By Kirthi Nath
Baltimore, MD: On August 18, 2009, 76-year-old Baltimore resident James Privott was brutally attacked by three men while fishing with his wife at Fort Armistead Park. As the couple was packing up their fishing gear, three men assaulted James Privott with a sledgehammer and a bat while shouting racial slurs, including the N-word, and then stole his money and car and fled the scene.
As word spread about the attack, local residents flooded the police lines with anonymous tips and emails that ultimately helped the police capture the suspects. The three assailants, 28-year-old Carl Lockner, a registered sex offender and self proclaimed member of the Aryan Nations; 16-year-old Emmanuel Miller and 17-year-old Zachary Watson, will be charged with first degree assault and armed robbery. Lockner, who stated that the attack “wouldn’t have happened if he [Privott] was a white man,” will also be tried under state hate crime laws.
“From the perspective of athletes, we were horrified and saddened that this happened while Mr. Privott was packing up his fishing gear – his sport,” said Tara Gebhardt, co-founder and member of the Charm City Roller Girls (CCRG) – Baltimore’s only all-girl roller derby league.
“We thought, what if we were taking off our skates and gear after practice one day and someone just came up to one of us for no good reason with a sledgehammer?”
Gebhardt wondered, “On a personal level, myself and many of the other league members were disgusted that such a thing would actually happen…”
The Charm City Roller Girls were having a huge event the next day, with an expected crowd of 1,500 people. Inspired to take action, Gebhardt, also known by her skate-name Cindy Lop-her, emailed the league’s Yahoo group with a poll asking how many people would favor donating 5% of beer sales and a sporting goods gift certificate to the Privott family. The response from the CCRG group was an overwhelming “yes!”
“Everyone immediately broke into action. I couldn’t have coordinated the effort better if I had a week to prepare for it,” Gebhardt said. One skater made a Pay Pal button to post to the CCRG website, another wrote a press release and sent it to the press list, another had an insert made for the programs announcing the effort, and a whole group of skaters came up with the idea to make spray-painted DIY ‘Eracism’ tees to give away at the event.
A mere four hours later, CCRG’s PR director got a call from the mayor’s office telling them they had heard about the fundraiser and wanted to present the group with an award from the city for community outreach and support. The CCRG event appeared to have raised community awareness and participation around Privott’s case. Gebhardt observed, “I know that the money we raised probably wouldn’t have made its way to the Privotts if we hadn’t solicited it, so that’s wonderful and we’re happy we could help.”
CCRG ended up donating 25% of beer sales, as well as collecting additional money from a ‘mobile donation box.’ In addition to the money, the group decided to give Privott a $250 gift certificate to a sporting goods store, in the hopes that he will continue his sport. The cards, gift certificate and a check for $2,500 will be sent to the Privotts.
Reflecting on the group’s efforts, Gebhardt said, “The three alleged assailants were all young people – the ages of many of our ladies in the league. We wanted to show this family that they had the support of youth in their community.”
Upon reading an announcement about the fundraiser, Ethel Privott posted a comment on the Baltimore Sun weblog. She wrote, “I am so grateful to see there are people in this world still that care about other people. I am the wife of Mr. J. Privott and I want to thank all that is helping us with donation and prayer. I mostly want to thank this team for starting it all. Thanks and may God Bless you.”
For the Charm City Roller Girls, the motivation behind fundraising was to show the Privotts an outpouring of love that would offset the hate they experienced that week. With the community coming together for the Privotts, Gebhardt says of her city, “It proved to all of us involved that Baltimore is a community full of love. An important thing I learned from this experience is that people want to help – they want to give – but many, many times they just don’t know how to go about it … If you’re like CCRG and are lucky enough to have the opportunity and the mechanism to help your fellow community members, do it.”
Although the official deadline to donate via the CCRG website has passed, you can still donate money to the Privott family. Either write a check to Charm City Roller Girls or send money via Pay Pal with the indication “Privott Donation,” and CCRG will make sure the proceeds make it to the family.