In the Media: Baltimore's Billy Murphy Brings Lawsuit Against Flint; 17-Year-Old BLM Activist

Feb 3, 2016

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Prominent Baltimore Attorney Brings Class-Action Lawsuit Against Flint Officials Over Water Contamination

"Prominent Baltimore attorney William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr. — who recently won a $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray — has brought a federal class-action lawsuit against state and local officials in Flint, Michigan over the contamination of the city's drinking water.

"The lawsuit, filed by Murphy and Flint attorney Val Washington in U.S. District Court in eastern Michigan on Sunday, calls for the city and state to refund $150 million in water bills paid by affected Flint residents and businesses during the time the city's water was being drawn from the Flint River. Officials have said the decision to start drawing drinking water from the river in 2014 resulted in lead contamination.

"Murphy, who was in Flint on Tuesday to announce the decision, told The Baltimore Sun that the lawsuit also seeks additional compensation for 'all of the damages that are a consequence of having to be forced to use dangerous water,' and that the total amount sought will be 'more than $150 million, significantly more, because it includes the cost of changing the interior plumbing in every house, and hot water heaters.'

"Gov. Rick Snyder declared an emergency in Flint early last month, and the state set aside $28 million for providing residents with bottled water and other services. President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for the state as well, clearing the way for federal aid."

Full Article

From the Washington Post: This 17-Year-Old Is a Rising Voice in Baltimore’s Black Lives Matter Movement

"Makayla Gilliam-Price is a 17-year-old high school senior applying to colleges. She’s also an activist bent on dismantling racism, on making Baltimore a place where black kids have an equal shot at safety, at an education, at the future.

"And already, Gilliam-Price has found her voice.

"She found it at debate camp a couple of years before Freddie Gray suffered a fatal neck injury in police custody in April 2015, before national media trained klieg lights on her city

“'She was just a 15-year-old girl trying to figure things out,' said Adam Jackson, who coached her at that debate camp and who continues to mentor her through his work at the Baltimore group Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. 'Now she’s on a steady rise to be a world-class leader.'

"Gilliam-Price believed the Black Lives Matter movement that grew out of protests in Ferguson, Mo., had to be about more than fighting police brutality. It had to be about fighting racism on other fronts, including segregated schools, academic tracking that kept black kids and poor kids from taking advanced classes, and immigration raids that made Latino students afraid to go to school."

Full Article

From City Paper: Four Voices on Reparations

"In June 2014, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a lengthy piece about reparations in The Atlantic, arguing that the country needed to take a serious look at compensating African-Americans for 'Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy.' In his article, 'The Case for Reparations,' he insisted that '[u]ntil we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.'

"More recently, on Jan. 19, Coates took Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to task for responding thus when asked if he supported reparations: “No, I don’t think so. First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil. Second of all, I think it would be very divisive.”

"Coates wrote: “Sanders is a lot of things, many of them good. But he is not the candidate of moderation and unification, so much as the candidate of partisanship and radicalism. There is neither insult nor accolade in this. John Brown was radical and divisive. So was Eric Robert Rudolph. Our current sprawling megapolis of prisons was a bipartisan achievement. Obamacare was not. Sometimes the moral course lies within the politically possible, and sometimes the moral course lies outside of the politically possible. One of the great functions of radical candidates is to war against equivocators and opportunists who conflate these two things. Radicals expand the political imagination and, hopefully, prevent incrementalism from becoming a virtue.”

"The Coates critique of Sanders has taken on a life of its own, sparking heated debates on social media and in the press. This week, City Paper invited four Baltimore-based writers to weigh in on the conversation."

Full article on Coates and Reparations here. Baltimore-based writers weighing in on this conversation are: E.R. Shipp, Tariq Touré, Lester K. Spence, and Lawrence Brown.