Person of the Week- Duane “Shorty” Davis

Duane “Shorty” Davis is a Baltimore activist, cook, father, veteran, and a politicians’ worst nightmare. Originally from Zion, Illinois, Shorty moved to Baltimore in 1991 and began to help his community by feeding the homeless. Today, he continues to feed the homeless, speaks at public forums, participates in all forms of activism, and involves himself in the dealings of politicians all over the state. Throughout his time as an activist he has also created his own program; S.H.O.R.T.Y.S Self Help Organization for the Re-development and Re-education of the Young”, that focuses on the social and economic hardships faced by young people in the city. My favorite thing about Shorty, other than his sense of humor, is that he holds everyone accountable. If you show up late, unprepared, or (God forbid) don’t show up at all Shorty will notice and you will be hearing about it. Fondly referred to as “Shut ‘em down Shorty”, he loudly identifies and challenges racist and corrupt state officials, often times, in their faces. One way he does this is through the motif of toilets. He decorates toilets with political names, faces, and evidence of wrongdoing and places them in public places. Shorty’s toilets are intelligent, thought provoking, and funny just like the man who makes them.

He is currently running for Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in the 2014 elections. His platform includes politician transparency and accountability to the people, stopping the cradle to prison pipeline created by ‘The War on Drugs’, and giving power back to the people. Shorty can be found feeding the homeless and giving out free books on the third Sunday of every month. He is also active on Twitter – “Shortman_9” and Facebook- “Duane G. Davis” and welcomes anyone who wants to get involved in community activism to contact him.

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Baltimore confronts abusers at “town hall meeting”

Abdul-Salaam to Blake & Batts: You say you are trying to help the city, but you are hurting the very people we need in the community. You are terrorizing the children with a police force that can attack citizens with impunity.

Coverage of this event in The Sun is inadequate and misleading. Audience comments overwhelmingly criticized Mayor Blake & Police Chief Batts for enabling violence against ordinary people in Baltimore. Yet this article, by Colin Campbell, devotes only one paragraph — the tenth out of sixteen — to this type of criticism. Most of the article pays fawning tribute to the city’s untested new plan to curb violence, despite the bad record of the officials who are promoting it. (Mr. Campbell’s Twitter coverage was similar. Justin Fenton’s tweetstream was a little better. Remember, Tweets at the top are most recent.)

The article’s title, “Mayor, Batts attend west-side town hall meeting”, also distorts the reality of what happened. Ms. Blake and Mr. Batts did not “attend” a community meeting; they set up their own event, on their own terms, with their own overt & covert security forces. As the city is well aware, these meetings were scheduled for the same time as West Wednesday. Although the official purpose of the event was to reach out to the community, in practice the city officials were quite hostile to the people who came to see them. They also made it difficult for citizen journalists to record the event.

Nevertheless, Baltimore Bloc brings us several videos that show more of what really happened at this “town hall:”:

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Maryland Correctional Enterprises: Prison Labor With A Smile

Maryland Correctional Enterprises (MCE) is the state’s own prison labor company. A semi-autonomous subdivision of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), MCE commands a workforce of thousands of prisoners, paid just a few dollars per day.

According to a search of the ProQuest database (available with your Enoch Pratt Free Library card; County residents try here), The Baltimore Sun has run a total of nine articles covering MCE since it changed names in 2005. That’s about one article per year. One hundred percent of these articles show MCE in a neutral or positive light, reporting mostly on officials who worked as overseers of MCE and on good works done by prisoners, e.g. “From the Prisons Comes a Thanksgiving Feast“, written by Peter Hermann in November 2009.

“Myra Wooten’s Thanksgiving came from prison.  Officers from state correctional institutions in Jessup and Baltimore delivered a large box packed with a week’s worth of food, including a frozen 13-pound turkey, to the East Baltimore resident.”

Later in the article:

“Even inmates get into the act: Those who work at the Maryland Correctional Enterprises Meal Plant in Hagerstown cooked more than 700 turkeys for the poor.”

The Sun has  also described MCE as a useful stepping-stone for inmates, which will help them to find employment after they are released. (TV news outlets report on MCE with similar cheeriness.)

These reports do not provide the public with meaningful information about the scope of prison labor in Maryland. Futhermore, they gloss over serious questions about the practice of using prisoners as hypercheap labor. MCE workers make far less than minimum wage, earning between $1.50 and $5.10 for an entire day’s work.

MCE logo etc

The Sun, seemingly, goes out of its way to highlight the arguments in favor of prison labor, but fails completely to cover the other side of the story. Critics of the practice say that prison labor, akin to outright slavery,  is unethical, abusive, and bad for the economy.

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Jim Crow Justice, Jim Crow Journalism: Shorty versus Dred Scott decision

Sun readers may remember Duane “Shorty” Davis as the man arrested for placing a “toilet bomb” outside of the Baltimore County Courthouse. The toilet, of course, was not a bomb, and Shorty was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. To their credit, the Sun reported on this verdict and even did a follow-up story with a cool photo gallery for the two-year anniversary.

Since then, another year has gone by, and Shorty returned to court on Monday for another trial. This time, he was the plaintiff. What transpired was truly amazing. For example, Shorty was able (for the first time) to cross-examine under oath Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger: the very man responsible for wrongfully jailing Shorty in 2011. You won’t read about it in the Sun or see it on cable, so we’ve brought you an Eclipse exclusive report.

You can also watch videos from outside the courthouse at Freeman Sullivan’s livestream channel. And here’s an interview with Freeman & Shorty, conducted on Sunday 23 Feb, to introduce the case:

Without further ado, our report:

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