Educational and geographic segregation, generational racial poverty: can we build something different in Baltimore?

The gap between the educated and uneducated, segregated by place or geography, is not new to America. This new study by Diamond out of Stanford University however confirms that there is greater geographic segregation between those with and without education and access to resources over the past 20 years. (1) Per the report the current income gap between those with and without a college education is 75% and results in an affordability gap, in housing, education, and other amenities. This results in neighborhoods and cities becoming more segregated by education and income. “Rising college share then improves local amenities and productivity, leading to a more desirable city, which again benefits the college educated at the expense of lower skill workers forced to relocate elsewhere. These types of policies force the local policy maker to decide whether he or she wants to improve the city at the possible expense of less skilled inhabitants’ economic well-being.” The study confirms that the lack of sufficient resources in low-income neighborhoods and the resultant place-based inequities that predict health disparities. (2) What is lacking in the analysis is how racial dynamics affects this current and future segregation/gentrification of our neighborhoods and cities.

However, what we do know from the recent study by Alexander and colleagues out of Johns Hopkins University (The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood) is that while those born into poverty are likely to remain in generational poverty in adulthood, African Americans born into poverty are much more likely to remain in poverty than their white counterparts born into poverty. (3) This data confirms anecdotal reports through almost 30 years of tracking of 800 children born in neighborhoods of low-income in Baltimore and represents a pattern across similar cities in America. Such patterns include a 30% employment gap between white and black men in the little remaining blue-collar jobs in Baltimore; 49% employment gap between whites and blacks who had dropped out of school; 100% income gap between low-income whites and blacks even while low-income white men had the lowest rate of college attendance or completion compared to low-income black men in the study. Findings from the study also confirm that low-income black neighborhoods were more likely than low-income white neighborhoods to be negatively impacted by urban renewal practices, resulting in displacement and severed social networks.

Many of us like the neighborhood feeling of Baltimore. But our neighborhoods are segregated and difficult to ignore, if we are a little awake. The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance 2012 data confirms that our city is segregated:

Neighborhood                                Families living in poverty (%)                 Income (K)
Greenmount                                              38                                                        21

Perkins/Middle East                                 27                                                         19

Roland Park                                               0                                                         90

Mt. Washington                                        0.8                                                        72

Canton                                                       2                                                         77

Southeast                                                20                                                          29

Yes, we have some historic and present day challenges. We know this from talking to folks  who hold the history and we know this from research, in and outside of the city. How are we going to build a new Baltimore that is less segregated and not continuing a well-documented and current history?

The Mayor recently declared that its ‘institutional partners’ of universities will change Baltimore for the better through bringing new residents to Baltimore. We are wondering  who it’s being changed for? (4) According to these studies, without clear intention to assure affordable housing, access to quality education and the resources to support a child ready to learn, and employment opportunities for low-skilled and non-college educated residents of all races, Baltimore will continue the current path of gentrification and racial inequity. One look around the gentrifying areas of Harbor East and Middle East Baltimore provides us a vision of the future of a rebuilt Baltimore: $10 latte in Harbor East and $200K luxury condominiums in Middle East tells us who we are marketing the city to.
The recent negotiations between low-wage workers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital which resulted in some workers still unable to afford health insurance and homes in neighborhoods supporting well-being, hints at a continued path of income and geographic inequity via a leading employer and institutional partner who refuses to set an example to all new businesses that Baltimore is a city that demands the right to a living wage.(5) (According to research out of MIT, a livable wage in Baltimore Maryland for one adult with one child is $22.88, with two adults and one child, $20.51; the hospital agreed to a top $15 for employees of 20 years (6)) The privatization of public housing in Baltimore with no assurance that they remain affordable in perpetuity and new development with limited time-periods for affordable housing prices places current low-wage earners at risk of future displacement. (7)

The plan to rebuild Baltimore by increasing the population- by attracting a different race and class which separates out based on education, income, and race- without a plan to prevent gentrification and further segregation commits the city toward a continued gap between the haves and have nots.

With no real government oversight to assure affordable housing and access to quality education is permanent, local hire and livable wages as mandatory rules of engagement with current and future development, it is hard to imagine how low-skilled and non-college educated residents will be able to afford the new Baltimore. We have not assessed the current rental needs of existing residents to assure that sufficient affordable housing is available. WIthout knowing the needs it is difficult to plan to assure that sufficient affordable housing is built. Targeted development dollars and tax subsidies which assure sufficient affordable housing, local business opportunity which matches the market needs of low-income residents,  access to quality education and training to assure competition in the changing workforce, adequate social and health programs which prepares the workforce,  and living-wage employment that assures self-sustainability must be part of a plan to rebuild a different Baltimore. Until town hall meetings, city legislation, the media outlets, neighborhood groups, education and health groups, private and government policy and funding address these vital anchors of equitable community rebuilding to assure all its residents can stay and participate in a changing Baltimore, we are simply orchestrating the disposal of the most vulnerable to attract the more powerful. Basically, we are not doing anything different.

There is wisdom in learning from history and yet our elected leaders and resourced elites, blinded by the camouflage of bright lights, new buildings, and greed, seem to have missed this opportunity for change. Is it too early to predict that another generation is being ushered into poverty even while the intellectuals continue to churn out data, theorizing the exact percentages that may escape, and why? We have the data, we have people telling their stories; we simply need the political will and the compassionate understanding that until we all have an opportunity to participate for change, nothing fundamentally changes for those absent from the negotiations. And yes, we have the resources!

1. Educational and geographic segregation
2. Segregated neighborhoods and health inequities
3.The Long Shadow
3b. The Root: White privilege extends to the poor
4. Institutional partnership to rebuild Baltimore
4b. Institutional partner rebuilds for the privileged
5. The Real News Network: Unfinished negotiations between Hospital workers and Hopkins Hospital
5b. In These Times: Hospital union claims victory in Johns Hopkins Contract Fight
6. Living Wage in Baltimore, Maryland; MIT
7. Privatizing public housing in Baltimore: RAD speak-out

Corporate dollars can control development, health, and justice, until we organize and investigate

A victory against gentrification in NYC

Artwashing gentrification

Brooklyn: before and after gentrification

Walmart closes in the midst of union demands, judge rules unfair

Millionaire supreme court justices

Labor department targets Hopkins doctor for denying workers compensation…

…and the investigation that revealed the corruption

US Health System spends the most on health/capita and ranks last among eleven countries on measures of access, equity, quality, efficiency, and healthy lives

Finding the space/peace to nurture our collective struggle

Upcoming event to nourish the peace and calm we NEED to continue our struggle for justice and equity!

MindfulnessRetreat.finalfly

Register at: Registration site

Baltimore events.SaveDate .final

Honoring our Pain, Nourishing our Joy: Coming Home to Peace
A non-residential mindfulness retreat for People of Color

Friday, August 1st 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Saturday, August 2nd 9am to 5pm

Please plan to attend both Friday and Saturday
$50-$80 sliding scale
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Sacred Activism: Creating Justice through Peace and Understanding
A Day of Mindfulness for Activists

Sunday, August 3rd 9am to 4pm
$35-$60 sliding scale
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For both events: Sliding scale; please give at the highest level you can afford so others can attend.
No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Please bring a dish (vegetarian preferable) to share for a potluck lunch on Saturday and Sunday.

Location and more details soon to follow. To receive updates or more information contact Marisela Gomez at socialhealthconcepts@gmail.com

Facilitators for both events: Sr. Jewel and Marisela Gomez

Sister Jewel (Chan Chau Nghiem) is of African American and European American heritage. She has ordained with Thich Nhat Hanh as a Buddhist nun 14 years ago and became a Dharma teacher 7 years ago. She has led retreats in the U.S., Europe, Thailand, Brazil, India and Southern Africa. She initiated the first People of Color retreats in the Thich Nhat Hanh community from 2004 to 2007. She is energized by sharing mindfulness and compassion, especially with children and young people, and by bringing mindfulness to teachers and schools. She spent the last 5 years at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Germany. She is editor of Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh, and has articles and chapters published in several books, including Together we are One; Dharma, Color and Culture and others.

Marisela Gomez is a mindfulness practitioner, public health scholar activist, and physician. Of Afro-Latina ancestry, she has spent more than 20 years in Baltimore involved in social justice activism and social determinants of health research, writing, and practice. Since 2004 she has been studying and practicing mindfulness and other forms of meditation at Buddhist practice centers in US, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand and France. She has helped to organize retreats for People of Color at Blue Cliff Monastery in New York since 2007, a monastery in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Social health, neoliberalism, and gentrification

What is meant by social health? And what does neoliberalism and gentrification have to do with health? In rebuilding communities through neoliberal practices that result in displacement, homelessness, and gentrification the health of the community is affected (1). The fact is that the social, political, and economic systems in a society such as the US affect the health of individuals and populations. These systems separate and place economic, social, and political values on populations according to categories of race/ethnicity, income level, education level, gender, immigrant status, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, place of birth, dominant language, physical and mental ability, and age. The socioeconomic and political economic systems use these hierarchies to determine our place in society which in turn determines our health.

Using race and class identity as examples, individuals who discriminate based on these two factors will negatively affect the psychological and physical health of low income people of color through the stress experienced daily by the effects of their implicit bias (2, Implicit Attitude Test, Experience of Discrimination). On an institutional level, the health outcomes of low income communities of color during redevelopment is partially determined by the discriminatory neoliberal policies and practices-a norm of the socioeconomic and political economic systems of the US. Such practices/policies include: policies which allowed disinvestment of low-income neighborhoods, mayoral-governments partnered with private developers, legislators passing and funding racist laws, lack of policies/laws which demand affordable housing and local hiring, city and state officials enacting education, housing, transportation policies and practices which benefit wealthy developers and displace community residents, developers building only market-rate housing in low and moderate-income communities, planning boards lacking community participation, corporate university and philanthropic boards who approve cleansing of low income and of color communities. Besides the collective stress experienced from being forced to move, the lack of affordable housing and products, the fear of eventual displacement, lack of ability to have decision-making in your community, displacement to other under-resourced communities (in school, livable employment, access to healthy and affordable food, infrastructure that allows physical activities, safety) are risk factors for poor health outcomes. Such neoliberal rebuilding practices which lead to displacement and gentrification can only occur in societies where the political economic and socioeconomic systems support them. This is the concept and action of social health, neoliberalism, and gentrification.

The mechanisms of neoliberal processes in community rebuilding such as tax subsidies and exemptions, rezoning, lack of transparency and accountability, ‘shadow governments’ of developers and corporate foundations navigated through public:private partnerships, state redistribution of land to private entities, propaganda media, greed, devaluing of non-productive members of society, non-participatory planning in community rebuilding and its social health impacts must be identified, reported, challenged, prevented-again and again. Such practices unleashed in communities of low and moderate income and color find little resistance due to the political economy of development capital and state politics. This process of community rebuilding is supported by strong ties between the developer and government which overwhelms the power of the local community to demand equitable development and community participation-there are minimal ties between the local community and government (3). Newly organized communities are displaced to different parts of the city, some county, loosing the growing power-base and social capital which could challenge the powerful developers and public partners. Because of the unfair advantage of such public:private partnerships social capital/economic and political benefit is accumulated disproportionately by the powerful developers.

For example, displacement of communities of low-income and color disinvested by government and neighboring institutions, for expansion of a prestigious institution like Johns Hopkins results in stress for residents and poor health outcomes: gentrification and health. The disruption of social networks, root shock, results in acute and chronic trauma to residents as they loose their familiar base and try to anchor themselves in new neighborhoods (4). Such continued serial displacement is a major social determinant of continued poor health outcomes. Children are particularly susceptible to these changes and have difficulty establishing new peer groups (5). In this example, neoliberal practices through public:private partnerships of the university, Annie E. Casey Foundation and others, and the city planned and carried out displacement, demolition, and construction of a new place/community unaffordable to previous residents and the peripheral communities. After more than 800 households were displaced less than 10% low income and minority families have been allowed back to inhabit the more than 700 units rehabbed or newly constructed to date. Construction of a new contract school, managed by JHU and supervised by a board of directors led by Hopkins assures that the neoliberal agenda of dispossession of education occurs-another risk factor for health (6, 7). This new school which selectively engineers a ratio of white and non-white, poor and non-poor for their neoliberal formula of experimental ‘urban’ education continues. The right of existing residents to attend the school is ignored, preference is offered to the powerful university and affiliates, while the department of education requires no meetings for transparency or accountability, and the wealthy developer and corporate philanthropists of Casey and other foundations continue on unimpeded. The school is a magnet for gentrification, attracting the race and class of people comfortable to the powerful Johns Hopkins University. Whether the children of the surrounding neighborhood have access to this new school is a determinant of health. Access to early childhood development resources and education is a determining factor for health of children as they grow to adulthood. Neoliberalism, gentrification, and the new urban education are factors determining the social health of East Baltimore and Baltimore because the neighborhoods displaced residents are forced to move into may be similarly disinvested, contributing to diminished health. Residents must be able to stay in the neighborhoods undergoing revitalization and participate in all the amenities (education, parks, housing, health, employment, transportation): this is a more participatory model of community rebuilding-one which emphasizes community participation before development to ensure that participation continues during and after, and does not result in gentrification, displacement, segregation and poor health. How do we do that?

Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) along with Causa Justa:Just Cause’s (CJJC) recent report shows the negative health effects on communities in the Bay Area undergoing gentrification (8). Among others, they recommend Health Impact Assessments (HIA) before development occurs to determine potential negative health outcomes caused by gentrification and displacement; their recommendations emphasize the necessity of community participation in all processes of development. In 2009 similar recommendations were made by the Association of Bay Area Governments and Policy Link. However the current recommendations by ACPHD and CJJC is the first to directly show quantitative changes in population health during all stages of gentrification processes, clarifying the health consequences of displacement. HIAs can also be used to substantiate the need for community-driven rebuilding processes as done by the Los Angeles Community Action Network. They used a HIA to leverage a commitment for more than $20 million to limit displacement through affordable housing, local hiring, support for tenant rights and preventive health programs.

In 2003, Save Middle East Action Committee, Inc. requested that Hopkins/East Baltimore Development Inc. conduct a HIA before demolition and rebuilding began. This was particularly important because the majority of the housing stock was built during the period of lead-based paint and because previous studies of demolition by the university showed contamination of the surrounding air with lead. Even with this evidence, the timeline of the university’s first Biotech building was more important than the health of low income and African American residents. This type of public:private development project ignored the health of residents then just as a current development project in Los Angeles targeting public housing conversion into a mixed-income development is attempting to ignore the health of low income people of color (9). Such racism and classism driving neoliberal community rebuilding chooses to ignore existing communities where the majority of residents are people of color with little resources and the lowest life expectancy. These and previous examples confirm that the value placed on low income and racial/ethnic minority communities are minimal compared to that of higher income and white communities, and that the growth of inequitable power in majority white and higher income communities will continue to drive these unhealthy socioeconomic and political economic practices.

Gentrification and its neoliberal agenda has arrived in full force in the 21st century. New York’s Brooklyn and the Bronx, Sommerville, Portland, Chicago, Denver, and DC are facing the effects of gentrification and unaffordable housing, all risk factors and outcomes of displacement and negative health outcomes (10-16). Cities implementing new transportation systems face similar risk of gentrification and displacement as reported by a 2010 report: Maintaining Diversity in America’s Transit-rich neighborhoods: Tools for equitable neighborhood change (17). Neoliberalism’s new attire of greater public:private partnerships with the propaganda of equitable public benefit supported by the media drives gentrification through accumulation of land by the wealthy and dispossession of civil rights of the disenfranchised- in the US and abroad (18). Such inequitable societies lead to inequitable health of individuals and populations as seen with life expectancy differences between the rich and the poor of up to 19 years (19). Confronting and ending these violations of human rights through coalition building across struggles for equity of race, income, housing, food, education, environment and all other social factors is necessary and possible. It may be the only possible way to reclaim a collective right to occupy the city, making it balanced, healthy, and whole.

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1.Gomez M. Poverty of health. In Race, class, power, and organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding abandoned communities in America. Lexington 2012.
2.Implicit Attitude Test
Experience of Discrimination Test
3. Public:private partnerships and rebuilding communities
4. Fullilove MT. 2001. Root shock: how tearing up American neighborhoods
5. The Importance of Evaluating the Population Health Impact of Public Housing Demolition and Displacement
6. Harvey D. 2005. A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford University.
7. Lipman P. The new political economy of urban education: neoliberalism, race, and the right to the city. 2011 New York and London. Routledge.
8. Development without displacement: Causa Justa:Just Cause
9. Gentrification in Los Angeles, LA Community Action Network
10. Gentrification in NY
11. Gentrification in Bronx, NY
12. Gentrification in Sommerville, MA
13. Gentrification in Portland, OR
14. McMillen DP, McDonald J. 2004. Reaction of House Prices to a New Rapid Transit Line: Chicago’s Midway Line, 1983–1999. Real Estate Economics
15. Gentrification in Denver, CO
16. Gentrification in DC
17. Transportation and gentrification
18. Gentrification in London
19. Life expectancy between rich and poor

Black and Blue: Mental Health in the African American Community

Here is a PDF of the powerpoint presentation on alternative strategies to address stress and its effects on mental and physical health. Wellness and mental health

This was presented at the recent one-day symposium titled:
BLack and Blue: State of African American Mental Health on April 11, 2014 at Radisson Cross Keys, Baltimore.

Purpose: To identify the signs and symptoms of depression, including postpartum depression, and other mental illnesses and discuss: treatment options, coping skills, removing the stigma, and pertinent assessments.

A video of the entire day will be available shortly at the American Psychiatry Associations’ Minority Health website.APA site

For more information on complementary, alternative, or integrative medicine: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Holding Power Accountable: It’s a human rights issue

As privatization in development moves ahead in Baltimore, and government continues to pay tribute to private developers’ bottom line through public:private partnerships and tax subsides to the powerful, Baltimore and Maryland simply reflect a global trend-development which violates the human rights of individual citizens to participate and assure equitable benefit. Recent projects include the plan for privatization of public housing-subsidized by HUD- and transportation in the form of the Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line in the International Corridor (1, 2, 3, 4). Both are subsidized by federal and state dollars aimed at appeasing corporate power and threatening displacement and gentrification. This trend of public:private partnerships was highlighted at recent UN meetings on post-2015 sustainable development and the role of private power in drowning the voice of civil society, violating their human rights (4). They brought front and center the critical need to stop continued privatization and public:private partnerships which diminish democracy and minimize citizen participation, in its attempt to grow the profit of corporations.

In Maryland and nationally we continue to witness this same trend in non-sustainable development and public:private deals which drown out democracy and assure political and economic inequity. And just as the international civil sector demands greater accountability and transparency of public:private partnerships, tax subsidies, corporate profiteering, and lack of community participation, we demand the same. Specifically, the criteria offered to the UN to assure sustainable development post-2015 is an insightful framework for us to adapt in our call for public-lead development with a human rights-based ethic (5). Such criteria would investigate the powerful actors negotiating on their behalf while positing themselves as benefiting the local, national, and global economies and communities. The five criteria question:

- whether the private actor has a history or current status of serious allegations of abusing human rights or the environment, including in their cross-border activities;
- whether the private actor has a proven track record (or the potential to) deliver on sustainable development commitments emerging from the post-2015 process;
- whether the private actor has previous involvement in acts of corruption with government officials;
whether the private actor is fully transparent in its financial reporting and fully respecting existing tax responsibilities in all countries it operates, and not undermining sustainable development through tax avoidance;
- any conflicts of interest in order to eliminate potential private donors whose activities are antithetical or contradictory to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the SDG [sustainable development goals] framework (6).

Locally we can adapt similar criteria in discovering who’s at the table negotiating on their profit-making behalf and the extent to which public dollars subsidize unequal benefit for private developers-growing the health and wealth gap. The future of sustainable development requires an assurance that equitable partnerships exist going forward and previous corrupt corporate entities and their affiliates do not lead development or benefit disproportionately from public contracting or sub-contracting (7).

Baltimore can begin with an analysis of past developments to include amount of tax subsidies and ratio of benefit to developers and local communities, amount of benefit in the form of local hire, economic growth, local business ownership, live-able wages and benefits provided by new developments, affordable products for historic communities, affordable housing, presence of historic communities in revitalized areas, health of communities displaced and in the revitalized areas. An entity exists in Baltimore to conduct such an investigation, the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC). BDC’s mission “is to make doing business in Baltimore, Maryland beneficial for the business community and the workforce so we can support continued economic growth, job creation and revitalization in Baltimore City”. In order to accomplish this mission they must evaluate the way development has occurred to assure future developments benefit all of Baltimore. We would like to see a report card. The departments of housing and community development, economic development, planning, transportation, health, parks and recreation can do similar assessments of impact of past and current development on their benchmarks. Such assessments would benefit from community participation.

Other ways to assure future development is participatory and respecting human rights include realistic community engagement at all levels of planning, implementing, and evaluating. Government funding for community leadership development and community organizing to ensure community leaders are informed and ready to participate would help to guarantee democratic participation. A city planning department with community organizers on staff working directly with neighborhood organizations to increase community engagement and social capital would begin to prepare residents for decision-making roles in current and future developments (8). If the city of Baltimore could do this in the 1960’s with some success, where is the political will to implement such community engagement practices in 2014?

Activism by citizens and community organizations remain key in assuring human rights is front and center of all development. Baltimore and Maryland is waking up to activism. Those still in by-stander activism mode can switch to engaged activism. We can vote elected officials out of office who maintain heads of departments who continue the same tried and true policies that support corporate welfare. We can publicly demand that such department heads who continue policies and practices which results in inequity in housing, economic, and community development, planning, health, transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, and education be placed on notice to show different outcomes in a specific period. We can be updated on these outcomes through annual report cards from these departments. We can call and email our public representatives each time we see the same patterns of development continue with inequitable outcomes.

Such opportunities for organized activism are upon us today. The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights offered a symposium last week on ‘Gentrification and Revitalization’. In regard an investigation of developer Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions’ expansion in East Baltimore over the past 60 years, HUD’s Baltimore office offered the audience direction in pursuing this. In a few weeks Baltimore’s Public Justice Center is hosting a discussion on residents’ demand for inclusion in housing policy and practices being administered through HABC and HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) project-”Democratizing Development” (9, 10). Casa de Maryland continues to seek support to combat displacement of immigrant businesses and residents because of the expansion of the Purple Line in one of Maryland’s most diverse immigrant community (3). It’s Our Economy is hosting a wealth-building conference to address poverty in Baltimore in May (11). Johns Hopkins Hospital service workers will rally for a livable wage on May 10 after the hospital neglects to return to the negotiation table (12). The recent announcement by Baltimore Development Corporation and Housing Authority of Baltimore City inviting proposals for development of a portion of the Old Town neighborhood in East Baltimore offers us an opportunity to practice with the criteria listed above (13). Why? There exists an organized group of local community leaders and stakeholders who have been meeting, organizing residents, and drafting a community-informed master plan for almost 10 years for this area-Change-4-Real (14). They have done the hard work of building a democratic and community participatory model supporting equitable benefit through community-focused economic development. Whether they receive the contract for development of this area will speak volumes to the use of the above mentioned international criteria for sustainable development with human and civil rights agendas. Baltimore and Maryland must begin to hold public:private power accountable through participatory development that respects the dignity of every individual. Anything else is a violation of all our human rights.

1. Privatization of public housing
2. The power of public:private partnerships
3a. Corporate welfare
3b. The greed of power
4. Purple line in the International corridor
5. Post-2015 development criteria
6. Sustainable Development Goals
7. Private developers benefit from public subsidies
8. Baltimore Sun. December 15, 1968. Renewal with a difference
9. Rental Assistance Demonstration project
10. Democratizing Development. Public Justice Center May 6
11. It’s Our Economy
12. Hopkins workers rally for livable wage
fly_mem_201404_Hopkins_May10_Allies_FINAL (1)
13. City announces plan for Old Town development
14. Change-4-Real

Revitalization and Gentrification: Forces for Division or Diversity?

Maryland Civil Rights Commission presents a symposium on community revitalization and the impact of gentrification; where we have been and where we need to go.

Information

Letters to ed: Johns Hopkins challenged by staff, students, alumni to pay livable wages

DSC_1520

Letter to editor in The Daily Record, Baltimore, published April 10, 2014. Since it was published 8 other alumni and students signed on. Folks were represented from the US and mainland Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico.
Daily Record, let to ed

In regard “Hopkins workers reject pact, begin strike”, April 9, we alumni, students, and staff of the Johns Hopkins Academic Institutions in Baltimore and across mainland US and Puerto Rico, support the opportunity for all hospital workers to receive pay that will enable equitable access to resources and wellbeing. The lack of a live-able wage decreases access to affordable safe and sanitary housing, affordable health care, equitable education, safe and sanitary transportation, affordable recreation, and affordable healthy food. Poverty is the leading cause of poor health according to the World Health Organization. The hospital that is rated the number one health care institution in the country, part of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, has trained us to be leaders in preventive and public health, social determinants of health, and decreasing health inequity. But by paying its workers wages that do not allow them access to resources necessary for achieving health, the institution contributes not only to Baltimore’s pressing crisis of income inequality – the 10th worst in the United States’ big cities - it contributes to inequality in all the resources not affordable with poverty-level wages. We can and must do better to change this history and set a new path toward equity, building a better Baltimore for all. 

Luis Alberto Aviles Anne-Emanuelle Birn
Tyler Brown Rebecca Cohen
Nick Cuneo Hector Gomez Dantes
Lena Z. Denis Elizabeth DuVerlie
Stephanie Farquhar Ruthie Fesahazion
Caroline Fichtenberg Kate Flores
Andrea Gerstenberger Joshua Garoon
Marisela Gomez Kate Hayman
Issac Howley Alexander Jenson
Kate Khatib Sara Evangeline Larson
Kathryn Leifheit Sabriya Linton
Lavanya Madhusudan Jillian Marks
Sara McClean Nicky Methani
Kate Miele Shivani Patel
Isabel Perera Tonia Poteat
Chavi Rhodes Adam Richards
Mike Rogers Max Romano
Samuel Scharff Anthony Serritella
Ellen Shaffer Emma Tsui
Tyler Smith Amber Summers
Jenny Tighe Deanna Wilson
Diana Wohler Julia Zur

__________

April 7, Baltimore Sun Letter to editor from Hopkins physicians
Baltimore Sun Let to ed

____________

DSC_1516Hopkins low wage workers and advocates strike for a livable wage

DSC_1521Market rate apartments are constructed next to Hopkins, unaffordable to the low wage workers striking for a livable wage

DSC_1528Hopkins students and staff support a livable wage for all Hopkins workers at a candlelight vigil Wednesday April 9

The rhetoric of power

After another story glossing over the “truth” of equitable access to the new Hopkins-Henderson Community school in East Baltimore, Father Peter Lyons (St. Wenceslaus Church, East Baltimore) and myself wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times. We decided after two weeks that maybe-just saying- they won’t publish it?

Here’s what we had to say:

In regard “Reading, Writing and Renewal (the Urban Kind)” of March 18 2014. “…We wanted Henderson-Hopkins to be an inspiration and magnet for the neighborhood.” A quote from East Baltimore Development Inc’s CEO. Like a similar urban experiment in West Philadelphia, the results are already in. “Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities” by Maia B Cucchiara (2013) describes the outcomes: “In their zeal to attract more middle-class families to the city, policy makers and educators adopted a stance where (white) middle-class families were seen as more valuable and more worthy than the existing working-class families.” If more evidence is needed to tell us where Baltimore’s experiment in social engineering is heading, an application policy and process for school attendance gives relocated residents three days to apply and no notice to historic residents while ample notice to Hopkins staff and students continues, assuring gentrification. The admission policy favors applicants from outside the redevelopment zone who are employed by Johns Hopkins and new developments, over historic residents of the neighborhood. Community organizations must alert residents of upcoming application deadlines and request meetings with the school’s leadership, knowing that existing neighbors are not the target of the magnets rebuilding this East Baltimore neighborhood.

New York Times article, March 18, 2014

Reading, writing, and renewal (the urban kind)

David and Goliath again: low-wage workers and Johns Hopkins Hospital

The current negotiations for a livable wage between low-wage workers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the leadership reminds us of the historical David and Goliath story, again. Putting aside the biblical source and broadening the analogy to a secular world, those without power against those with power is the same ole story here.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of a typical block in its neighborhood of Middle East Baltimore

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of a typical block in its neighborhood of Middle East Baltimore

Why are we here again? Three years ago I gave a talk at the Fair Development Conference in Baltimore sponsored by United Workers titled “Saving Middle East Baltimore from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions: David and Goliath”. (1) It was a history of land banking and “negro removal” tactics engineered by the Hopkins Institutions over the last 70 years. The impact of such exploitation on the health of the people and place of Middle East Baltimore was discussed. The question asked of the audience was how can we begin to measure the outcomes of the glaring gap between the growth of this powerful institution and the surrounding community, one of the most fragile, poor, and disinvested neighborhoods in Baltimore, with health indicators described by Johns Hopkins as one of the worst in the nation.

Fast forward to 2014 and today the prestigious institution continues its role of Goliath by exploiting those least vulnerable to assure its continued growth in wealth and health. This time the exploited “David” are none other than their own employees who do not earn a living wage. (2,3) If it was not so ironic it would be a wonderful “dark” comedy, particularly since many of the workers in low wage service jobs at the institution are African Americans. But this is not a comedy, a farce, or anything for anyone to laugh about; it is deadly. It is a story which continues to reveal the reason the gap between the rich and the poor and the effects on their health continue to widen: those with access to resources have better health and live longer lives while those with less resources have more illnesses and die at an earlier age. (4,5,6) Low wage workers seeking fair compensation for their labor cannot afford health insurance while working at the number one ranked health care institution in the world. The stress of not having enough money to make ends meet is consistent and chronic and sets up the body and mind to be vulnerable to acute and chronic illnesses such as infections, allergies, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, mental illness, cancers, addiction. (7,8)

Meanwhile the salary of the CEO of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the president of Johns Hopkins University-each earning more than $1 million / year -certainly assures them access to all the resources that would minimize the stressors of affording food, shelter, clothing, and health care. (2,9) This premier health care institution persuades a vulnerable and gullible public that they are there to save lives and make Baltimore a healthy place to live; but for whom? The president of Johns Hopkins University has spoken eloquently of the new Henderson-Hopkins School it is running in East Baltimore as being a model of , “restoring the city’s east side as a safe, prosperous, and vibrant community”. (3) A vibrant and healthy community begins with the members of the community having employment which allows them to afford their homes, health insurance, healthy food, and time to spend with their children and participate in school activities. Poverty-level wages do not allow a vibrant and healthy community to exist or grow. In fact poverty is the leading cause of poor health according to the World Health Organization, among others. (10) Through these unfair labor practices the institution contributes to health disparity/inequity and is itself a social determinant of poor health. In light of its institutes and programs receiving thousands of dollars to eliminate health disparities/inequities, address the social determinants of health, and rebuild healthy urban neighborhoods, there is grave contradiction in what it says it is doing locally, nationally, and internationally and what it is doing at home within its walls and its neighborhood. (11)

The tools that allow this exploitation of the right to a living wage and access to good health are racism and classism and the power that white-run institutions accumulated from the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, unfair laws, policies, and practices that grew the wealth of the few. The government institutions which rubber-stamped these policies and practices then, continue today as powerful public:private partnerships of neoliberalism. Transparency and accountability to the public remains low and corruption remains high. Large public subsidies, tax-exempt status, grants, and below-market value purchases of land from the government subsidize this private for-profit institution with public dollars and assure continued growth in power of this “Goliath”.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of land cleared for new housing- will their low-wage workers be able to afford to live here?

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of land cleared for new housing- will
their low-wage workers be able to afford to live here?

But today is a new day and after we confirm the data, what do we do? How can we support the current low-wage workers and their advocates-1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East- negotiating for a living wage that affords them health care and safe and sanitary living conditions? We can contact them through their website below, write letters to the editors of all periodicals in the city and beyond, call and write our public officials who vote on permits, grants, and tax-exemptions to the institution at all government levels, and write letters to the publications of the institution. (3) Students and faculty at the university are particularly helpful in writing and talking about this injustice to their colleagues. They can spread the word to their friends and colleagues at other institutions and learn more about wages at other prestigious hospitals and universities around the country. The institution has declared that if there is a strike it will have an alternative workforce ready to continue to provide services-their identified goals of health care delivery justifies their path of pay-inequity, “the-ends-justifies-the-means’ reality. If workers strike because they have no alternative, we can join in on the strike and show solidarity for our brothers and sisters willing to stand up to power: united we can send a powerful message that it is time for all employees to earn a wage which does not place them at risk of living in poverty and becoming sick. We need all the “Davids” to challenge this “Goliath” of Johns Hopkins and send a powerful message that we are tired of inequitable and non-sustainable wages that do not allow low-wage Baltimore workers to afford living in the very communities the institution is rebuilding.

Solidarity

Solidarity

This thinking and practice are revolutionary acts because it goes against the norm of accepting a powerful institution’s oppression of its employees fueled by its unhindered network of connections with government and corporate America. Today it may be service employees but we do not have to wait until tomorrow to see that this inequity in compensation for labor is widespread and is already affecting higher-waged employees at other hospitals and universities across the US. (12,13) Fair compensation helps to assure equitable and sustainable development in our city, and begins to narrow the income and health gap; anything else is a violation of the human rights and the health of individuals and communities and continues the legacy of race and class inequity. (14)

Source/coverage of Johns Hopkins Hospital employees protest for livable wage.
1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East website
The Real News Network
Baltimore Brew
Baltimore Sun