The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Lessons to Learn from “Charm City” (2018)

Ryn Smith

The following represents the opinion of the student reporter and does not represent the views of Loyola University Maryland, the Greyhound, or Loyola University’s Department of Communication.

Loyola’s Messina Program hosted a showing of the Baltimore-made film “Charm City” on Oct. 10 at the Senator Theater. Messina presents this film once a year at the theater, a historic site located on York Road. This influential production highlights both the work of the Baltimore City Police Department and officials like Brandon M. Scott in response to a particularly distressing three years in the city. However, the message that stands strong throughout the film is the need for community outreach. 

The movie opens with police responding to a shooting of four and a stabbing of one, but the camera quickly switches to a morning meeting held on Rose Street to introduce one of the main characters. The man hosting the meeting is Clayton “Mr. C” Guyton. Mr. C hopes to foster strong relationships amongst the community and lead young people away from the violence that surrounds them. 

Alex Long, a Violence Interrupter who works for Safe Streets, a public health initiative that focuses on keeping the streets safe for the up-and-coming generations, is also shown. As someone that the Rose Street community can rely on, Long hosts events for the community and builds close relationships with the youth by starting a boxing club. Every community needs leaders like Mr. C and Long, who work hand in hand to create a safer environment for the people of their community. 

Stark tension is built between the communities of Baltimore and the police force as the film switches back to the Southern District Police Station, located in the “overdose capital” of Maryland. The police have to view the violence that actively occurs in Baltimore as a threat to the community’s overall safety. “Charm City” is not shy to address the dangers of a stray bullet. 

In the scene with the city budget meeting, we are introduced to Councilman (and now, Mayor) Brandon Scott. This is when we learn that there are 1,200 positions to be filled, but there are only 900 police officers. Because they are 300 officers short, the department has officers working overtime to make up the difference. This movie interestingly casts the police positively at the start, portraying overworked but diligent protectors of the community. 

This tone changes, though, when Long shares his personal story of being profiled and arrested at 15 years old for a crime he did not commit. The audience shifts in their seats as the police, who were just portrayed as protectors of the community, are now being depicted as irresponsible and guilty of wrongful incarceration. 

“In our community, it’s too much police, but not enough justice,” Long said in the film. 

His words are supported with a statistic shown on screen, which reads, “In 2016, Baltimore Police solved only 38% of homicides.” 

When we learn that Long’s sister, Ashley, was shot and ignored by police for 15 minutes, we again see the police as unhelpful in the protection of the community. At this point in the film, my heart broke for Long; he feels like he and the police could have done more to prevent the murder. 

When Mr. C takes a four-month leave of absence and homicides rise, it becomes apparent to the viewers that these communities rely heavily on leaders such as Mr. C and Long to guide them. His return is inspiring, as he encourages the community to look toward a better future. I physically sat up in my seat when Mr. C began his morning meeting, as if I was in attendance on Rose Street. I want to be involved. 

The film closes with a powerful image of Ashley Long’s shrine of balloons, that are now all flat and dilapidated after five months. “Charm City” is dedicated to over 1,000 lives lost during the making of the movie, including Ashley Long. 

“Charm City” does a great job of showing the people in the community who are trying to make a difference, and it also shows the police as people. It makes them relatable, shows their true intentions, and how overworked they are. It was filmed over the course of three years and captured two separate stories: that of the communities and that of the police. 

“Both the neighborhood and the police are aiming at the same goal: a safer community,” said Dana DeCarlo, from the “Charm City” production crew. 

At the question and answer portion of the event, it was revealed that every rookie cop in Baltimore has to watch this film before joining the force. It was an honor for us to meet Alex Long during the Q&A as well. He explained that kids develop essential skills from the efforts of Safe Streets. They learn how to engage interpersonally and foster communication. He explains that politicians and police are not the “saving grace,” it is on us. 

“One thing we want people to understand about safe streets is that it’s about the communities,” Long said.

When asked what non-members of communities like Rose Street do to support initiatives like Safe Streets, Long said to show up. Long encourages nonmembers of communities where violence is a significant problem, to get involved, show up, and be present for those communities experiencing violence and the hardships it brings. 

Let’s leave behind this “that’s not my job” mentality. It might not be the police’s job or that of the Baltimore delegates like Brandon Scott, but it definitely is the responsibility of the communities to bring up the youth in a manner of non-violence. We need to do our part to support these community efforts whether financially, physically, or otherwise. But we certainly need to be more than empathetic, we need to be active. 

If your finances allow, I would highly encourage you to donate to the funding for relocation of Team Redemption Boxing, Alex Long’s community initiative. With growing interest, they are looking for a bigger space to host youth boxing. Help to raise funds at this link.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All The Greyhound Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • N

    Nina Guise-GerrityNov 4, 2023 at 2:36 pm

    This is an excellently-written article that portrays the realities, challenges, and hopeful moments in one of our local Baltimore communities. Job well done!