Community shows pride after fire that residents suspect was a hate crime

Published 6/25/2022 7:30 a.m. EDT

Volunteers pull the tape up from the crosswalk after the paint dried.

Dre Cortes felt the urge to take action after four houses, including one with a pride flag, burned in the Abell community where he lives last week.

Fearing that it was a hate crime, Cortes, 35, was looking for some way to show unity and support for the LGBQT community.

So last weekend he led people in painting a “pride flag” on a crosswalk on E. 31st Street near where the four houses were burned on June 15.

“I personally knocked on every single one of my neighbor’s doors on this block, and everybody was absolutely ecstatic to have this project and to just kind of see everybody show up and show out,” Cortes said.

Volunteers strolled up to the crosswalk on the corner of the burned houses last Saturday and jumped right in to help.

“[The community] wanted to do something to show not only our support, but we also wanted to do something to commiserate and come together and feel like there is unity and joy during this time,” Cortes said.

Materials used to paint the crosswalk were donated from various hardware and tool shops in the area, including Waverly Ace Hardware, Station North Tool Library, Canton Ace Hardware and Cockeysville Ace Hardware.

“We basically just want to say, ‘We’re here.’ While we may be afraid, it is so helpful to have community solidarity, and that’s what we’re displaying here today,” Cortes said.

S.J. McDonald, 23, is a new Baltimore resident and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, so came out to paint: “I really felt like I needed to come out and help in some way, and this is the only way that I can be helpful right now,” she said.

Anna Symons used to live right around the corner from the houses and also felt drawn to help with the painting. “I think the shock and anxiety and sadness and pain of knowing that something like this could happen in our neighborhood ... just being able to do something constructive, however small, helps,” she said.

Preeti Kanodia, 43, said painting the sidewalk felt like healing. “It feels like bringing joy and color to some place that people, for what feels like to me, intentionally tried to burn down and destroy,” Kanodia said.

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The organizers also offered counseling services and other facilitators at Red Emma’s, a local bookstore, restaurant and community gathering spot.

For more information on how to help, visit the Abell community Instagram @abellcommunity.