I can't remember the exact point at which I decided I would do a collection of patterns inspired by my hometown, Baltimore, but late last year, I began to work on the idea in earnest. I sketched out a 6-piece collection: a pullover, a cardigan, an infinity scarf, a hat and a matching pair of striped socks and mittens. I decided that such a collection should solely feature yarns from Maryland-based indie dyers, and I started contacting those business. I swatched. In the back of my mind, I pondered places to take photos: Fells Point, Camden Yards, Federal Hill. I picked names for each design that honored my city and its history: Annabel Lee, Eutaw Street, Chesapeake.
I wanted to share with knitters the things that are special about Charm City, the things I love about it. The quirky hons, the blue-collar history, the port town vibe, the urban renaissance. The Orioles, Edgar Allan Poe, 34th Street, John Waters, steamed crabs and beer, cashiers performing hip hop at The Fudgery. Things you didn't see on Homicide or The Wire.
Not because Homicide or The Wire aren't true depictions of Baltimore--events this week have shown that they are very accurate. Abject poverty, inequality, drugs and violence, and police brutality are terribly real in Baltimore--and in cities across the United States. I cannot overstate my belief that addressing these issues, as well as the host of other problems that marginalize this country's minority communities, in immediate and concrete ways is imperative.
But they are not the whole truth of this city. And just like the media's focus on this week's riots failed to highlight the peaceful protesters, police officers engaging constructively with communities, volunteers cleaning up after the burning and looting and advocates against violence--black and white, young and old, rich and poor, and everything in between--the beautiful parts of Baltimore and its people are often overlooked.
I don't think it has to be either/or. I think you can--and should--demand that the bad be fixed while also highlighting the good, whatever the situation. If there is no good to speak of, nothing worth saving, shouldn't you just bag the whole thing and start over?
I gave some thought to scrapping the collection--for fear it might be viewed as opportunistic, or as trivializing an important series of events--but decided to move forward with it. It was always intended to be a celebration of a complex city, and that hasn't changed.
Systematically ignoring Baltimore's many problems leads to situations like those you saw in the news this week. But focusing solely on those problems while overlooking the good things the city and its people also have to offer might lead to the conclusion that there's nothing worth saving, and that's simply not true.
Baltimore is city that is light years away from perfect; a city with flaws and grit and ugly truths.
But it is a city of love and compassion and beauty as well.