Alumnus Pens Essays on Being Black in Baltimore

D. Watkins, an author and School of Education alumnus, writes about his hometown in The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in Baltimore. A collection of 23 essays with titles, such as “We’re all Freddy Gray,” “Cops are Terrorists in Our Neighborhoods” and “Black Clergy Crises,” Watkins describes what it’s like to grow up black in Baltimore. Watkins, who earned a master’s degree in education in 2011, was profiled in a recent article in the Baltimore Sun.

To Watkins, there are two Baltimores. There’s the neighborhood where he grew up on the east side, with blocks of boarded-up row houses and rat-infested alleys that his black friends call Bodymore or Murderland. Then there are the areas his white friends call Charm City or Smalltimore, with its quaint pubs, trendy cafes and boutiques. He says he’s not angry, but wants to know why the city is structured this way. He credits his time at Johns Hopkins with giving him the communication skills to traverse the two worlds.

As the Sun says, “Watkins is intellectually fearless. His writing intends to provoke, and it does. Watkins floats between two worlds, adept at maneuvering through both, perhaps not fully comfortable in either.” Watson’s first big break came in 2014 when one of his essays was chosen by Salon magazine as the second-best personal essay for the year.

To see the complete Sun story, visit

Photo credit: (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)