April 29, 2015

Red Emma’s and other Baltimore institutions offering safe zones for students


Volunteers who helped prepare lunch at Baltimore Bookstore Red Emma's (image via @cullenenn)

Volunteers who helped prepare lunch at Baltimore Bookstore Red Emma’s (image via @cullenenn)

With the city of Baltimore reeling from the riots and looting earlier this week, an anarchist bookstore has stepped in to provide some order amid the chaos. Judith Rosen reports for Publishers Weekly that Red Emma’s Bookstore Bookstore Coffeehouse is offering a free lunch and a sort of sanctuary to local students.

The unrest in Baltimore led to public schools being closed on Tuesday, a decision that Red Emma’s buyer Cullen Nawalkowsky criticizes as “ill-advised,” because many children from impoverished families rely on the free lunch that schools provide on a daily basis. Nawalkowsky says, “We’re opening the space up as a safe place for students, and giving them a free lunch.”

The radical bookseller has, unsurprisingly, been something of a rallying point for recent protests. On Saturday, they organized a peaceful march in protest of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. They’ve been using their Facebook page to update supporters on their activism and—as of yesterday—donating food that people have been dropping off at the store to help get residents and businesses recover from the riots.

Elsewhere in Baltimore, Ivy Book Shop has also stayed open, although they are rescheduling several events; store owners Ed and Ann Berlin say that they’ll “do everything possible to help with the rebuilding of our neighborhoods.” Kat Rosenfield reports for MTV News that all branches of the city’s Enoch Pratt Free Library will remain open, “providing a hub of comfort and community to all Baltimore neighborhoods, including the ones most affected by the mayhem.” The library has been very active on Twitter, encouraging parents to bring in their kids:

Beyond bookstores and libraries, Erica L. Green writes for the Baltimore Sun that the parks and recreation department has extended its hours: all the recreation centers in the city are staying open from 11am-7pm, with students encouraged to visit while schools are closed.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.