A Look at Wes Moore’s new Book about the Baltimore Uprising “Five Days”

by Lisa Greenhouse, Librarian

Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City
by Wes Moore with Erica L. Green

Wes Moore’s and Erica L. Green’s Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City (One World, 2020) introduces us to nine Baltimoreans in the period following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody on April 19, 2015.  There is John Angelos, Executive Vice President of the Baltimore Orioles, who is tasked with making decisions about whether and how to play baseball in the midst of civil unrest. There is Greg Butler, former Poly basketball star, whose decision-making about how to express his anger is at a critical point commandeered by that very anger.  

Each short chapter is headed by the name of one of the nine people.  The names alternate throughout the book’s length, disappearing then returning as the days unfold.  There is Tawanda, an elementary school teacher, who has for two years protested her brother Tyrone West’s death at the hands of the Baltimore Police alone or mostly alone until joining forces with the Freddie Gray protestors.  And there is Anthony, a longtime manager of the Shake & Bake roller skating rink in Penn North, who watches the uprising unfold and draw in several of the young men he has mentored. 

Jenny is a juvenile court public defender, who monitors the protests and provides legal assistance to those arrested.  Maj. Marc Partee of the Baltimore Police is assigned to protect the Inner Harbor on April 25 and to protect Mondawmin Mall two days later on the night of Gray’s funeral.  

There is Billy Murphy, attorney and scion of the Baltimore family that founded the Afro-American newspaper, who represents the Gray Family in their suit against the Baltimore Police.  And finally, there is Nick Mosby, a Baltimore City Council member, who represents the district where Freddie Gray lived and died.

The racial geography of Baltimore is often compared to a butterfly.  The butterfly’s body correlates with the affluent, mostly white center running from Federal Hill north to Homeland and the butterfly’s wings correlate with the under-resourced, largely Black, formerly redlined east and west sides.  Unfortunately for the people who live there, those wings mostly don’t fly.  Moore and Green take us to the wings and to people from the body who have made a commitment to the wings.   

On April 25th, while Orioles fans and protesters are clashing outside of the stadium, John Angelos tweets a call for racial justice.  Nick Mosby, after graduating with a B.S. in electrical engineering from Tuskegee University, could have moved anywhere but convinced his wife, Baltimore’s future States Attorney, also a Tuskegee graduate, to move with him back to the Baltimore he loves.  During the uprising, Nick frantically tweets out positive pictures he takes of Baltimore, convinced that the media will concentrate on scenes of violence and destruction, painting an unrealistic picture.  Still, worried about their safety, Mosby sends his daughters out of town.

Like Mosby, many of the people in Five Days must confront contradictions.  Jenny who is a white ally, in the midst of the chaos ensuing on April 27 in Penn North, drops her cellphone. A young African-American man picks it up.  Worried that she will lose years of contacts and notes, she begs him to give it back to her.  The young man asks her simply, “You thought I wouldn’t?”  Jenny, thus, is brought face to face with her unconscious expectations.

The most compelling character in Five Days is Greg Butler.  Though having grown up in difficult and unstable circumstances, Greg excelled in school, was admitted to the Polytechnic Institute, and became a high school basketball star.  He almost made it off the butterfly’s wing but not quite.  A peculiarity in the way that weighted GPA was calculated in Baltimore City put an end to his college aspirations as he scored a hair under the GPA necessary to join the NCAA. 

On April 27, from a starting point in East Baltimore, Greg follows the smoke he sees rising across town to the heart of the uprising in Penn North.  There, dawning a gas mask and borrowing a bicycle, he takes a leadership role in the uprising.  But a split-second decision, which he later regrets, introduces him to the Baltimore legal system.  His life seems always at the mercy of small increments in a way that people on the butterfly’s body aren’t.

If you are interested in Five Days, you might also be interested in The Other Wes Moore (Spiegel & Grau, 2010), Wes Moore’s story of his own upbringing in Baltimore and The Bronx.  The Maryland Department carries those books and more.

Find a New Way: Coping with Quarantine with these Reads

by Naomi Hafter, Librarian

2020 has been an awkward, unusual time, where so much was turned on its head. Many things will continue to be different as we go forward. How shall we respond? Where shall we find meaning? As things begin opening up we may find ourselves creating an understanding of our experiences and learning new ways of handling what was second nature. Victor Frankl used his experiences to portray people’s survival.

We may not be able to change anything about our circumstances. We can shape our attitude and outlook. How we respond to our surroundings can change and help us successfully manage. 

Man’s Search For Meaning
by Viktor E. Frankl

Living through a perfectly ghastly experience of the Concentration Camps Victor Frankl saw people who survived as people who had meaning in, or purpose to, their lives. Meaning despite what was going on around them, their attitude and response kept them alive. Frankl was a doctor, having studied psychiatry and neurology, before WWII, his experience and found people who had a reason for their lives were able to bear their surroundings.

With many of our civil and religious rituals and lives changed, with mourning and grieving rituals stopped and as we forge ahead with new routines, where and how can we renew meaning?

Many things resonated with me, this sentence is one:

“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.” (pg 44)

There are many books we can read to help us find our way as we continue our journey. Here are several.

Start Where You Are
by Pema Chodron
Help Thanks Wow
by Anne Lamott
Book| eBook|Compact Disc
Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now
by Maya Angelou
Book|eBook| Audiocassette
by Thich Nhat Hanh / Edoardo Ballerini

Check out What’s New on the Pratt’s Website

We’re so excited about all of the new changes on our website!  New sections dedicated to young children, kids, teens, and adults highlight all of the resources the Pratt has to offer. The new site is also mobile-friendly so it’s easy to navigate. 

Another one of our favorite parts is the What’s New section on the homepage. You don’t have to look far for the latest materials available from the Pratt Library. Take a look at the eBooks you can download, and the books and DVDs you can reserve for Sidewalk Service.

Sex and Vanity
by Kevin Kwan Book|eBook|Audiobook

Troubled Blood
by Robert Galbraith Book
Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Order
by Daniel Silva

The Lost and Found Bookshop
by Susan Wiggs
by Rutger Bregman
by Isabel Wilkerson Book|ebook|Audiobook
My Life As A Villainess
by Laura Lippman
We’re Better Than This by Eljah Cumings

The Photograph

Birds of Prey
The Invisible Man

If you haven’t visited the new prattlibrary,org yet, go ahead and check it out now!

Go Back to School with Film Fridays at the Pratt

By Tom Warner, Best & Next Department

No more pencils no more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks
Out for summer, out till fall
We might not come back at all
– “School’s Out,” Alice Cooper

Despite Alice Cooper’s wishful thinking, school is not out forever. In fact, as the traditional beginning of the new school year approaches this fall, school is in full session on Kanopy – Enoch Pratt’s free online video streaming resource that you can access using your library card – even if school buildings themselves remain closed due to the coronavirus. With that in mind, be sure to join Pratt librarians Tom Warner and Gillian Waldo online at noon on September 11 for their Film Fridays: “Back To School” talk about two Kanopy films that explore the world of the school room – one a tender documentary and the other a depiction of youth in revolt:  

To Be and To Have (2002)
In French with English subtitles

The film won the 2003 César Award for Best Editing and the 2002 Prix Louis Delluc. Click here to watch the trailer.

The one-room “single class” schoolhouse, where one teacher instructs several grades at once, is generally regarded as a quaint thing of the past and a symbol of obsolete and ineffective teaching methods. However, To Be and To Have offers an in-depth look at a small school in rural France where one remarkable man, the soon-to-retire Georges Lopez, has been doing the job of a small teaching staff for 20 years, and has taught several generations of bright and capable children along the way. This touching, award-winning documentary depicts how one teacher can make the all the difference in the world to his students, helping them move onto the next grade or the next school and to grow up to be kind, thoughtful people. According to Philadelphia Inquirer critic Steven Rea, “To Be and to Have is a movie every teacher should see, and every parent, too.”

If… (1968)

The film won the Palme d’Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Direction at the 1969 BAFTA Awards. Click here to watch the trailer.

Taking its title from Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem of Victorian-era stoicism and starring a young Malcolm McDowell as “Mick the Rebel,” director Lindsey Anderson’s If... is a social satire that tells the story of an upper-crust British boarding school where the relationship between the students and the authorities becomes increasingly contentious, leading to a standoff. If… was made three years before McDowell’s international breakout role as nihilistic droog Alex in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and the two parts share some similarities: a rebellious refusal to play by society’s rules or to blindly obey authority figures. And both resort to violent fantasies, with McDowell’s Mick Travis proclaiming, “One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place.” If madness is the only sane response to an insane world, as psychiatrist R.D. Laing once famously observed, then Mick and his mates’ rebellion against the class-conscious oppression of the British public school system is a textbook case of normality. Anderson would reunite with McDowell in 1973’s O Lucky Man!

And, since tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of 9/11, Tom and Gillian will also discuss a short film available on Kanopy that explores the impact of 9/11 as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl whose Tribeca childhood is shattered by the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

I Live At Ground Zero (2002)

Out of her classroom window, Isabella had seen bodies falling from the north tower, an unforgettable sight that instantly propelled her into a maturity beyond her years.

More Back-to-School Docs That Rock

As the nation prepares to go back to school (virtually or otherwise), it’s a good time to start thinking about our educational system and all the challenges facing students, teachers, parents and learning institutions themselves as we move forward. Before the actual school doors open, we can reflect on the way we learn by watching any of the 150 different Education documentaries that you can stream on Kanopy for free using your library card. Kanopy provides subcategories for various special interests, such as public schools, teachers, arts education, anti-bias education, and Special Ed

A few films have even looked at Baltimore schools, such as Richard Chisolm’s Cafeteria Man (2011), Amanda Lipitz’s Step (2017) and HBO’s Hard Times At Douglass High (2008); though the latter two films aren’t on Kanopy, you can still watch them on DVD using Pratt’s Sidewalk Service or Books By Mail resources.

Free Educational Resources to Help You with Back to School

For many it’s the first day of school and we are betting that it looks a lot different than what we all used to. Whether learning in the classroom or from home, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: the Pratt Library’s commitment to learning.

Here’s a look at a few of the educational resources that the Pratt Library has available. Check them out!

One on One Homework Help & Tutoring . With HelpNow connect with expert tutors, skills building, a 24-hour writing lab, and more.

Educational eBooks for Students. Find curated databases and ebooks with TeenBookCloud, TumbleBookLibrary, and TumbleMath.

Educational Resources for Middle School. Students can find reference content with videos, newspapers, primary sources and much more by using Gale In Context: Middle School.

Enciclopedia Estudiantil Hallazgos. Don’t miss World Book’s excellent editorial content, rich media, and interactive features in Spanish.