Former Allegheny student puts himself in the middle of the protests in order to tell the story from the inside
1.) Black people are reporting that white people with little to no connections to the city are joining the protests and causing a lot of destruction that Black people are getting blamed for. Here are Black people who fought against a white protestor who was attacking police and tried to destroy property.
2.) There is a dialogue between the community and the police during the generally peaceful protests in Baltimore. Many people distrust the media and believe the media is intentionally showing Black people in a negative light.
Let’s control our own narrative and illuminate the truth."
These words accompany Blake Lyle's photographs taken deep within the demonstrations on the streets of his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
Lyle is a 2012 Allegheny College graduate, a 2018 Johns Hopkins masters of education graduate, a Montessori school teacher and documentary photographer.
He is a Black man who turned 30 in 2020.
"I generally do street photography, a mixture of portraits and city scapes. My subjects tend to be humans or dogs for some reason," Lyle wrote to me a couple weeks before George Floyd's death at the hands or knee of a Minneapolis police officer. "I want to push myself creatively and find my flow state."
Since Floyd's death, there have been countless protests across the world. Lyle has found himself in the midst of those in his hometown. As a teacher of young minds, finding himself out in the streets is a bit surreal. Given that it is 155 years after the Civil War supposedly created an equality for the Africans stolen from their homeland and placed in unpaid servitude of wealthy whites in the United, and also the Confederate States of America, he would rather be teaching his students the tools they need to succeed instead of continually fighting for the equality of humans like himself with dark skin.
56 years since the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which came 100 years after the Civil War ended, he and others who are not white are still looking to be treated as human beings.
Lyle posts these names with several of his Instagram posts.
Human beings killed. Black human beings killed by whites.
Lyle takes his camera into the night, passed the peaceful calm of day, where in the shadows anything can happen. He understands the danger, but he is dedicated to documenting what he sees.
"While documenting the human condition, I feel at peace. I feel at peace because behind the fear, anger and frustration, I can sense the transformational change. I can feel a better tomorrow through today’s lessons."
Big lessons. Lessons learned 250 years ago, 100 years ago, 50 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, today... lessons learned and forgotten apparently.
"I believe that it is the culmination of small actions that create the tidal wave of change. I want to show each small step along the way," Lyle said.
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
"I hope the social uprising will cause legislative change. In many instances, the state and local laws protect police officers. We need more citizens politically engaged and more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color politically empowered," Lyle said. He hopes the protests lead to positive and long-lasting change, not only in his community, but world wide.
And that hope comes not just from to his experiences, but also of others in his community.
"The older I get, the more run-ins I have with the police based on profiling," he said. "I understand this is bigger than my own personal experience. I think if we listened to each other more people will begin to grasp that concept," Lyle said.
"The idea of citizen community task force is great. It is not enough in of itself. Police departments across the country need a complete culture change. The standards on the use of force need to be modernized and demilitarized," Lyle said.
"There is a lot more work that needs to be done. Small victories add up to large gains. Citizens have to continue putting pressure on the powers that be until we see the America that lives up to it’s ideals."
Lyle understands its an uphill fight, it has always been an uphill fight.
"The only way to beat white supremacy is to make a conscious decision to be anti-racist. Racism is a spectrum, not an binary. I will encourage individuals and organizations to be reflective and see where on that spectrum they fall. From there one can determine the appropriate actions to dismantle their racism. For BIPOC, we need to do a similar process, but an internal one that determines how internalized racism has affected us. Then we must make a conscious commitment to actively fight our internalized racism."
"Being in the middle of it all is actually exhilarating for me," Lyle said. "When I’m out shooting, I have to observe with great detail. I see things about people I didn’t notice before. I see interrelationships between man and environment. I learn. I grow, empathy and compassion.
I want to be a strict observer, but I still see things through my lens. If truth is ultimate goal, then I need to un-peel subjective truths to find objective facts. That is to say, perspectives are important in the search for objective reality."
"My hope is that demonstrations go on as long as they need to. We’re already seeing some change. People and organizations that were not empathetic of our truths, now see our pain. They now see the mistakes of the past. Hopefully this continues to move people towards action."
"I think it was something that’s been building for 400 years, but specifically changed in 2015. People saw that citizens can uprise and demand to be heard with Freddie Gray in Baltimore," Lyle said.
Follow Blake Lyle's work a: https://www.instagram.com/blakehasnoface/