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Gasping for Air: Letter from Devan Kaney to Baltimore

Devan Kaney head shot

A letter from Devan Kaney (pictured)

 April 12, 2015

Dear Baltimore,

Before April 12, you were a different city.

Before April 12, you were known for crab shacks and the National Aquarium.

Now you are the gateway city to a movement that is rocking the nation.

On April 12, a 25-year-old black man fell into a coma after he was taken into Baltimore police custody.

On April 19, he died.

Like a long-overdue volcano, you erupted into violent riots that spewed onto your streets and engulfed your neighborhoods. The riots continued to spread. The pent up pressure of unrest was released throughout the entire nation.

“Justice for Freddie” rang from Chicago, to New York City, to Denver, to Philadelphia, to Portland, to Seattle.

I will never forget your week of unrest, Baltimore. I will never forget it because for the first time in my life I felt directly affected by racism.

My best friend is a nurse at John Hopkins Hospital. I was supposed to visit her that week. I was living in New York City at the time—just a train ride away.

I heard about Freddie Gray’s death on the news, I read contemptuous social media posts and I watched as the riots ensued. I didn’t put the full weight of the situation into perspective until my friend called me. She told me it wasn’t safe for me to come anymore.  

I was angry.

I was so angry that this event was directly affecting me.

But then I realized, events like this directly affect the African American community every single day.

As a white woman I have never felt the need to be wary of police officers. I have never

experienced injustice or felt the system failed me.  

So Baltimore, you have not only changed as a city, you have changed me. You have changed the nation.

Thank you,

Devan Kaney

Devan Kaney (MA '16) is a broadcast journalism student in the Journalism and Public Affairs program. For more information:,