Baltimore Author Discusses ‘Living (And Dying) While Black’

cred-aaron-maybin_wide-96198aaff2d25f5ca5ba9be6bd42777e58b32f0c-s800-c85Growing up during the crack era in East Baltimore, author D. Watkins saw firsthand how the drug destroyed communities. “It trashed my neighborhood,” Watkins tellsFresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “I’m old enough to remember before crack really hit, and once it did hit, it changed a whole dynamic of how drug culture worked.”

Suddenly, Watkins says, teenage kids — himself included — were selling crack on street corners. But the drug wasn’t leaving the neighborhood with each sale. “Everybody’s parents were junkies,” he says. “And all the kids were selling or using.”

Then there was the gun violence, which often sprang from disputes over control of particular street corners. Watkins escaped getting shot more than once. His older brother was shot to death during the period he was selling crack.

Other friends died or were sent to prison. Finally, Watkins says, “I was the last guy left. … I went from not really caring if I lived or died to caring — and I knew if I wanted to live, I had to stop.”

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