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Yesterday I went to my first training for the Poor People’s Campaign in order to prepare for next month’s activities of protests in order to highlight the plight of the workers, the poor, women, racial minorities, and immigrants. The season of protests is scheduled to kick off nationwide on Mother’s Day weekend and it’s meant to build on Martin Luther King’s original Poor People’s Campaign (which he had just started when he was killed 50 years ago this month).

The training was held at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Cedar Lane had some nice touches on the outside that proclaim to the general public how it’s open and accepting of everyone regardless of who they are while taking moral stands on certain issues (such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and gun control).

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

I went inside and saw a few training flyers I needed to pick up. I made some small talk among the fellow participants until the start of the training session.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

The training was straightforward. We were taught how to behave ourselves in public while protesting in order to not turn off the general public to the message that we were trying to send. (For example, we are discouraged from wearing masks while protesting, drinking alcohol, taking illegal drugs, and uttering foul language.) The most important thing was that we had to remain nonviolent at all times.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

I took part in the workshop on how to do nonviolent civil disobedience. At this point I’m not sure if I will actually set myself up to be deliberately arrested at a protest because I have just started a new job and my current finances are precarious. I still took the workshop just in case some cop decides to do a very wide sweep and arrest those who aren’t doing civil disobedience as well as those who are trying to get arrested. At least I know how to react if I somehow get caught up in some kind of a wide sweep.

I remember when I was a child my parents used to watch All in the Family and I still remember the episode where working class conservative bigot Archie Bunker happened to go to an anti-war protest in order to retrieve his son-in-law after Edith and Gloria were worried about Mike’s safety when they heard that the protest was getting violent. Mike returned home safe and sound while Archie ended up in jail along with the protesters whom he normally would never have any association with simply because he got caught up in a wide sweep by the police. You can read more about this episode here. There’s a full episode on YouTube that’s available for now but it’s unknown as to whether it will remain online or will get yanked for copyright reasons. In any case, I kept that episode in mind as I went to the training because I want to be prepared for the possibility that I would end up in jail like Archie Bunker even if I’m not doing civil disobedience.

The most memorable part of the training where we took turns simulating a civil disobedience act while other people playing the role of counter protesters and provocateurs yelled in our faces. The hardest part was remembering the chanting we were doing while someone yelled in our faces.

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Maryland Poor People's Campaign Training

Well, anyway, I learned a lot that night. The only downside of the training was that it rained that day. It wasn’t so bad going to the church but when we left, the rain was pouring down harder. I tried commuting on the Capital Beltway and it was so harrowing with the cars speeding in the downpour like it was nothing. I got off in Silver Spring and I blundered around until I consulted my smartphone GPS app and I managed to configure it to give me a route back home while bypassing all major highways. I traveled along the back routes until I arrived home. The drivers were more civilized on the back routes so I didn’t have to fear getting into an accident. The downside was that I had to stop at so many traffic lights that I didn’t return home until after 11 p.m.

In any case, despite the rain and the harrowing car trip home, I don’t regret going to that training. The Poor People’s Campaign is set to have its inaugural rollout nationwide on Mother’s Day weekend next month so stay tuned, folks!

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I had just started a new day job with a therapist only to have Good Friday off along with Easter weekend and the following week because the therapist’s two children were off from school for Spring Break and the family decided to take an out-of-town trip. I had checked a book out of the Takoma Park public library that’s located on the Washington, DC side of Takoma Park and it was due on Good Friday. So I took the Metro to Takoma Park so I could return the book. Here’s a shot of the library.

Here’s a shot of inside of the library. Here’s a fun fact about this library: This library is actually a Carneige library, which was built as a result of the philanthropy of business magnate Andrew Carneige. Last summer I took more extensive photos of that library, which you can see right here.

After I returned that library book I decided to walk around the area. I had brought an old book of walking tours of Washington, DC with me so I decided to follow the walking tour of Takoma Park where I walked in both the Maryland and DC sides of the town. The weather was still very cold despite the upcoming Easter holiday weekend so I wore a winter coat with a hat that day. I saw this lovely mural.

Here’s a sign on the DC side of Takoma Park. (The flag is the Washington, DC flag.)

I saw plenty of yard signs on the front lawns of many private homes that are proclaiming tolerance and taking stand against the policies of the Trump Administration.

I saw the occasional hopscotch with the logo of a national organization known as Let’s Play America.

I saw a garden with signs that marked “Republic Voters Garden 1963” and “Democrat Voters Garden 1963.”

I saw a variety of houses on my walk.

Even though the houses in Takoma Park can be expensive, there are also a lot of apartment complexes in that area as well so the town is more mixed along race and economic classes than too many other parts of the United States. It’s possible to see an upper class family making a six-figure income living near a financially struggling immigrant family.

Takoma Park is full of Little Free Library boxes of all shapes and sizes.

It’s also common to see homeowners display works of art on their properties.

I walked past the historic Trinity Episcopal Church where I shot these pictures.

The Takoma Park Presbyterian Church has a bunch of signs proclaiming that they are welcoming to everyone.

I took some nature photos as well. Despite the very cold weather that day, the flowers were determined to bloom.

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Last November my Unitarian Universalist church joined the many other houses of worship across the United States in putting up a Black Lives Matter sign.

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My congregation did one better with this sign. It also added the heart logo of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign and a rainbow banner indicating that it’s a welcoming congregation for the LBGTQ community. My congregation voted to erect this sign despite the fact that other houses of worship who have put up Black Lives Matter signs and banners have had them either defaced or stolen outright.

This morning I learned that my congregation has had the sign stolen. Yes, it’s distressing but, no, my congregation is not deterred. The word is that we will get a new identical banner and put it up. My congregation refuses to cower to the forces of racism, homophobia, and other types of ugly prejudice that has especially sprung up in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.

Santa Claus

This year New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday so my Unitarian Universalist church decided to schedule its usual Sunday morning service. Since New Year’s Day is also the last day of Kwanzaa, the theme of this service was on Kwanzaa and how this congregation’s observance of it is more important now than ever before (especially since my congregation is among the houses of worship that has put up a Black Lives Matter banner on its property).

There was a special Kwanzaa feast following the Sunday service. The special Kwanzaa altar remained up after the service ended so I took a few photographs.

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I even got pretty silly and took this last photo using the Hatsune Miku photo app on my smartphone.

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Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

I went to the last Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event in Washington, DC for 2016. Once again it was held at the Bier Baron located in Dupont Circle. When I was on my way to taking the Metro at the Greenbelt station I found this Christmas Panda display hyping the annual ZooLights event that’s currently going on at the National Zoo through January 1, 2017.

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I last went to ZooLights back in 2012. Come to think of it, it also happened to be the last time I actually visited the National Zoo. I made a mental note that I should go and see it again at some point (especially since the admission is free).

As I was walking towards the Bier Baron I noticed that the Church of the Pilgrims had these large banners hanging outside and they were both visible from a distance.

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The larger of the two was a #BlackLivesMatter banner, which streamed down the belfry.

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Outside the front entrance is a rainbow banner with the words “ALL ARE WELCOME” written underneath. Dupont Circle is DC’s LGBTQ area so it makes sense for a Presbyterian church to reach out to people in that community.

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I eventually made it to the Bier Baron, where I shot this promo poster for the latest Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School to be held there.

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A burlesque performer known as Cherie Sweetbottom was the model for that event. Some of the drawings in this entry are definitely NSFW.

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This event only had one contest that day. We had to draw Cherie Sweetbottom as the Virgin Mary (which was a nod to the upcoming Christmas season). I had an idea of somehow having her give birth to the notorious Christmas demon Krampus. Here is what I drew.

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I won that contest. My prize was a drink of my choice from the bar. (I picked one of the fruity beers whose name now escapes me.) That drawing even led me to create Trumpus, which I now have on sale in my RedBubble store.

I did a few more drawings of Cherie Sweetbottom before the event ended.

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On the way out I took one photo of flyer announcing a Grampus-themed burlesque show that was taking place at the Bier Baron a few days later. I wasn’t able to make it but I only took the photo because I liked the design of the flyer.

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After going to Dr. Sketchy’s I headed towards the White House to check out the National Christmas Tree, which I’ll write about in a future post.

Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland has recently joined other houses of worship in putting up a Black Lives Matter sign. Here are a few photos of this new sign.

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Recently I celebrated the Fourth of July and I enjoyed myself. It’s the occasion where people are encouraged to get all decked out in red, white, and blue clothes and jewelry while playing or listening patriotic music and watching fireworks at night. We display our patriotism while feeling proud of being Americans. Sure it sounds corny but, under the right circumstances, corny can be fun and relaxing. The Fourth of July is supposed to remind people about the best traits of the United States of America including its historical welcoming of immigrants, its historically dynamic innovations, and its long tradition of allowing people to express themselves (such as stating an opinion or being active in a certain religious faith) without fearing persecution by the government.

The rest of the year I find myself feeling less and less enthusiastic about the United States of America. I’m seeing disturbing things about this year’s presidential elections that don’t sit right with me. The more I hear the latest outrageous quote from the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump the more I’m starting to believe those persistent rumors that Trump is waging a false flag campaign in an effort to elect Hillary Clinton as president. I’ve seen the photos of the Clintons and the Trumps socializing with each other along with Hillary posing next to Trump and his two older sons, Bill and Donald playing golf togetherBill Clinton still having a locker at the Trump National Golf Club, and even Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump being seen as friendly in public. There are even the previous positive remarks Donald Trump has made about the Clintons. The evidence is all circumstantial but something tells me that there’s something fishy about all this. Technically Bernie Sanders is still in the race on the Democrat side and he says that he’ll remain in the race until the Democrat Convention in Philadelphia but Hillary Clinton has ignored him while focusing all of her attacks on The Donald and Trump has also said things against Clinton. But those back-and-forth attacks on each other seem to have a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more” feel about it that seems fake.

Worse the mainstream media has ignored Bernie Sanders and they have already acted as if the country is in the general election phase when it’s not the case because, as of this writing, neither the Republicans nor Democrats have had their conventions yet. I already wrote a previous rant about how the mainstream media seems to be more interested in controlling and influencing the story instead of just reporting on the news as an objective observer so I’m not going to delve into too much here.

Then there is the long decline in the U.S. economy, which started during the Reagan Administration when jobs were relocated from the U.S. to Third World countries so the workers there could be pay very low without having to deal with such things as unions or occupational safety regulations. If anyone has been repeatedly screwed by successive administrations since 1980—both Republican and Democrat—it’s the workers, especially among the middle class. Job security is now a thing of the past and it’s getting harder to find a job that pays a livable wage.

And then there is this disturbing trend of police officers killing African Americans, especially young men, for trivial reasons like a busted tail light or running a stop sign. I live 30 miles south of Baltimore, where an unarmed African American man named Freddie Gray was murdered by cops last year. This week has gotten really horrendous. Just Google the names Philander Castile and Alton Sterling to see news stories about their deaths at the hands of the police along with videos documenting their deaths.

This morning I woke up to news reports that someone had unleashed a mass shooting of cops in Dallas. I get it that the shooter wanted to exact revenge for the police killings of Castile and Sterling (as well as the previous police killings of people like Freddie Grey, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland) but the only problem is that the officers who were killed in Dallas had absolutely nothing to do with all those other killings. The police officers in Dallas had been monitoring the peaceful Black Lives Matter protest there just to make sure that the protests remained peaceful. In other words, they were just doing their jobs and they were senselessly murdered for it. Those Dallas killings aren’t going to bring back those African Americans who had already been killed by the police in other cities and, in fact, it brings a bad reputation for the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole.

I feel like the U.S. is just like the old Weimar Republic in Germany. Like the Weimar Republic the U.S. has been struggling with a broken economy where a lot of people are either unemployed or underemployed. Like the Weimar Republic the U.S. is seeing its share of street violence like the all-too-frequent mass shootings (such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando). Like the Weimar Republic you see the mainstream media manipulating public opinion so this year’s elections will boil down to a match between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in much the same way that Adolf Hitler charmed the mainstream media in the Weimar Republic so much that they did stories about him and influenced public opinion. Like the Weimar Republic you hear Latinos and Muslims in the U.S. being made into scapegoats of all of the existing problems in the same way that Jews and Gypsies were once made into scapegoats. Like the Weimar Republic there is extreme income inequality between the haves and the have nots complete with food insecurity and homelessness. Something is wrong when you have war veterans begging on the streets throughout many cities in the U.S. that echo this 1923 photo of a disabled World War I vet begging on the streets of Berlin.

The main difference between the U.S. and the Weimar Republic is that there hasn’t been hyperinflation—yet. But if current economic conditions continue in the U.S., who knows what will happen.

It’s no wonder that Donald Trump has gotten followers for invoking a nostalgia for America while bashing those who aren’t white heterosexual Christians men with no disabilities in the exact same way that Adolf Hitler got followers. The main difference is the strong possibility that Trump is running for president as a way of both stroking his huge ego and (probably) throwing the race to getting his friend Hillary Clinton elected. There are rumors that Trump doesn’t even want to do the day-to-day job as president, he just wants to be able to brag that, yes, he once ran for office and won. At least Hitler seriously wanted to rule Germany, which is one of the few positive things I can say about him.

Anyone who thinks that electing Hillary Clinton will usher in a new era of high employment full of well-paying middle class jobs with police no longer killing unarmed African Americans for trivial reasons is delusional. I’m old enough to remember when her husband was in office and he was the one who championed NAFTA, which resulted in hemorrhaging more jobs out of the U.S. along with “ending welfare as we know it” that didn’t provide well paying jobs to welfare recipients so they could support themselves but, instead, made the poverty situation even worse by fraying the social safety net. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are closely tied to Wall Street and they are sympathetic to the corporations shifting jobs overseas. And that’s not to mention Hillary Clinton’s infamous quote that African Americans needed to be brought to heel, which resulted in this confrontation by a Black Lives Matter activist on the campaign trail a few months ago and Clinton not even attempting to engage her in any way.

And that’s not to mention how much people dislike Hillary Clinton in general. The late political blogger Steve Gilliard mentioned her as being among the most detested politicians back in 2007 and she is still disliked among the right wing, the left wing, and young people of all political persuasions. I still remember those bumper stickers from the 1990’s that said “Impeach Clinton—and Her Husband.” If she gets elected, I wouldn’t be surprised if those bumper stickers make a comeback.

Likewise anyone who thinks about voting for Donald Trump in an effort—to use his campaign’s slogan—“make America great again” is also delusional, especially if you’re a lower income person. I have long known about Trump ever since he published his first book, The Art of the Deal, and he has long bragged about how he’s rich, and therefore, better than most people simply because he is rich. Sure he was instrumental in creating Trump Tower and other Trump-branded properties throughout Manhattan but I don’t recall him ever being concerned about constructing affordable housing. I don’t recall him ever setting up any charitable foundations to help lower income people or did anything to indicate that he actually gives a damn about helping the less fortunate. I don’t see him starting to become concerned about the plight of—let’s say—the homeless if he does get elected. And that’s not to mention his history of multiple bankruptcies or his cringe-inducing comments about how he would’ve dated Ivanka Trump if she wasn’t his daughter.

I think that not only is the U.S. just like the Weimar Republic but it has been that way for the last few years. As for President Barack Obama, I voted for this guy twice but he mostly failed in his promise of bringing hope and change. To be fair, he had to deal with an obstructionist Republican majority in Congress who had it in for President Obama from day one of his administration because he was both a Democrat and an African American. But when you have a president who refused to prosecute those on Wall Street who tanked the economy back in 2008 so they are free to continue their corporate crimes and when you have a president who is currently trying to push adoption of both the TTP and the TTIP (which are both ultra-secret trade deals that are rumored to be “NAFTA on steroids” and the few leaked provisions call for corporations to actually overrule national sovereignty) against the will of the majority of Americans, I have to say that he is not blameless for the mostly unfavorable opinion I have of him. Not even his championing of legalizing same-sex marriage is enough for me to overcome the disappointment I have felt for him and his administration and I think history will eventually judge him harshly.

The U.S. is just like the Weimar Republic and unless we have a government that actually tries to do something about the situation, then our current system of government will be replaced by something far worse. After all, look at what ultimately happened in Germany when the Weimar Republic was replaced.

Black lives matter. Police lives matter. Everyone matters. We are the 99%.

Ramadan

Before I headed over to The Wind-Up Space where I attended another session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, I took advantage of the increasingly longer days to walk around the Station North Arts District. I haven’t been to that area in a few months (mainly because I got involved with a book discussion group that met on Mondays) so I’m noticing the changes that the area has undergone. There are all kinds of new businesses and art murals popping up in that area, which is pretty cool. It’s quite a contrast to when I attended my first Dr. Sketchy’s event way back in 2011 and the area was still pretty marginal and run-down at the time.

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There are also tributes to Freddie Gray, whose senseless murder at the hands of the Baltimore police and the riots that followed that incident has just passed its first anniversary.

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There is also this really cool mural that no longer exists because the building it was painted on was torn down. Here is what the mural once looked like when I took these pictures on previous visits.

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Here is what the building site looked like on May 9, 2016.

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There is also a Harriet Tubman Solidarity Center, which, judging from the signs in the windows, are definitely involved with the Black Lives Matter movement.

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It’s located directly over what looks like a sex shop known as Pervfect Playground Boutique. (Both places were closed when I was there.)

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The last time I was in the area was during my ill-fated attempt to catch up with a Bernie Sanders march that was happening in Baltimore. I checked out the BAMF Cafe, which had opened last year, but I didn’t order anything at the time because I was short on money and I had brought my own lunch (which I ended up eating in Penn Station). I did plenty of gawking at the geek-themed decor. On this trip I not only returned to the BAMF Cafe but I actually ordered a sandwich and iced tea (both of which were pretty tasty) and I took advantage of its free wi-fi. I also took a few more pictures of items that I somehow missed on my last visit.

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After dinner I headed over to The Wind-Up Space where I switched to my pencils. The model for this Dr. Sketchy’s session was a burlesque performer known as Tempete La Coeur. At this point is where the NSFW drawings begin.

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I took part in two contests that were held that evening. One contest was based on the fact that May 9 was the birthday of J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan so we had to somehow incorporate Peter Pan into our drawings. I made this effort where I portrayed Tempete La Coeur as Tinker Bell but it didn’t make it among the finalists.

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The next contest was one whose theme the organizers were stumped on and they asked the audience for suggestions. One guy called for justice. I decided on something even better. Lately I’ve been reading the newer issues of the Howard the Duck comic book series and I’ve been doing the Throwback Thursday series devoted to the original 1970’s comic book series. So I called out “Howard the Duck” and they decided to do a combination where people could incorporate justice or Howard the Duck or both. For added measure, they even played the theme song from that notorious bomb 1980’s Howard the Duck movie. I made this effort but it didn’t make it among the finalists.

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I drew one last picture before I headed home for the evening.

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Last week I checked out a brand new event in Baltimore known as Light City. Basically it was a week-long event where there were art installations that consisted entirely of lights. Obviously it was the kind of event that could only be viewed at night. I learned about Light City on Facebook and I was awed by what I saw and photographed.

I passed by the historic Bromo Seltzer tower on the way from the Camden Yards Light Rail Stop to the Charm City Circulator bus stop.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

I also passed by this Baltimore Ravens banner highlighting the fact that this season is their 20th anniversary.

Light City, March 31, 2016

I ate dinner at the Shake Shack but it was so unusually crowded inside that restaurant that I ordered my meal to go so I could just walk to the Inner Harbor and eat my meal on one of the benches. I was glad that the weather was nice and warm so I could do that. After dinner I walked around and took in all of the sites. There were these historic light poles that were placed in the same general area. The installation was known as In Light of History. They looked really pretty. There were copies of free newsletters that one can pick up. I didn’t read my newsletter copy until after I got home and I found out that they were there to mark places where the slave trade took place in Baltimore. That was pretty heavy to read, especially the vintage newspaper ads (which are posted on this website).

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

There was a vintage Baltimore City police car that was parked outside.

Light City, March 31, 2016

The outside of the World Trade Center had these animated lights that were really pretty.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

There was live entertainment in various venues throughout Light City but people crowded the stage so much that I only got short glimpses such as the performance dance in the next photo.

Light City, March 31, 2016

The Inner Harbor was really crowded even though I went to Light City on a Thursday night. The Baltimore Sun reported that nearly 400,000 people attended that show the entire week. I’m not surprised, especially since the next photo shows how jam-packed the Inner Harbor was with people. (I can only image how crowded it got on the weekends.)

Light City, March 31, 2016

Everywhere I went there were all kinds of pretty lights everywhere.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

There were echoes of Freddie Gray’s murder at the hands of the Baltimore police officers and the Black Lives Matter movement in this light display that was shown on the McKeldin Square fountain that featured people who were victims of excessive force by the Baltimore Police Department.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

There was an area full of circles where people were invited to step on them. Generally the discs changed color every time someone stepped on them.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Next to that area full of circles was this tent that where a private party was held that was off-limits to the general public.

Light City, March 31, 2016

A group of Bernie Sanders campaign volunteers got in on the fun by putting up their own light display urging people to vote for Sanders. (The Maryland primary will be coming in a few weeks.)

Light City, March 31, 2016

It was an amazing night. I was only able to take in just half of what was going on in Light City. Based on the map I saw, it looked like the whole thing started from Rash Field all the way past the Inner Harbor attractions (Maryland Science Center, Harborplace, etc.) until it ended just west of Fells Point, which was a huge amount of walking. I wasn’t able to return to Light City to finish touring the rest of it due mainly to the fact that I have a lot of other things I needed to do (such as spring cleaning, working on income taxes, etc.). I hope they do it again next year. I would definitely take at least two nights to see everything and account for the huge crowds that this event draws. Next time I would pack a dinner, snacks, and drinks from home instead of battling crowds to order a meal at one of the many restaurants and fast food outlets in the area.

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