By Sean Yoes, Baltimore AFRO Editor, [email protected]
If Kevin Smith and his daughter Valeria Smith are guilty as charged in the murder of his wife Jacquelyn Smith, it would be one of the most diabolical deeds I’ve ever reported on in 30 years of journalism.
Father and daughter are currently in Texas jailed without bond, awaiting extradition back to Baltimore after attempting to allegedly make a run for the border of Mexico.
According to the Baltimore Police Department, the two reported in December Jacquelyn Smith, who with her husband was a resident of Harford County, was stabbed to death by a panhandler after a night of dancing in Baltimore.
Specifically, Jacquelyn Smith had rolled down the window of her car to hand a woman money who said she needed to feed her baby. A man who was with the woman then allegedly stabbed her, then the purported vagrants fled into a blighted East Baltimore neighborhood.
In the aftermath of Jacquelyn Smith’s killing, father and daughter began to tell their pathos provoking tale to any media entity that would listen, until it reached millions and even the mighty Oprah Winfrey herself, who tweeted she would “think twice” before giving money to a panhandler.
But according to the BPD, the narrative curated by Smith and his daughter was all a lie.
The police and the Baltimore City State’s Attorney believe Kevin and Valeria Smith actually staged the murder of Jacquelyn Smith, although they have not released a motive yet. And it is unclear exactly who killed her and the role her husband and stepdaughter played in her death.
But, what is clear to me is they cast the city of Baltimore as the villain in their ghoulish scheme.
For generations, Baltimore has dwelled in the shadow of New York to the north and Washington, D.C. to the south. Right or wrong, I believe we have struggled collectively with a considerable inferiority complex because of this. Yet, Baltimore’s magnificent story, specifically Black Baltimore’s role as a vanguard progressive, civil rights community has been greatly obscured from an historical perspective. Perhaps, our seemingly perpetual malaise of inadequacy as a city would be neutralized if a more accurate narrative emerged. But, that’s an existential conversation for another time.
The reality is, our great, imperiled city has been hit with a series of catastrophic events over the last 50-plus years since the riots of 1968. We emerged as the “heroine capital of America” (or “heron” in my neighborhood) in the 1970’s, although we had probably earned that dubious distinction decades earlier. The crack epidemic imploded our mostly poor, mostly Black communities in the 1980’s. The zero tolerance policing policy of the late 1990’s terrorized those same neighborhoods; the spectre of the policy is still dominant. Over the last four years we’ve endured the Uprising of 2015, the Department of Justice consent decree and the ongoing scourge of the notorious Gun Trace Task Force.
Again I say, we are seemingly a city under siege from every angle.
Remember in the 1980’s and 1990’s when we witnessed a succession of White people who blamed imaginary Black people for their heinous crimes (Charles Stuart in Boston 1989, Susan Smith in South Carolina 1994, etc.)?
It seems ironic Kevin and Valaria Smith, two Black alleged murderers have adopted the tactic of White scoundrels and blamed Black people for their evil acts. But, the Smiths descended even deeper by blaming a homeless couple, perhaps the most disenfranchised community of them all.
It feels like a stubborn, unclean spirit has loomed over our city for many years, one we struggle to get from under despite the fact there are still thousands of beautifully resilient souls who fight the good fight everyday against all odds.
I still want to believe virtue in our city will ultimately prevail, although weeks like this pushes that belief to the brink.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.