Shird (Lessons of Redemption, 2016) documents the 2015 Baltimore riots in this work of nonfiction.
Following the death of Freddie Gray after his arrest by police in April 2015, Baltimore became the setting of protests, civil unrest, and violence. Shird leads the reader through a detailed account of the events, from the inciting case of Gray to the emergency’s aftermath. An eyewitness to the action, the author recalls the ways in which the African-American citizens of Baltimore—from lawyers to drug dealers to members of the Black Lives Matter movement—took to the streets to articulate their frustration over Gray’s fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. In addition to the protests, violence and looting broke out around the city, ultimately leading to the declaration of a state of emergency and the arrival of the National Guard. Famous footage of a burning CVS on Pennsylvania and North Avenue played in a loop on news stations. “Many viewers couldn’t believe their eyes, as a US city came under siege on live television,” Shird writes of the riots. “It was the best reality show around, and yes, it was real.” In addition to analyzing the events of that spring, the author provides suggestions for how similar tragedies might be prevented, including addressing the poverty of cities like Baltimore, delivering alternative policing strategies, and demanding less sensational media coverage. Shird is an adept chronicler, writing in a conversational prose that nevertheless manages to capture the surrealism of many of the book’s images. As a first-person account of the protests, his book proves invaluable: his knowledge of his native Baltimore and the racial tensions that characterize it lend the narrative a depth absent in mainstream media depictions of the events. Shird’s solutions contain nothing that hasn’t been offered elsewhere, and many of them are far more easily said than done. Even so, the author convinces the reader that if the underlying causes of the disturbance seen in Baltimore are not tackled, other cities will likely see similar crises playing out on their own streets.
A first-person account that delivers a persuasive diagnosis of the Baltimore unrest.