Poor, Black. . . and Disrespected

March 24, 1995

It seems that if you're poor and black in Annapolis, your opinion doesn't count for much.

In two separate incidents, the wishes of black residents have been ignored or condemned by Annapolis city politicians and businessmen who thought they knew what these residents needed.

At Woodside Gardens, a subsidized housing complex off Forest Avenue, the management company is requiring every resident age 6 and older to have a photo identification card and present it upon demand.

The management company said the ID cards are to help the security guards identify and expel outsiders who come into the neighborhood to deal drugs and cause trouble. While their intentions were laudable, the managers failed to take into account the feelings of the residents, who say being forced to carry ID cards makes them feel like they're living in a police state. Certainly, requiring a 6-year-old to carry an identification card out to the playground is not only excessive but silly.

Annapolis politicians exhibited the same kind of misplaced paternalism when residents on Clay Street presented a plan to revitalize their neighborhood. Included in the report to the City Council wasa suggestion that the Nation of Islam Security Agency be hired to patrol the neighborhood. Although the idea was only one of many suggestions for improving safety in the community, some of the aldermen reacted as though the residents wanted to bring in the Red Army.

The NOI Security Agency has had its share of problems, not the least of which is its ties to controversial Minister Louis Farrakhan and his black separatist organization. Some cities that employ the security agency report that NOI Security has failed to live up to its contracts. But officials in other cities, including Baltimore, have been happy with the job the bow-tied guards have done in protecting residents without using guns.

Although Annapolis ought to give its new police substation on Clay Street a chance before hiring any private security firm, the residents' suggestion about NOI Security is not as outrageous as the aldermen made it seem.

What lies at the bottom of both the Woodside Gardens and the Clay Street incidents is a corrosive lack of respect for the residents of these neighborhoods.

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