instead of pride in many black communities -- and outlines steps black males can take to enhance their odds for success. 
With insightful anecdotes about a broad range of black men from all walks of life, Cose delivers a warning of the vast tragedy that is wasted black potential, and a call to arms that can enable black men to reclaim their destiny in America.

perseverancePerseverance by Margaret Wheatley

Perseverance is designed to offer guidance, challenge, clarity and consolation to all the people doing their work day-by-day. The topics are not the usual inspiring, feel good, rah-rah messages.  Instead, Wheatley focuses on the situations, feelings, and challenges that can, over time, cause us to give up or lose our way.  Perseverance is a discipline—it’s a day-by-day decision not to give up.  Therefore, we have to notice the moments when we feel lost or overwhelmed or betrayed or exhausted and note how we respond to them.  And we have to notice the rewarding times, when we experience the joy of working together on something hard but worthwhile, when we realize we’ve made a small difference.

 

tao-of-dialogueA Tao of Dialogue: A Manual of Dialogic Communication by Doug Ross Ph.D.

The goal of dialogic communication is to expand information and meaning. Dr. Ross (and his colleagues) teach us their meaning and importance of dialogic communication. In doing so, they illuminate the path to transformation and enlightenment.

 



clybourne-parkClybourne Park: A Play by Bruce Norris

Clybourne Park spans two generations fifty years apart. In 1959, Russ and Bev are selling their desirable two-bedroom at a bargain price, unknowingly bringing the first black family into the neighborhood (borrowing a plot line from Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun) and creating ripples of discontent among the cozy white residents of Clybourne Park. In 2009, the same property is being bought by a young white couple, whose plan to raze the house and start again is met with equal disapproval by the black residents of the soon-to-be-gentrified area. Are the issues festering beneath the floorboards actually the same, fifty years on? Bruce Norris's excruciatingly funny and squirm-inducing satire explores the fault line between race and property.


the-death-and-life-of-the-great-american-citiesThe Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

A direct and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has characterized much of urban planning in this century, The Death and Life of Great American Cities has, since its first publication in 1961, become the standard against which all endeavors in that field are measured. In prose of outstanding immediacy, Jane Jacobs writes about what makes streets safe or unsafe; about what constitutes a neighborhood, and what function it serves within the larger organism of the city; about why some neighborhoods remain impoverished while others regenerate themselves. She writes about the salutary role of funeral parlors and tenement windows, the dangers of too much development money and too little diversity. Compassionate, bracingly indignant, and always keenly detailed, Jane Jacobs's monumental work provides an essential framework for assessing the vitality of all cities.

being-mortalBeing Mortal by Atul Gawande

In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending. 

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.

between-the-world-and-meBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?