Baltimore Protest

Shutting Down City Hall: Kayla Ingram and the #TheBaltimore16 | The Tikisa Series

Welcome to #TheWokeFolk!

In this months fist installment of The Tikisa Series, we are honored to highlight Baltimore activist Kayla Ingram. Kayla Ingram is a M.A. Social Design Candidate at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD, and affiliate of the grass roots organization Baltimore Bloc.

In a exclusive interview with TyreeBP.com, Kayla shares the motivation behind City Bloc's student-led direct action at City Hall in Baltimore, her experience being arrested alongside her peers, the growing movement for Black Lives in Baltimore, and how, ultimately, her faith is what inspires her to continue to protest. Read her riveting story below!

Hi Kayla, give us some background about who you are:

My name is Kayla Joy Ingram. I am a M.A. Social Design Candidate at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. I am also an affiliate and advocate of Baltimore Bloc.

What inspired the decision to shut down City Hall and your desire to participate in something so audacious?

This action was inspired and led by Makayla Gilliam-Price, a student at Baltimore City College and founding member of City Block, which is the youth (but equally awe-inspiring) version of the grassroots collective, Baltimore Bloc.

Upon moving back to the country after a year-stint in Central America, my burden for my people grew immensely as I became conscious of the systemic bondage that plagues us. As my passion for Christ grew I realized that I serve an audacious God who requires me to live the Gospel out in tangible ways. For me, this action and any other action that I will be involved in will ultimately give way to the poor feeling love, the oppressed experiencing liberation, and the broken healed.

How would you describe the social climate of Baltimore right now? Has relations changed/ strained between the community and police since the death of Freddie Gray?

Since the death of Freddie Gray, the social climate in my city has remained stagnant. The uprising still continues because the toxic relationships between the community, activists, and the Baltimore City Police Department has remained the same in lieu of Freddie Gray’s death.

Can you describe the first several hours of the action being inside of Baltimore’s City Hall?

For the first several hours of the action (occupying city hall after the hearing), we were very hopeful. We were told that we would get what we came for–an open conversation with Commissioner Kevin Davis, where we could discuss our “rules of engagement” and our three demands. So, naturally, we waited and the opportunity to engage in conversation with him never came. We tweeted and flooded our social media accounts in hopes that our live tweeting and periscope streams would not only keep the public in the know, but would also keep the BPD and the other powers at play responsible for their direct and indirect actions.

After several hours, the authorities decided to close off all access to food, restrooms, and electricity? When you noticed this, what was the response?
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Once we knew that they weren’t allowing us access to fundamental human needs and electricity we continued to grow closer in community. We had a poetry slam, expressing our qualms, got to know one another and even took turns napping as we anticipated occupying City Hall as long as it took for our voices to be heard.

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Can you recall those moments as police officers were approaching you with zip ties to arrest you. What were you all chanting?

We were not only physically linked arm-in-arm, but we all were united on one mind and one accord. We chanted Assata Shakur, reminding ourselves of our commitment to fight for our liberation and that we had nothing to lose but the systemic chains that bind us. As the police approached, we banned more tightly together declaring to the BDP and all who watched, “United we stand, divided we fall.” And we did just that. We stood united until the end and had to forcefully be divided.

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Describe how you felt when you were put in the back of a police van and later arrived to the holding area.

This was a time a reflection for me. As I tried to maneuver my tightly cuffed hands, I couldn’t help but to take in my surroundings. The dried droplets of splattered, dried blood on the ceiling and door of my paddy wagon caused my mind to race and I couldn’t help but wonder whose blood it was. I anxiously counted each detained body as it took well over an hour and a half for everyone to come outside of city hall.

Were you ever struck with any fear or trepidation about the sit-in?

I was never fearful for my own safety.

...What was it like being in jail for nearly 24 hours? 

Everything about Central Bookings is cold. For the nearly hour-long wait, some of my fellow activists stood outside to the dealings with personnel inside. From the time we arrived we were told that our sit-in flustered city officials, the BPD and jail employees alike. Having been disconnected from social media for many hours we had little knowledge of how much traction our action received. We moved from cell to cell. The process to see one commissioner is daunting. We had to see two. I ate enough mystery bologna meat to last me a lifetime. Exhaustion and thirst for water that didn’t come out of the same system as our silver communal toilet were recurring thoughts. It was an emotional rollercoaster. There were times of laughter as we interacted with some of our fellow inmates who told us their life stories and applauded us for our bravery. There were times of sadness as we worried about the wellbeing of our brothers who were across the hall and Makayla (the leader of the action), who was the only arrested female minor and alone.

I eventually was left alone for hours as all of my other counterparts and cell mates were released. I spent the remaining few hours with my eyes closed singing praise and worship songs. As I waited for my second commissioner hearing, the guards would walk by and ask me if I was Kayla Ingram and laugh. One eventually told me that their phone lines were blowing up with requests and demands that I be released. Not only that, but a crowd of familiar faces had gathered outside of Central Bookings cheering and chanting in solidarity.

As a millennial, what are your feelings about this youth-led movement? Do you think it’s important for other young people get involved with the movement for Black Lives?

This movement led by us is imperative. If we look at history, youth have been at the forefront of leading the charge for social justice. Youth involvement is not only important, but necessary for sustainable change.

What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to you?

Black lives matter essentially means that I matter. My predecessors, the people I am passionate about, and the people that the majority deem as unlovely are vital fibers to the fabric of our communities and our world.From this experience, I am now certain that our voices have validity and have earth-shattering potential to create platforms for change. [And] Until there is sustainable change, I will not be silent and I will act.

What words do you have for other Black millennials who are living inside this historic moment beside you?

Now is the time to rewrite our history. Pick up a pen and be relentless in creating the change you want to see.

Ase! We salute you and wish you nothing the best. #Tikisa

For more about Kayla and her activism follow her on Twiitter.