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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

In Honor of Mark Baumer

If you knew Mark Baumer from his Twitter feed, where he posted many humorous, Andy Kaufman-style videos, you would come away with the impression that he was a much louder person than he actually was.

What I remember most about Mark, who was struck and killed yesterday by a motorist on US 90 in Crestview, Florida, was the quiet way that he absorbed the words of people around him. Providence is not a place for serendipitous encounters, but I ran into Mark nearly daily-- at the grocery store, on the bus, passing each other on bikes, at an activist event, checking out books at the library--and Mark always had time to listen and ask questions about my life. It's odd, because though we'd mutually invited each other to one another's homes many times, we never actually succeeded in following up on the invitations, but I feel really close to Mark. Often our sidewalk conversations were taken an hour at a time. A short conversation with Mark was probably twenty minutes. And a lot of it was Mark just being empathetic towards the other people in the conversation. He was never a bragging presence, and that is a tremendously honorable thing to say about someone, especially a man, in this culture. 
Mark was not the demographic of the most likely person to be struck and killed walking somewhere. Nationwide, working class people of color are the most directly affected by this plague of deaths-- one more underreported dimension of the institutional racism that harms our nation. Mark's journey across the country-- barefoot-- highlighted his concerns about equity and the environment. Mark was deeply concerned and empathetic about the inequality he saw in society, and spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about how he could even the playing field by making himself a spectacle.  Florida, where Mark was killed, continues to be an outlier for pedestrian deaths: eight out of ten of the worst pedestrian fatality statistics belong to municipalities in the Sunshine State. Of course, though Rhode Island is actually one of the "better" places for walking, we too have a steady stream of deaths of this kind.

It's shocking to learn of the sudden loss of someone like Mark from this world. I hope his family knows the deep impact he made on all of our lives, and how much he is missed.

Rest in peace, Mark.

A local news report is available, though it is scant on details, and uses the passive voice to describe the incident ("the Buick left the road. . . "). Ultimately, many pedestrian advocates favor thinking of these deaths as "crashes" rather than "accidents", but I agree with others who think the most important emphasis in that is on the way infrastructure leads to deaths rather than the mistakes and personal failures of other humans. The report doesn't say whether the driver might have been distracted or not, but the biggest culprit is a lack of places to walk out of the immediate range of an errant vehicle. Hopefully Mark's memory is an inspiration for people fighting for those places.

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