The Washington Capitals are battling the New York Islanders in an exciting game 7, with Washington DC ultimately celebrating as its NHL team advances to round 2 of the playoffs. But with the game tied 1-1 in the third period, I casually glance at the news ticker…

“Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles has been postponed due to riots.”

I quickly lose focus on the game. Unfortunately, this isn’t breaking news. But unfamiliar emotions regarding my home bubble up inside of me. Embarrassment. Heartbreak. Disappointment. Words nobody should associate with his or her hometown. But there is no other way to describe this past week.

After spending the first 18 years of my life in Owings Mills, just a 30 minute trip from my front door to beautiful Camden Yards, I moved away… an hour and 15 minutes north of the city to attend college in Lancaster, PA. After graduating, I wanted to explore a new city… and ended up an hour and 15 minutes south in Arlington, VA. In the six years I’ve resided away from Baltimore, I have frequently made the trip down 83 or up 95 to visit friends and family, catch an O’s game, and down a few Natty Bohs.

I love Baltimore. I always take ownership of my home city, donning a hat with a goofy looking bird on it, wearing a purple jersey deep in the heart of enemy territory, or more importantly, defending it. What people who aren’t from Baltimore don’t get, and won’t get especially right now, is what Baltimore is truly about. Baltimore is deeply entrenched with a blue collar spirit. Our history is as a port city, a working city, and a multitude of landmarks stand as physical and metaphorical reminders of what built our town. From Fort McHenry to the Inner Harbor, to Lexington Market to the Domino Sugar factory, the city is surrounded with landmarks that represent the hard working mentality of its inhabitants. Our team’s football mantra of “Play like a Raven” perfectly embodies its people: proud of who we are, able to take a hit and get back up again.

And there is much to be proud of in Baltimore, especially recently. Crime rates have been dropping, and are nearly 10% lower across the board compared to just five years ago. The housing market has picked up dramatically thanks to renovated row homes and a flurry of millennials taking it upon themselves to move in and build upon a culture shift that started with the Believe campaign in 2002. Companies like Under Armour have stood up and made it their mission to embrace the city’s culture, and push a city-wide resurgence. A tangible attitude seemed to be taking over the city, and progress was being made making me proud to call Baltimore home.

But we get a bad rap in Baltimore, and its usually our fault. Drug, crime and race issues are a dark mark on most cities, but these problems have been even more prevalent in Baltimore. Too often, we perpetuate the issue, quickly turning our heads from what’s happening and instead of acting for change, just say “well that’s just Baltimore.” With that mentality and weeks like this one, we will continue to be associated with The Wire, and have outsiders call us thugs, drug addicts, and suggest that Ray Lewis and Ray Rice are appropriate role models for our town because of their run ins with the law.

Last September I got chills walking onto Eutaw Street because of an important baseball game, but also because I felt like a part of a community on the rise. Its hard to comprehend how just six months later, the city was not safe enough to host a baseball game last night. Things are bleak right now; we’ve hit rock bottom. But now more than ever, we need to Believe again. Believe in ourselves. Believe that better days are ahead. Believe that our issues can be resolved. There is no question that it will take hard work, blood, sweat and tears. But that’s who we are. It’s why we love Cal Ripken so much. No one better personified what Baltimore is all about: hard working, blue-collar folk, willing to roll up their sleeves and defend their city. So its time to stop hurting ourselves and join in on the thousands of residents who are already stepping up and helping us get back to who we are.

We can and will do better. Stay safe Baltimore, and Believe.

By Aaron Gillette

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