Admittedly, the air-conditioning inside the Lyric Opera House was a nice respite from the Artscape heat on Saturday. But there was a far greater reason that hundreds of people packed into the venue for “Wired Up,” where a majority of The Wire cast reunited after 10 years to discuss the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray.
“We’re actors and what we can do is build a platform to raise voices that need to be heard,” said Sonja Sohn, who played Det. Kima Greggs on the show and founded ReWired for Change, a nonprofit meant to empower at-risk youth. “We can’t wait for any more black men to die at the hand of police officers who were acting irresponsibly.”
The program included several Wire cast members—including Michael K. Williams, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Andre Royo, Maria Broom, and Jim True-Frost—performing powerful monologues that were written by residents of Sandtown-Winchester. The idea was an inspired one as the audience truly felt the raw emotions of the people they were channeling—whether it was cops, gangsters, parents, or kids.
One particularly emotional monologue came from Robert Wisdom, who played Lt. Howard “Bunny” Colvin on the show, who spoke from the perspective of a young kid who has seen more tragedy in his 25 years than many do in a lifetime.
The monologues were interlaced with the a capella soundtrack of Jermaine Crawford, who played young Dukie, now all grown up and (who knew) can belt out a beautiful rendition of Queen’s “Under Pressure.”
Also peppered throughout the performance were awards given out to local community leaders, like the founders of Safe Streets, longtime youth mentors Rashida Foreman-Bey and Kay Lawal-Muhammad, 300 Men March founder Munir Bahar, Baltimore City Police Lt. Colonel Melvin Russell, and social justice activist Makayla Gilliam-Price.
Additionally, there were presentations from 21-year-old Kwame Rose, whose debate with Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera went viral in April, and from the organizers of Baltimore United for Change (BUC), who works to pursue legislative and policy transformation in the name of social justice.
Wire cast and crew that couldn’t be there—like Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, and show creator David Simon, also sent video messages that projected onto the screen. Simon’s message was especially heartfelt, saying that he was editing in New York and the last thing they needed was a writer, since the voices represented were powerful enough already.
The program ended on a positive note, with a song and dance number that got everyone in the audience out of their seats. But the real heart of the matter came right before the conclusion, when Freddie Gray’s stepfather Richie Shipley said a few words on stage.
“The Gray family is very proud of so many things that are shaking and moving in Baltimore,” he said. “I see a lot of progress being made in a short amount of time, and it’s just a shame that it had to take a tragedy for us to get off our butts.”