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Night in the Life of a Baltimore Teen: Hanging Out in ‘the Pit’

By: Amira Hairston

On Tuesday Sept. 16 at 9 p.m. on North Castle Street and Orleans Street in Baltimore, Md., a group of young men gather for another night of innocent fun.

The neighborhood that they gather in is located directly across from a Citgo station, which acts as the neighborhood convenience store and right in the middle of a bundle of town homes. Their hangout spots are located in an alleyway that’s directly beside 16-year-old Dejon Durham’s family home.

Durham and his friends all reside in Baltimore City and in Aug. 2014 Baltimore City altered their youth curfew. The new curfew requires children younger than 14 to be inside by 9 p.m. and those between the ages of 14 and 16 to be indoors by 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.

Durham, a sophomore at Patterson High School, isn’t pleased with the curfew.

“The curfew just holdin us back,” said Durham. “And I don’t like that at all.”

Durham was raised on Orleans Street and he doesn’t like the fact that Baltimore officials are trying to tell him and his friends when they can and cannot come out of their homes. He seems to be following in his older brothers’ shoes, so the things that he is currently doing now, like hanging out in “The Yard” and “The Pit” are things that his brothers’ did in the past.

“You feel me, if you been somewhere for a long time, built something,” said Durham. “They not gon abide by somebody’s 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock curfew.”

To be more specific, “The Yard” is technically just that, a yard, but to these boys it represents much more. The row houses don’t have a full backyard, so this “yard” is a little different than the average one. The area is fenced and there is a gazebo and table, which is surrounded by a dozen chairs. According to Durham, they all gather in “The Yard” to hang out and do homework. “The Pit” was actually built by Durham and his older brother and is located in the back of an abandoned house.

“This pit got history,” said Durham. “We ain’t decorate it, but it’s ours.” An exterior space with nothing but a single chair in the area, it seems empty, but according to these boys it is anything but.

When picking up the children who break the curfew laws, the police officers aren’t supposed to treat them as criminals. They aren’t supposed to put them in handcuffs, load them into police cars or handle them with any type of force. According to the city officials, the interaction is supposed to be friendly and harmless.

Durham and his friends are skeptical.

“They not supposed to get physical with you, but, nah, we know what’s gon happen,” said Durham. “It’s the same thing everyday; the police don’t care.”

When asked what they would do if a police officer tried to pick them up for breaking the curfew law and the answer was unanimous: they would all run.

The boys ended their night in “The Yard.” With the occasional bug buzzing by and the sound of foot steps coming near and passing by, they continued to laugh, joke and listen to music on their iPhones. At one point, Durham logged onto his Instagram and passed around photos of himself and his girlfriend.

Even though cars and other residents could be heard passing by, nothing came close to breaking the easy banter that existed between this group of friends.

These boys may be out after hours, but they aren’t doing anything that they shouldn’t be doing. They mostly hang out in “The Yard” and “The Pit,” so they are not walking around the streets at all times of the night. According to them they stay out to about midnight and go inside so that they can get ready for the next day. They have their own goals that they want to reach.

The boys say the curfew is meant to keep them from slinging drugs and gangbanging, but they already decided that that’s not that type of life that they want to live.

“We all tryna make it out, for real,” said Durham. “These streets, for real, that’s where it’s not at, for real.”


About Karen Houppert

I'm a journalist and also Associate Director of the MA in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University. I've been writing about menstruation--and a whole lot of other stuff--since the 1990s.

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