Youth Says Involvement in Riots Changed His Life

first_imgFrom handcuffs to hard hats, Jamel Maxwell says that his life changed after being arrested during the uprising. (Courtesy photos)Jamel Maxwell was riding the bus to Mondawmin Metro Station last April, when the bus driver announced she wouldn’t be stopping at the end of the line, letting passengers off five blocks away from the station. Maxwell lived south of North Avenue.He walked to Mondawmin Metro Station to transfer to another bus. All the buses were shut down. He walked toward home and into a swelling crowd of youngsters and police equipped in full riot gear, barricading roads in the area. What he didn’t know was that people had begun to gather in what would become known as the Uprising, a day when the frustration for many in Baltimore boiled over in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.“I wasn’t even going to get into it. But in my mind I’m thinking this is a trap,” Maxwell told the AFRO, “A police officer tells me to keep moving, but I had nowhere to go. The situation was provoked. I got angry and joined the crowd,” he said. He was then arrested and put in handcuffs.An article published in Mother Jones, corroborates Maxwell’s account of that day. According to eyewitness reports, the article said, the blockades “essentially corralled young people in the area” and that “police actions inflamed a tense-but-stable situation.” The article further states that “it was difficult to leave the neighborhood…the kids were stuck there because of police actions.”Maxwell was angry at police, but more angry about the climate and conditions he had to live in as a citizen of Baltimore. He was upset that drugs and violence rule supreme in his neighborhood and that there is very little opportunity for him to grow and make something of himself in the city he calls home.“I was terrified for him,” said Tamara Fitzpatrick, Maxwell’s former English teacher at Edmondson-Westside High School. Initially, she was angry at him for risking his life. “I was taken aback and horrified, but after I thought about it I realized that he wasn’t thinking about being arrested. To him, he was fighting back for years of feeling belittled by society and for feeling like he was nothing.“I contacted him on social media and explained my anger was more of concern for him, that I  loved him and I just wanted him to be safe.”Maxwell studied carpentry while at Edmondson. He played football and ran track.“He was an incredible singer and he made everybody laugh,” said Nichole Wright, a former teacher at Edmondson Westside.Maxwell spent three days in jail for his participation in the riots. He left Central Booking on crutches, but was not charged with a crime. He was let go from his job at Walmart because of his injuries.Maxwell is not proud of the part he played in the riots but says he would not change anything about that day. “Yes, it was stupid, but it was an eye opener for me to see how crazy this world really is–there is no love in this city. Everything and everybody is disconnected. There is no loyalty or respect in the streets. Too much of my generation is out here thugging and bugging out on these pills, losing there minds, killing each other for nothing.”Maxwell is heading further south to start a job in construction while he pursues a career in entertainment. The city is full of people with no faith, Maxwell says, which is why he won’t be coming back anytime soon.Recently, Maxwell traveled to Atlanta, Ga., to reunite with his father, who left Baltimore when Maxwell was 13. “He seems to be doing well in Georgia. I hope that he builds a comfortable life there and stays,” said Horton. “Visit Baltimore, but do not come back. The city has gone through so much, and I don’t want it to drag him down in the process.”An opportunity to travel allowed him space to regroup. “I realized that I had an opportunity to do something with my life, We all do,” said Maxwell. “It’s hard out here, but Baltimore builds character and strength. There is nothing your faith can’t carry you through. If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”last_img

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