Poet Mark Baumer killed while walking cross-country in solo protest
Mark Baumer, an award-winning poet who was walking barefoot across the country to raise awareness about climate change, died Saturday after being hit by a car in Florida, reports WEAR-TV.
Baumer, 33, was struck by an SUV and pronounced dead at the scene on a highway in Walton County, Fla. The Florida Highway Patrol said charges will be filed against the driver.
His final blog entry, posted on Saturday, was accompanied by a photograph of his feet, standing next to the word “Killed” painted in yellow on a highway.
“It began to rain so I sat on a bench and watched the rain,” Baumer wrote in his final post on Saturday. “My dad called. We talked about trying to find hope in a system where the only safety net will be wealth. Part of me wanted to curl up and wait for my brain to melt but instead I began walking in the rain. With each foot step I felt more angry and helpless.”
Baumer lived in Providence, R.I., where he worked in a library at Brown University. He graduated from Wheaton College, where he was a star baseball player, and was a student in Brown’s creative writing MFA program.
He began his cross-country walk in October from the East Coast and made it as far as Ohio before he traveled south to continue his walk on the southern route after it started to snow. He had intended to finish his journey in Los Angeles, he told the Tallahassee Democrat earlier this month.
“The big overall goal is raise awareness and fight climate change,” he told the newspaper. He also told people he hoped to raise funds for the FANG Collective, an environmental activist group in Pawtucket, R.I.
But money was not the point of his trip, which was conducted with the barest of resources. He generally slept outside and carried minimal camping gear — not even a tent.
It was his second journey across the country; he walked across America in 2010, which he wrote about in the self-published book “I Am a Road.”
On social media, friends and admirers of Baumer mourned the death of the poet. On Twitter, the author Blake Butler posted a list of things Baumer said to him in a phone conversation two days before he was killed, which included “Live simply as possible” and “(responding to person who pulled over to offer him shoes, which happened daily, none of which he ever accepted, in going barefoot) ‘thanks for your kindness.’” “RIP to a huge spirit, an unprecedented voice, an inspiration, a friend,” Butler wrote.
Writer and publisher Ken Baumann also posted about Baumer on Twitter, writing, “my friend died while walking across america barefoot” and “he was an artist and activist, walking and talking to folks about climate change. i’d published his work before. he was a great person.”
The FANG Collective said in a Facebook post they were “shocked and devastated” by Baumer’s death. “Mark was an amazingly compassionate, empathic, humble, joyful, generous, mindful and caring person,” the post reads. “He was a talented poet and artist with an ability to tap into the human experience with his work.”
In a Jan. 3 blog post, Baumer wrote about walking through the city of Madison, Fla. “As I walked I came to the reality I was a weak human being. It was comforting to be honest with myself,” he wrote. “This honesty made me confident I’d grow into the kind of warrior I would need to become if I was going to finish this journey. For the first time I felt like I was beginning to understand what I’d need to become if I was truly going to conquer the environmental and climate injustices currently facing humanity.”
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