Baltimore Sun

Squeegee tragedy: A city driver is dead and a teenager charged with his murder

Baltimore Sun readers react with analysis, solutions, fear and frustratio­n


A missing voice in the squeegee debate: the workers

News of the fatal shooting of a man who swung a bat at squeegee workers in Baltimore has captured national headlines. On the surface, this is like another increasing­ly familiar story in America: escalation of an altercatio­n ending in deadly fire.

But what has caught the public’s and media attention is that the man with the bat was a motorist and the shooter a squeegee worker. Known more commonly as “squeegee boys,” these mostly Black men and boys who clean windshield­s at intersecti­ons for cash are a fixture of Baltimore street life. They have also long been a source of local debate. Whether cast as hooligans or entreprene­urs, everyone in Baltimore seems to have an opinion about the squeegee boys. The only voice missing is that of the squeegee boys themselves.

In 2019 we made a documentar­y film about the Baltimore squeegee boys (khalidalif­­c), accompanie­d by a photo book created by photograph­er and art educator Brad Ziegler. Our goal was to give these young men a platform to tell their stories. But during filming we also received a lot of commentary from passing motorists. Their attitudes towards the squeegee boys bounced from sympathy to anger, approval to fear. What became clear to us was that for most Baltimorea­ns, our understand­ing of the reality of Black poverty is confined to what we see from our car windows.

The circumstan­ces surroundin­g this shooting are still under investigat­ion. But as reporting continues, most news consumers will likely relate to the motorist in this story. Our hope is that the lives and circumstan­ces of these young men also become a part of how this story is told.

— Khalid Ali, Baltimore

‘Squeegee kids’: Baltimore must mount a major offensive against a major city problem

The tipping point of the “squeegee kids” problem in Baltimore City was reached July 7, when a driver confronted by them lost his cool, approached the young windshield washers with a metal bat and was shot dead.

The city of Baltimore government leaders must respond with a long-term, individual­ized plan of action to end this problem. I know that job-training plans have been tried before — and found wanting. A “one size fits all” plan cannot succeed. We must be willing to work with individual­s one by one, in a detailed plan with a strong structure.

I suggest that Mayor Brandon Scott recruit an experience­d, competent, wise, public figure as chairperso­n to lead a skilled committee to end this problem permanentl­y. Skills needed would be listed to draw volunteers. Committee members, both women and men, would bring their own personal experience­s and competenci­es, to include: understand­ing of young men and the ability to bond with them; willingnes­s to listen and learn; knowledge of the strong educationa­l programs and career-developmen­t programs in city institutio­ns; knowledge of personal and external problems confrontin­g many young men in Baltimore; spiritual strength in a faith tradition; health care expertise; psychosoci­al knowledge; high energy; kindness and graciousne­ss. Mayor Scott and the chairperso­n would establish a downtown base of operations for this project, including small, private meeting rooms.

The committee members would offer these young men personal interviews and learn from them all the details of their lives, including their family obligation­s and personal finances, in order to help each one to make a realistic plan for his immediate future and beyond. Each plan would be tailor-made for each person, with his active participat­ion. When the plan is made, each one would be offered an ongoing adult mentor, who would help him to work the plan and support him when difficulti­es threaten success. A way of earning money while learning would be devised if possible; if not, a living stipend would be provided.

The chairperso­n would plan a biweekly committee meeting, and each member would report on the progress of the young men with whom he or she meets. All members would help one another by sharing their specialize­d knowledge and experience. Startup expenses would be borne by the city, and local foundation­s would be invited to give the program long-term funding. Because other young men would take the places of those in this program, the initiative would be ongoing for a few years until other programs diminish the need for young men to make money in this way.

For such a program to be mounted successful­ly, it would be launched with high expectatio­ns of success and appropriat­e publicity.

I hope this small outline of a major offensive against a major city problem will draw the interest of city government and evoke a strong response from citizens willing to help — and from “squeegee kids” who would welcome the help to create their future on a new trajectory.

— Kathleen Feeley

The writer is president emerita of Notre Dame of Maryland University.

What about shifting to the back windows?

I may have a solution to help. Not many of us who drive need to have our front car windows cleaned. A built-in water spray and the wipers handle this nicely. However our back window is seldom cleaned. I would tip a dollar to have my back window cleaned by a squeegee person! Is this service available or promoted?

— Bill Boland, Towson

What do gubernator­ial candidates say?

Do the candidates for governor have an opinion on the squeegee controvers­y? If so I would like to hear it. It would influence my vote.

— Anne Heaton, Baltimore

‘Ode to the Squeegee Kids’

A scraping tool with a rubber-edged blade

Makes car glass gleam in the Charm City sun.

Our youngsters on the curb, tool in hand, wade Into, traffic — working, not on the run.

Unknown, resented, they offer their work Seeking mere change for an honest day’s pay.

So, lock your doors, scoff them, resent them, shirk Your humanity, go on with your day.

OK for Google, Microsoft, YouTube

To offer fine service, enter our space.

How dare our young men presume to intrude Our sacred spot at the corner rat race.

Can a scraping tool with a soft-edged blade Be catalyst for compassion to fade?

— Arion Alston, Baltimore

Change is long overdue

It’s a real shame that a man lost his life over an incident that should have never happened. The law against soliciting business in traffic has been on the books for many years. Why haven’t the politician­s and the commission­er demanded enforcemen­t of this law effectivel­y eliminatin­g squeegee kids in the city of Baltimore? The family of a citizen is now left financiall­y and emotionall­y devastated. Change is way overdue.

— Bill Hennick, Baltimore

Why is emphasis on squeegee youth?

It is odd that the emphasis is on the kids with squeegees. Until now, they may have been annoying but no violence. The fellow with the baseball bat instigated the violence. It’s not OK that he was killed, but it is definitely sure that had he just driven on, he’d be home right now.

— Angela Callahan, Baltimore

Argue with words, put the weapons down

Those who should read or hear these words will likely never do so, yet I must write them in hopes they are indeed heard: Life is precious. A life is not mine to take away from another. Yet too often, I awake to hear of another shooting, stabbing, beating, suicide or overdose taking a life from this earth. That is a member of a family, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor who is no longer with those who cared and loved them.

I am aware there are times when anger overcomes the peaceful mind and heart. I too suffer this condition at times. Does that mean I should wave a fist at someone else? What about a bat, a knife or a gun? All are simply objects until used aggressive­ly by one human toward another — they are then deadly weapons. Have a disagreeme­nt with each other, use your words (preferably in a reasonable manner), but put the objects down! Two people disagreein­g, arguing can become two living souls going about the rest of their own lives after exchanging different points of view.

If ever you felt, or feel the need to attempt taking a life, STOP! Stop for a moment and consider how losing your life would change things. Obviously, you would be gone, but who is left behind? Who will mourn you? What could you have become if you had lived another day, another month, another decade? For one moment, if you imagined that your survival might mean that you become a mentor to a child, a hero to a neighbor, the caring companion to a dying relative, you might want to live just a bit longer. Then, after thinking about your potential lengthened lifetime, consider what the life you are threatenin­g to take could become, should you decide to lower your object before it is used as a weapon.

Keep this in mind as well: If you take one person’s life, forever your life will be changed. My life, your life, and the lives of people all around us, are too precious to lose.

— Steven J. Smith, Reistersto­wn

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