Author notes: I would like to clarify my comments regarding an online response I made to the Mayor’s quote regarding the Black Lives Matter street painting on High Street:“…should not deface the Charm of the Historic District of High Street.” My reaction is not meant to condone or condemn the street painting. It is a visceral reaction to the whole subject, knowledge of the history and my experiences in Kent County. Moreover, it is in support of every effort to rally for the cause, yet not an endorsement of the Black Lives Matters organization, as I understand it.
I have cause to draw deep breathes that ache to the very depths of my soul when I read this. Please tell me where is the charm in the history of High Street and its adjoining streets in the lynching of James Taylor or the tar and feathering led by the town’s Sheriff of a Black woman and the White male who assisted in her protest; the sentences handed down from Kent County’s Courthouse to White women who bore the “issue” of Black men; was the charm in the White women who watched from the widow walks that sit atop the gracious houses still lining High Street pining for the return of husbands-Captains who docked their ships at the foot of High Street and brought their chained merchandise to auctions selling Black Lives? Is it in today’s overzealous sentences leveled upon Blacks and others lacking social-economic equivalence?
I’m starved to see charm in the obligatory gathering of young Black men reduced to stand in one location on High Street during the Tea Party, incessantly guarded by police because a desire to be a part of something has brought them there, but the agenda repeatedly fails to make an admirable place for them yet holds hope to benefit from the dollars they spend. No charm in the loss of benefits from the skills and talents of numerous Black Artists and would be patrons whose past pains are so prevailing it doesn’t allow them to cross the threshold of the Garfield Theatre for what was the “charm” of the former movie theatre; the rudeness endured by Blacks who have dared to grace downtown businesses (NOT ALL but even one is too many) only to be greeted by silence, suspicious trailing, and rudeness?
Charm, when the country puts a Black man in the White House and that news does NOT make the front page of the local newspaper- situated within the “charm” of High Street, yet it too benefits from Black dollars spent? Was charming the goal as gentrification herded Black families from downtown C-town dwellings that held generations of heritage and familiar comforts? Where is the “charm”? If charm is to be defined only by the eye, what then guides the character of our hearts? To be led by the concern of maintaining charm over equality is like dead fish in Christmas wrappings. It will always be pretty on the outside, but the long, slow rot on the inside is surely stinking up the place. If all this talk about racism is making you uncomfortable, that means you are listening.
Now that we finally have your ear Chestertown, are you brave and honorable enough to stay on the path to equality so that every living soul can experience the “Charm”?
Born and raised in Kent County, MD, Karen Sommerville is renowned for her singing appearances at the annual Women Helping Women concerts at The Garfield Theatre, the Chestertown Jazz Festival. She currently works with Hope Fellowship in Chestertown.