Taco Bout It Baltimore Love

by Taco Olmstead

The Grateful Dead are considered by and large to be the founders of the Jam Band community and genre. Their sound and message came from a time in American history rife with civil unrest, the 1960’s. The loss of civil rights leaders, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to name a few, coupled with the loss of ideological leaders like the Kennedy brothers John and Bobby created an urgent sense of loss. Factor in a questionable war like the Vietnam War where a daily body count was televised and a climate for social upheaval was created. The music and arts community of the counter culture was at the heart of these movements and The Grateful Dead were torch bearers despite assertions of being apolitical. The followers quickly took to carrying the messages of non conformity, freedom in all of its forms, peace and pacifism. Fast forward to where we are now, fifty years later…

Where we are today as a community of deadheads, phish kids, kandi kids, pick your label as you may, but as a community of these counter cultures is not entirely different. We are still seeking change, acceptance of a “different” way, tolerance and still looking to close the doors on the old, oppressive systems our parents and grandparents sought to lay to rest.
While we do not have a war like the Vietnam War we have a much stranger battle occurring here and abroad. The American Dream has been outsourced and downsized. We are at war with our own citizens for a want of control of our consciousness that is called The War on Drugs. Our civil rights have been cast aside and trod upon in the name of National Security in our War on Terror. Our natural resources are being exploited for profit, our justice system privatized, our lives corporatized and our suffering has become marginalized. While the world by and large has become more safe never before in the history of humanity has our freedom ever been more regulated nor has the income gap been so broad and opportunities so hedged. The system is far from broken, it is entirely too fixed.
I find myself writing this in the wake of the violence, the venting, the foolishness, the festering hate that had occurred yesterday and this early morning in a place I consider to be not just my old home but the home of many of our family, friend, fans, supporters and contributors of Appalachian Jamwich, Charm City, Baltimore. It was a response by a few to the death of Freddie Grey. It was a response by a few to commit acts that many condemn but that most understand. It was a night of calamity on national television and a night of fear for too many. It was a night of great misunderstanding.
While some would argue that this was an overreaction to the death of a black man at the hands of police, others would argue it was a straw that would break the camels back, a spark to ignite a mile high pile of tinder. Baltimore is or was a working class city, built from port trade and ship yards, textiles and manufacturers of all things steel. It is a proud people who build their homes with their own two hands and the sweat of their brows. However the steel, like compassion, has disappeared. The jobs have left us, the hope has left us, and decades of neglect have affected us. Yet Baltimore still remains prideful and boastful and most important of all, she is still beautiful and strong.
What many people across the country and in our “counter culture” community did not see last night were the real faces of Baltimore. Most did not see the peaceful protests that had occurred for days prior. Most did not see the many faces of Baltimore, black, white, yellow and brown, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Atheist walking arm in arm through her busy streets screaming and chanting that not just black lives matter but ALL lives matter. Most did not see the police removing their helmets to speak to their brothers and sisters of Baltimore and hear the narrative of how change starts prior to yesterday evening. Instead people saw the actions of a few who have become so lost, so displaced that they too forgot they were brothers and sisters of Baltimore.
Now, I ask you to not lose sight of where we are, who we are and as a community should be moving towards. We, us and ours, not me, myself and I can change this world. It is in our unity of movement that social change happens. It is in our unity as a community that we weather the storms of social unrest. It is our unity as a people that WE can be sure that never again is a neighborhood forgotten, a person left behind, a child neglected, a dream lost. “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart, you just gotta poke around!”
I ask any of you who are available to please come out tomorrow at 2pm at 1700 North Charles Street Baltimore to participate in “I am Love Baltimore- Marching for Justice, Marching for Love”.
Show the world that what was seen on the media is not Baltimore. Let it be known that we are not animals. Let it be seen that we are a people, we are a community and we are one…