Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Don't Deny People the Power of a Word

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Don't Deny People the Power of a Word

Article excerpt

I have spent the better part of the past 15 years as a reporter, the last four also as a children's book author. I do it because, while I know the sword and the dollar are mighty influences on the world, they pale when compared with the written word.

So it came as no surprise that legal beagle Johnnie Cochran would choose to blame the use of a single word for the death of seven people in Baltimore. What got me was the one he chose: BELIEVE.

The word is part of Baltimore's antidrug campaign that both requests and insists in that single word that the people have faith in themselves and their neighbors to "redeem the core identity of the city."

Believe. The word hangs over the city as an invitation to rise.

In a legal wind-up to an intended lawsuit, Mr. Cochran contends that the "Baltimore Believe" campaign is the reason seven members of the Dawson family were killed in an October arson fire set after they spoke out against drug dealers in their midst. Cochran's suggestion is that encouraging them to believe was irresponsible on the part of the city because it encouraged them to do something that got them killed. It encouraged them to stand up and fight for what they believed.

Would Cochran sue Rosa Parks for keeping her seat and thus sparking others to hold their ground and in doing so be injured or killed? Or perhaps he would have brought action against Martin Luther King Jr. for every death that resulted from the civil rights movement because he encouraged people to have a dream?

This situation leaves me with that dread that comes when you see a disaster ready to happen - you want to scream a warning, as I do now.

Maybe I feel this so keenly because just two days before news of Cochran's legal move, I drove into Baltimore where I was greeted by: BELIEVE.

Slender white block letters on a black background draped the tallest skyscrapers and clung to the bumpers of public vehicles. …

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