The Beast Side, D. Watkins
To Watkins, there are two Baltimores—one white, the other black. This is something he continues to realize as an adult in his home city, through dinners with community leaders in a Hampden restaurant and his appearance at The Stoop Storytelling Series (see page 136) in March 2014. That night, he joked to a supportive, albeit mostly white, crowd at Center Stage, “This ain’t the stoop I’m used to. There’s no pit bulls, red cups, or blue flashing lights.” With his unsentimental prose and sharp eye for detail, Watkins takes you to his stoop in East Baltimore, the so-called beast side. He recounts his own drug-dealing past, police brutality, systemic inequality, and the murders of friends and family. What helps the arguments in Watkins’s essays hit home are the sobering and enlightening slices of life and characters he weaves throughout—resurrected drug users, hard-working grandmothers, the ex-con friend who asks Watkins to tell him what his daughter said in a letter because he can’t read. By the end, you’re left with an advanced understanding of this man’s love for the community that formed him, and how neighborhoods such as East Baltimore fit into the national debate for social change.