Is peace too radical for activists? Taking time to stop and find calm

The lives of activists are busy. The work of social justice activists, community organizers, and human rights defenders is challenging and almost always leads to burnout.  Through diverse means, we struggle to right the wrongs of unjust systems. These systems maintain disproportionate control in the hands of the powerful, and have marginalized and disenfranchised people of color, low income and working class people, women, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer/intersex/questioning (LGBTQIQ) individuals, people with disabilities, immigrants, non-English speakers, and non-Christians.

To ensure that we do not perpetuate the injustices we seek to change we must take good care of ourselves, our pain, our conflicts. We must recognize our tensions, our traumas. And we must stop, become aware of the breath, calm the mind and body, and find stillness. This stillness leads to seeing more clearly, who we are, the person on this path of justice. Do we have balance inside of us, as we seek balance and justice outside of us?

Stopping, resting, healing, finding spaciousness allows us peace. We bring that peace, that clarity, that healed self into all our encounters, on the front lines, behind the computer, in the board room or the city hall. We do not only seek peace outside, we are peace inside and that radiates to others.  This is the justice movement, a movement that is radical enough to value peace at its base, and assure peaceful means as we seek just ends. Our means become the goal we are seeking, right there in every moment.

Join us as we stop, and find the space to heal and bring peace inside. Join us as we value ourselves, as much as we value the work. Can we stop?

What: Mindfulness retreat for social activists

When: December 3, 4 2016 (Saturday and Sunday) 9am – Saturday to 3pm – Sunday.

Where: Trinitarian Center, 8400 Park Heights Avenue, Pikesville, MD

Why: Because justice outside cannot happen without balance inside! Come reconnect!

How: Register here!


Practicing real change for development in Baltimore’s Oldtown?

The press release below from Change4Real, the grassroots organization working on rebuilding Oldtown for the past years, suggests there might be real change in how the next big development happens in Baltimore. We remain hopeful but realize that change does not happen without pushing the powerful to share their wealth. Are we ready to have a more equitable process and outcome in Oldtown, than the public exploitation that happened in Port Covington, Harbor Point, Johns Hopkins Biotech Park?


logo1432 May Court
Baltimore, MD 21231

Released:  Friday, October 7, 2016
Contact:  John Morris – (443) 838-7193

City Planning Commission Updates Oldtown Redevelopment Plan to Recognize  Change4Real

On Thursday afternoon, October 6, 2016, the Baltimore City Planning Commission unanimously approved an update to the Oldtown Redevelopment Plan adopted in May 2010. The approved update addresses changes to the community proposed as part of the response by the developers engaged in negotiation with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (“HABC”) and the Baltimore Development Corporation (“BDC”) to the Request for Proposals (“RFP”). The current RFP concerns redevelopment Oldtown Mall and Somerset Homes.

In addition, the Planning Commission reaffirmed the Human and Economic Development recommendations of the 2010 Redevelopment Plan by recognizing the emergence of Change4Real Development Corporation as a community-based organizing presence since 2010 and its commitment and specific plans to promote the development of Oldtown’s human capital.

In May 2010, the Planning Commission approved a redevelopment plan for the Oldtown community comprising an area of East Baltimore located south of Madison Street, West of Broadway, east of the Jones Falls Expressway, and north of Fayette Street. After more than 2 ½ years of working through a plan for the revitalization of a community that the plan itself acknowledged to be “still dominated by public housing,” the Planning Commission adopted a plan intended “to create a community in which the existing residents can thrive within the ‘mixed income’ environment.” Working to address the concerns and vision of local individual stakeholders, churches, and community-based institutions, like Sojourner-Douglass College, organized as the Chang4Real Coalition, the planners came to understand a critical reality for any redevelopment in Oldtown – “the development of human capital must be as much a priority as the development of vacant land.” As a result, the plan joined with the planning of new construction comprehensive recommendations for human and economic development.

Since the adoption of the 2010 Redevelopment Plan, a number of new circumstances necessitated an update of the 2010 document. The development rights for the area, places with one real estate developer ultimately lapsed before that developer could undertake any of the planned developments. To promote new development in the community, BDC and HABC combined the land each controlled respectively in the lower Oldtown Mall and the then vacant site of the former Somerset Homes, to expand opportunities for development. In April 2014, BDC and HABC issued a RFP to develop the combined site to spur revitalization of the community. The consideration of the submitted proposals resulted in exclusive negotiation with a group of developers that included the Beatty Development Group, the Henson Development Company, and Commercial Development, Inc., and Mission First Housing Development Group.

On March 30, 2016, the new developers submitted a clarification of its 2014 proposal, identifying, in general terms, proposed uses of the land not included in the 2010 Redevelopment Plan. In addition to the new construction proposed by the developers, changed circumstances since 2010 had also affected the comprehensive recommendations of the 2010 Redevelopment Plan for Human and Economic Development.

In September 2012, the local stakeholders and community-based planning group at the center of the Change4Real Coalition formally chartered the Change4Real Community Corporation as a not-for-profit membership entity under Maryland Law. Change4Real was designed to contain, organize, coordinate, and mobilize the multitude of local stakeholders so that together they can form a working partnership with any governmental, philanthropic, or corporate actor in the transformation of their own community. Since its formation, Change4Real has organized about 175 members, with plans to expand the membership significantly. Effective June 26, 2016, Change4Real secured its IRS Section 501(c) (3) status as a tax-exempt corporation.

In the summer of 2014, Change4Real refined its human and economic vision informing the 2010 Redevelopment Plan to design The Promissorium™ as a platform for optimizing and monetizing the social capital embodied by the 16,000 to potentially more than 20,000 local stakeholders associated with the Oldtown footprint variously as residents, workers, students, alumni, worshipers, and others identifying themselves with this geographic area.

Key elements of The Promissorium™ consist of
(1) Change4Real Community Corporation – organizing the people to “organize the pennies” – the small sums of money these stakeholders may control that aggregated exceed more than $141 million in annual income (2012 Dollars)
(2) WiFi connection to create a seamless communication network where communication becomes a community asset
(3) Database of local stakeholder resources, an electronic archive of needs and skills to provide the basis for an economy of human exchange to be managed for and to benefit the local stakeholders
(4) New work systems based upon an entrepreneurial framework of micro-enterprises where people can own and market their own capacity for their own benefit, at their own articulated value and
(5) A financial system customized to serve a micro-enterprise economy, to facilitate the purposeful “organizing of pennies” to finance the enterprise aspirations of the poor.

Change4Real is now part of a Human Development Team, including Ingoma Foundation and REDDOVE Partners LLC, working with the new developers since 2014 to build an infrastructure enabling local resident and existing non-resident stakeholders in the Oldtown Community to participate in the development and in the prosperity to result from the development on terms satisfying to the existing stakeholders. The Human Development Team will work to connect local residents to employment opportunities associated with the construction, provide support for the development of housing affordable to a range of existing residents so as to allow as many residents as possible to remain within the greater Oldtown footprint to add their unique value to the development, and to create a range of entrepreneurial opportunities for local residents, including a small business incubator.

Change4Real is constituted to remain in the community long-term and to assure the stability of that community as a mixed income community where all stakeholders can remain and prosper long after the construction has been completed.

On October 6, 2016, by unanimous vote, the Planning Commission adopted an update to the 2010 Redevelopment Plan that included the above additions to the earlier human and economic recommendations set forth by the Plan.

For more Information:
Check out Change4Real on Facebook


The PRACTICE of change

TEDxWashingtonSquare: The Cutting Edge of Change, 10.15.16

JOIN US for a day of #PracticingChange as we bring greater awareness to the creative practices, models and essential elements on the cutting edge of change. From gentrification, to transformative residential communities, to meditation and policing, to changing our neural imprinting for justice…change is happening!

9:30 am–5:30 pm

New York University, 40 Washington Square South

Livestream at


SHARON SALZBERG – meditation teacher; author; Co-Founder, Insight Meditation Society

ANGEL KYODO WILLIAMS – author; activist; Zen priest; Founder, Center for Transformative Change

DAN HARRIS – Co-anchor, ABC News’ Nightline and Good Morning America (weekend edition)

MARISELA GOMEZ – community activist; author; public health professional; physician

SHAUNA SHAPIRO – clinical psychologist; Professor, Santa Clara University, CA

SAM DROEGE – author; Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey

COME EXPLORE with us the innovative ways change is taking place on both the personal and societal levels.

We are looking at cutting edge change from the micro-level within the tiniest neurotransmitters, among the behavior of bees, and in the inner lives of prison inmates, to systemic shifts taking place within the legal profession, health care, technology, politics and the fashion industry. We are drawing from a broad range of thinkers, doers and researchers across multiple disciplines, coming from New York and beyond.


Johns Hopkins Bioscience Park and Mother Teresa: Contradictions, uneven development, change

It was the perfect day for highlighting contradictions on Saturday afternoon in Middle East Baltimore- the 88-acre area neighborhood demolished after more than 800 families were forced to move to make way for the Bioscience Park at Johns Hopkins. Promising 8,000 jobs to local residents and a redevelopment that would benefit the existing community, the project has yet to deliver on either of these, 15 years later. In Middle East Baltimore on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon the celebration of recently canonized Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who served the poor endlessly, was happening at St. Wenceslaus Hall on Madison and Duncan. Meanwhile, two blocks down the street at Rutland and Eager, the rich and powerful Johns Hopkins University was making sure that the area they cleared of low income, working poor black folks, would be inhabited by those they felt deserved the land: their employees and others of similar class. They were having their lottery drawing to pick the employees who would receive a $36,000 grant toward purchasing one of the new luxury homes being built -starting in the upper $200,000‘s. There were up to 50 lots for purchase that day.

Johns Hopkins Open House, $36,000 grant to employees, September 10 2016

Johns Hopkins Open House, $36,000 grant to employees, September 10 2016

At the church hall the Sisters of Charity who live in the nunnery next to St. Wenceslaus Church on Collington Avenue, the order Mother Teresa belonged to, in their white and blue striped robes were preparing the hall for the feast of celebration. After the mass, they were moving around the hall making sure neighbors and churchgoers had enough to eat, and take home. If you drove to the celebration mass – lead by Archbishop Lori- and lunch you could park on Madison or in the parking lot behind the hall. Of the more than 100 celebrants who attended no one appeared fearful of where to park or the adjacent houses, mostly boarded. Over at the Johns Hopkins Open House however, there were assistants helping potential home-buyers find parking on the street, making sure no one was robbed while parking. A story of contradiction of talk and of intention.

New town homes in MIddle East Baltimore, starting in the upper $200,000's

New town homes in Middle East Baltimore, starting in the upper $200,000’s

But the contradictions don’t begin or end here. The area being redeveloped has been a contradiction in the making. From the way the majority of residents and businesses living in the neighborhood in 2001 learned that they would be displaced- through the newspaper- to the resistance by Johns Hopkins personnel to acknowledge publicly that the development would be for their expansion. From the use of eminent domain to take people’s property for a private development to the rhetoric that it would serve the public good even while the first retail shop did not accept food stamps. The 7-acre park, including a dog-park, spits in the face of residents who had to move for land better served by dog’s urine. The message is clear: to serve the rich we must displace the poor! From the stress and illness caused by serial forced displacement to the fact that it was instigated to benefit a renown health care institution. From the withholding of the truth by then-president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation of consultant’s attendance at meetings -advising against the intention, process, and outcome of the Hopkins expansion- to the continuous rhetoric of transparency and accountability. And it goes on.

These contradictions and corruptions do not go un-noticed. Last week, only four days before the big Johns Hopkins Open House to sell the community as the new up-and-coming gentrified area, EBDI’s* office on the 1700 block of Chase street was vandalized; a brick thrown into the glass door. This vandalism is not new to the security guard-patrolled area. Within the last 7 months, two row houses on the same block as EBDI’s office, in the same square block of the pending luxury town homes sold-off on Saturday, have been vandalized in the same way.# Nothing stolen, bricks from the same razing occurring down the street thrown into the shiny glass doors of the newly renovated row houses. Neighbors in and outside of the 88-acre area are aware of the contradictions and showing their awareness.

EBDI, East Baltimore Development Inc. office at 1731 E. Chase, recently vandalized

EBDI, East Baltimore Development Inc. office at 1731 E. Chase, recently vandalized

Some new inhabitants of the renovated houses near EBDI’s office also show their contradiction in intention. New to the neighborhood and saying they want to get to know residents who originally lived there, they show their contradictions by putting their trash in the bins of these very neighbors they want to get to know better, even when asked not to do so. These neighbors happen to be new white inhabitants of the gentrifying area who feel it is okay to place their trash into the bins of historic neighbors. [There is a thread here, one of moving what we consider “trash” away from us so we do not have to continuously see it…fear of the unknown driven by socially constructed judgements?] This is the new community-building occurring, kept quiet so that the gentrification continues and eventually removes all historic residents. This type of social engineering that Johns Hopkins, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and EBDI initiated-building a mixed-income community- is a contradiction in intention and practice. None of these powerful stakeholders care to address the history of racism and classism which has existed between Johns Hopkins and the community for more than 70 years. A 70-year history of Johns Hopkins pushing people out of their homes for expansion, in large form and small form-ie the 1950’s Broadway Redevelopment Project which expanded Hopkins into 59 acres after displacing over 1000 majority poor and black families. Instead in 2002-2006 the university again directed the displacement of another 800 families, this time for 88-acres of land with no plan for them to return and engineered the rebuilding and rebranding of this historic community of black people.

The current executive director, Ray Skinner, stated that only housing for incomes at $60,000 and above will be built going forward and no more affordable housing would be built (per EBDI community meting summer 2016). With 1400 units planned, there is no evidence that more than 450 affordable units are currently built as dictated by legislation. If Mr. Skinner chooses to use the Johns Hopkins Student housing (more than 500 units) as evidence of affordable housing, he should be reminded that during negotiations (in the mid-2000s) and written in the minutes of meetings with EBDI, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and SMEAC (Save Middle East Action Committee, Inc) it was clearly stated that student housing do not count as affordable housing. It is also written in the legislation stating that 1/3 affordable, 1/3 moderate income, and 1/3 market rate income housing, divided equally between rental and ownership units, should be built. While EBDI representatives at that time suggested that student housing should qualify as affordable housing, it was made clear that this was negotiating in bad faith and hypocritical to the intention of affordable housing for citizens of East Baltimore and beyond-another contradiction.

Chapel Green rental units in the foreground; behind from left to right parking garage, Johns Hopkins student housing; behind this is the Johns Hopkins BIotech building. In foreground on the right, homes previously occupied by residents remain standing next to the 7-acre park area. (1800 block E. Chase, and Wolfe St.)

Chapel Green rental units in the left foreground; behind from left to right parking garage, Johns Hopkins student housing; behind this is the Johns Hopkins Rangos Biotech building. In foreground on the right, homes previously occupied by residents remain standing next to the 7-acre park area. (1800 block E. Chase, and Wolfe St. in the 88-acre gentrification area of Bioscience Park at Johns Hopkins)

In late 1990s/early 2000s Portland Oregon’s HOPE VI project, low-income residents who returned to the mixed-income development had difficulty getting along with the new inhabitants. There was no trust between these two groups and the returning residents reported that the new moderate-income inhabitants, the owners, the landlords, and the housing managers discriminated against them in various ways. Here in the 88-acre gentrification project of Johns Hopkins University, some residents of the newly developed rental units of Chapel Green are reporting the same type of discrimination by housing management and new residents. They are being told not to barbecue in the back of their units, not to sit on the steps. This type of social engineering also occurred in Portland and resulted in distrust and lack of cohesion between the rich and poor residents, and the returning and new inhabitants. This mistrust escalated and resulted in a shooting. In light of this history of conflict in these types of redevelopment/gentrification projects, in 2010 it was proposed to the Annie E. Casey Foundation and EBDI that a truth and reconciliation process needed to occur to heal the past and current division between Johns Hopkins’s violence in Middle East Baltimore before a new cohesive community could be formed. These suggestions fell on deaf years. The vandalism and the continued contradictions foretell the future of this gentrifying area if such a process does not occur. There is healing that must occur and unless the powerful stakeholders address this contradiction in rhetoric and practice, no amount of social engineering will assure a peaceful community grows out of this legacy of structural violence: racism, classism.

Addressing the contradiction of how this 88-acre expansion of Johns Hopkins University/Medical Campus will benefit the local area is crucial. We can begin with: where are the jobs for local people? It is not sufficient to say that people do not qualify. If the project was ever intended to benefit local residents, this challenge to employment would have been part of the planning and implementation of redevelopment of the area and would have established a process to help residents qualify for upcoming jobs: drug rehabilitation, mental health services, job-readiness programs, GRE programs, credit history challenge. These and similar services would have started to address the inequitable conditions resulting from decades of disinvestment and exploitation by systems of public:private partnerships building their wealth in these very same communities. Such planning would have occurred well in advance of the forced displacement. Equitable planning would have included residents to advise what benefit for local residents and businesses actually look like; not just benefit for the powerful Johns Hopkins University and similar privileged brokers.

Crime continues in Middle East Baltimore, even though it has been re-branded with a name to silence the history of the 21st century “negro removal” that occurred. Shootings, by police and residents, drug dealing, squatting, all continue in the 88-acre area and the peripheral neighborhoods, and beyond. The acts of vandalism occurred while security guards on foot, on segways, and in cars patrolled the 88-acre area. Human walls, in the shape of security guards, have replaced cement walls of the past used by the Johns Hopkins University to “keep out its neighbors” but neither will address this history of systematic and structural violence perpetuated by the powerful people of the city and state of Maryland. This historical trauma lives in the minds, bodies, and spirits of residents of Middle East Baltimore, even with the re-branding. Johns Hopkins University continues to proclaim that it calls Middle East Baltimore its home. But that is rhetoric in light of the billions spent over the decades to consistently remove the people who inhabit Middle East Baltimore and replace them with a class and race of people whom it feels represents itself and of which it is not afraid. Our local media, fearful of the powerful giant and its friends, sings the praises of the university and report out untruths about their willingness to rehab houses for existing residents before displacement occurred. Or perhaps the local media prefers to do superficial research listening only to the ones who have the resources and access to resources. An appropriate summary of this type of media control is provided by the African Proverb: Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.


The university, and it public:private partnerships throughout the years have directly and indirectly participated in the disinvestment of Middle East Baltimore and much of East Baltimore. Instead of addressing this with transparency and accountability, it has chosen to push away the problem through displacement of residents, churches, and businesses. It guards itself with a security budget and force which has continuously grown. The solution is not policing, as is apparent with the killing of Freddie Gray and many more like him. During the Uprising in April 2015 the National Guard was circulating and protecting the Johns Hopkins Hospital, like the other places of power and wealth in the city. These places of power, knowing the truth of how they achieved their resources, fear when the people rise up to take back what was wrongfully taken.This may well be the faith of the Johns Hopkins Bioscience Park until a process of truth and reconciliation occurs. Continuing on this course of deepening the hole of structural and institutional racism and classism in the guise of gentrification and science will bring no resolution to our country’s and our city’s history and legacy of separate and unequal. And this way of rebuilding continues to provide examples for how the city distributes the taxes of its residents to developers like Johns Hopkins University, Sagamore Development (in proposing more than 660 million tax benefit for a white enclave of Port Covington), and Beatty Construction (building Harbor Point for the creative class and receiving millions in tax benefit). The trickle-down economics did not work when the city subsidized the Inner Harbor, the Charles Center, or Harbor Point. When you keep doing the same thing, how can you expect something different to result?

This continued path of uneven development has not benefited our most vulnerable citizens of Baltimore. Public parks, schools, recreation centers, food markets, housing and libraries in our most disenfranchised neighborhoods continue a path of disinvestment and deterioration. And the people inhabiting these places provide the evidence of this history of uneven development and investment: in substandard and unsafe housing, substandard education, decreased life expectancy, under employment, increased incarceration, overweight and obesity, stress, and chronic illnesses. When will this path of inequity end? What would Saint Mother Teresa say today to the growing inequality between the rich and the poor being socially engineered by Johns Hopkins University and the city of Baltimore in her neighborhood of Middle East Baltimore and beyond? We cannot allow this to continue Baltimore.

Saint Mother Teresa

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

A racial equity assessment is needed in Baltimore. Such an assessment would help to shape laws, fund equitable and sustainable development policies capable of being implemented and evaluated, direct appropriate use of tax dollars for disinvested communities and people, promote honest dialogue followed by transparency and accountability, and redistribute the wealth gained through exploitation of its most vulnerable citizens. This will begin a path toward equity: an honest and fearless path which meets the difficult history with a fresh plan and action for peaceful change.

*EBDI- East Baltimore Development Inc. the quasi public-private development entity created by then Mayor O”Malley to carry out the development. The board did not feel it necessary to have any residents from the impacted community on this board and was forced through protests to allow residents on the board. However decisions continued to be made by the powerful board members representing Johns Hopkins University, Annie E. Casey and other Foundations, and the Mayor’s office.
#Data suggest that the crimes reported by residents/businesses and collected by the Baltimore Police Department does not correlate with actual crime committed. Two of the three vandalism incidents noted were not reported to the police. After having my car broken into on the 2100 block of Madison recently, the police officer said I should not file a report, that it would take too much time and he would have to call another officer. He asked me “what would it do?”

Power corrupts and harms: Baltimore, policing violence, and its supporters

The recent report by the Department of Justice confirms what many already knew: the Baltimore Police Department uses its power to discriminate -in all aspects of law enforcement- against African Americans, cis- and trans-gendered women. The targeting for stopping and arresting was consistent and institutional. And the neighborhoods targeted were racially and economically profiled. Again, to be clear, none of this is new to most black folks in the city, or any other city in America. What is new to Baltimore is a history of accountability that will be public; if we decide to hold the process accountable. Because a public awareness of lack of accountability is our history and current practice. Black and brown folks have been requesting an investigation for years. It was the public display of protest after the murder of Freddie Gray while in custody of the police that finally led to an investigation of the department.

In light of the recent exposure of the secret surveillance of citizens by the Baltimore Police Department, and the vagueness and corruption of those involved -Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF), the mayor- not so sure that citizen protest is enough. The powerful forces that are leveraged against the black body is devastating and harmful to not just the body of those directly targeted, but the minds and bodies of every black and brown body. Every black and brown body is at risk when one body is at risk. When the lighting is low enough, when the police are in a hurry and angry/fearful enough, and when the vigilantes are feeling brave/fearful enough, every black and brown body is at risk. In some neighborhoods, it’s business as usual, as the DOJ report verifies. So what will we do to maintain a public scrutiny of the process of accountability by the police department?


Who do we trust?

Clearly the non-profit industrial complex has proved itself again to be bought by the rich evidenced by BCF’s receipt of private dollars to support surveillance of the public. But we should not hold them solely accountable. We must hold the entire non-profit industrial complex in our city accountable: the Casey foundation for their funding and collaboration of removal of more than 800 families in Middle East Baltimore for the Science and Technology Park at Johns Hopkins. The Abel Foundation for funding the initial plan, and the Weinberg and Goldseker Foundation and others for their continuous support of EBDI and New Forest City development of the Johns Hopkins Biopark.

These ways of building and rebuilding communities have lead to communities of fragmentation and disinvestment. Let’s stop letting the white and black and brown faces, paid by these same institutions which directly and indirectly support this uneven development, continue this history of exploitation. This continuous exploitation of neighborhoods of black and brown people-serial forced displacement- has set the path for police brutality. This disinvestment and continuous segregation while building the resources of those with power created neighborhoods of poverty and crime. Instead of investment of the wealth, accumulated off the backs of black and brown people, back into these communities they have been exiled and left to fend for themselves. The funding, when targeted to these communities, comes in the form of policing. So it’s no surprise that a wealthy couple in Texas, would pay for police surveillance of our communities and that a foundation would launder the monies for the police department.


How do we heal, stop the violence, and assure equity?

Where is the moral code of our city and its “leaders”? Tomorrow the Baltimore Action Legal Team and Baltimore Bloc will convene a meeting to hear what residents of Baltimore feel should be included in the response by the police department back to the DOJ. The city council will have a hearing to learn what the Police Department had in mind when deciding to initiate secret surveillance of the citizens of Baltimore. While BCF is not a public entity, it certainly should be questioned by the city council for enabling this type of secrecy which continues the exploitation of the poor and black and brown bodies. Every development which continues to marginalize and gentrify neighborhoods should be called to task for continuing to create neighborhoods of easy targets for police brutality. Gentrification creates neighborhoods of risk by segregating those already facing hardships: like paying more than 30% of income on housing cost, having a low income, having poor health, have decreased educational attainment, etc. It’s time to look at the root causes of police brutality, and not be content with the outcome of the DOJ report. A thorough analysis requires us to understand how historic and current disinvestment by the city and its wealthy “leaders” have created communities prone to violence. For example the current Port Covington development in south Baltimore which seeks more than 600 million in public subsidy continues this history of exploitation of our tax dollars. The city council should investigate the disproportionate growth of the wealthy and the poor in our city and redistribute this wealth. It should investigate and repair how the city has chosen to ignore this legacy of separate and unequal community building and instead continue on the same path. Anything else is just a continuation of the superficial attention to the history of how the powerful have used racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia to exploit a capitalist political economy. How many more reports of the outcomes of this history do we need to change? As long as our communities remain fragmented, and our culture of violence, punishment, and corruption (itself a form of structural violence) continues, we will continue to get the same results. When will we wake up and do something different so we can become healthy and whole, individually and as communities? Let’s demand that our political leaders hold government departments and their powerful cronies/supporters accountable. Enough is enough Baltimore, we must stop the violence!


Baltimore government must be accountable to the people of Baltimore, not the rich!

The time is now to act for change. The wealthy persist in owning government and most of us citizens are unaware of how this results in continued hyper-segregation and race and class inequities. Locally we have a billionaire (Kevin Plank of Sagamore LLC) asking the city, state, and federal government to subsidize and guarantee his wealth-building campaign that would continue to segregate our city- a development aimed at constructing 14,000 housing units and amenities for those making more than $100,000 per year, Port Covington. Nationally we see this trend in private ownership of government (neoliberalism) in the form of Republican’s nomination of Donald Trump for presidency of the United States of America. The behavior of both these career capitalists relies on government to support their asset-accumulating trajectory in development. And “we the people” vote for who will be the “government” choosing to subsidize the wealthy. So when government fails to be accountable to the people of the city we have no recourse but to challenge it. It’s important that we recognize that in ignoring our responsibility in monitoring government spending we are nodding our heads in the way they currently spend our tax dollars. I suppose if we are okay with such corporate-welfare activities, then we can vote for Trump and let our city government pay for the infrastructure that would allow Sagamore LLC to gain more wealth. We have a say in all this if we decide we want to change business as usual.
Table. GovtsubsidyBaltimoreTable.footer

Sagamore’s request for government funding toward the development of Port Covington will be before the sub-committee this week. Councilman Carl Stokes will Chair a hearing on City Council Ordinance #16-0669 – the Port Covington Development District on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 5 p.m. The televised hearing will be held in the War Memorial Assembly Hall 1 st floor, 101 N. Gay Street (Lexington Street Entrance). Come ask our city government to explain why continuing to fund segregated developments is a more equitable and sustainable path? How is this type of government subsidy for higher income, professional class, and majority white people in 2016 in a geographic region (redlining) any different from the FHA and VA loans to white people in the 1950s (redlining)? Show them the data and then ask how doing the same thing again and again will result in a different outcome. Ask them how these subsidies might be used to assure affordable housing is built and assure integration and not continued segregation, Ask them to do a racial, social, health, and environmental impact assessment/analysis before they vote on any amount of subsidies for this and any other development in our city.

On Tuesday July 26 join advocates at Red Emma’s to discuss strategies for the July 27 hearing and actions leading up to the city council vote, and after.

Contact your city council representative and president (Bernard Jack Young) to request that the date for the full council vote be delayed until the public is sufficiently knowledgeable about how government subsidies are being used for a hyper-segregated development. There should be a clear agreement on local hiring, living-wage compensation, small business entrepreneurship and micro-loans for small businesses, affordable housing (rental and ownership) and a range of amenities affordable to all. If our public dollars are subsidizing a private project then the public must advise and monitor the private project. Past development projects heavily subsidized by the government, such as the current Johns Hopkins/EBDI/Casey/Forest City in East Baltimore, promised affordable housing and local hiring. Fifteen years later neither city or state representatives of the area will respond to questions about the outcomes of these promises. Neither EBDI or the Annie E. Casey Foundation will respond to such questions. None of these parties who negotiated the development terms will assess the benefit to Hopkins and its powerful partners and the benefit to local residents. After development agreements are voted on by the government, in Baltimore city, there is no recourse to assure accountability and transparency of promised outcomes. Previously set for August 28 the city council meeting to vote on TIFs for Port Covington was moved up to August 8. Question: “why the rush”?

” My role has been to ask architects to use their skills to bring equity into society.”

While Dr. Mindy Fullilove is well known for her role in research on urban redevelopment and serial forced displacement and its public health impact, not many know of her role in the world of architecture. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Fullilove about her honorary membership award from the American Institute of Architecture (AIA). The question of “what does a social psychiatrist have to do with architecture” was on my mind at the award ceremony at the 2016 AIA convention in Philadelphia.

Mindy Fullilove: I was elected to AIA as a public director because of my research/publications and interest in public health and equity and society. After 3 years on the board I was nominated to be an honarary AIA. My role has been to ask architects to use their skills to bring equity into society.

Marisela B Gomez: Why are architects important for equitable and sustainable development?

MF: They are important because inequity has been designed into cities due to segregation and redlining. So everything is involved, infrastructure, landscape, land use …all involved in how people are knit together. Architects have skills in analyzing systems, thinking through how to solve spatial problems, are profoundly committed to ecology.

MBG: Why is ecology important for changing inequity?

MF: With inequity it’s impossible to create sustainability which is urgent. Inequity has organized the social landscape, implicates everything, all the systems. If we don’t understand how the ecosystems work, we make plans that undermine the functioning of the whole system.

MBG: Share with me how Redlining and segregation affected how people interacted with their environment, with the places they lived. And the role of architects in this

MF: Redlining is a policy instituted by the US government in the 1930s. It used race, racial exclusion clauses, and income to stratify neighborhoods then suggested that banks invest in the “best” places, and avoid the “worst” places. People acted in the same ways, and with the same assumptions about good and bad. This has meant that our environment has developed unevenly – some places have had the money and the “good” reputation to prosper, while others have suffered from lack of investment and the imposition of a “bad” reputation. We can walk around any American city and see this pattern. Architects have “participated” by not fighting this system and the inequity it creates. Civil rights leader Whitney Young told the AIA that they were “irrelevant” – and that remains all too true today.

MBG: As you move around the country talking about your books “Root Shock” and “Urban Alchemy” are you seeing any changes in the understanding and practice of ecology and development? If so can you share an example?

MF: My books challenge the ideas that places are interchangeable and disposable. The biggest impact this had had is to make people look at what they have and try to make it better. One of the people I interviewed for my book Root Shock is writing a forward for the second edition. He said that naming what had happened to him helped him to move forward emotionally and helped the neighborhood of the Hill District to fight to stay.

MBG: I noticed how many white people and men are present in this award ceremony. Besides you, there were two other persons who appeared to be black recipients, amongst the more than 40-individual and 25-firm. In my opinion part of changing the ecology of development toward sustainability will require including the people who bring a different experience-racially, class, etc- into the process. In your opinion is this important?

Award recipients at the AIA 2016 Conference.

Black Award recipients at the AIA 2016 Conference.(Left to right): Steven Lewis,, Dr. Mindy Fullilove,, Denise Everson,

MF: It’s very important to have many voices at the table. We each have a piece of the puzzle, so we can only solve it if we put our pieces together.

MBG: We just had the first verdict against one of the 6 police officers indicted in the death of Freddie Grey. He was found not guilty of all charges. Could you talk about how laws and policies enacted differently for white and black/brown communities is a legacy/outcome of inequitable community/neighborhood development?

MF: Inequity has been created and intensified by laws and policies, like segregation, redlining, urban renewal, planned shrinkage, deindustrialization, mass incarceration, and gentrification. Each of these policies has disrupted the political capital of minority and poor communities, making it harder for people to fight for equity. Inequity feeds inequity. What is essential for all people to understand is that inequity is a threat to health and to democracy. We are all implicated in the oppression of some.

Port Covington or Port Covet-a-ton

Wow, the drama of exploitation does not seem to end here in Baltimore. This most recent one shows billionaire developer Kevin Plank coveting-a-ton of our tax dollars in the guise of Port Covington. This time it’s 535 (or 660, the directors have not quite settled on a nice round figure yet) million dollars in tax increment financing (TIF) to develop a 7,500-unit housing complex, retail and office space. Wish as it may the city can’t afford to lavish such benefit on Mr. Plank-owner of Under Armour-, whose wealth accumulation is championed by Sagamore Development in this drama. So the state has stepped up to accommodate his continued accumulation of asset, by guaranteeing the bonds on the backs of the people. Oh yes, and exempting him from city law requiring affordable housing. Port Covet-a-ton

Never mind we’re still recovering from the exploitive drama (in laywoman’s term, recent injustice) that occurred in 2013 in and outside of city hall when City Council member Carl Stoke’s Taxation and Finance Committee attempted to stop this coveting-of-a ton by millionaire, Michael Beatty. But the committee’s hearing and decision was usurped by private dollars and government cronies to grant Mr. Beatty subsidies for his Harbor Point Development. This one granted subsidies in the amount of 120 million dollars. Harbor PointIt followed on the heals of Paterakis’s development in Harbor East, also heavily subsidized (with TIFs and PILOTs) by the government. This continued ‘theater of exploitation’ (in layman’s term, neoliberalization- or letting the market determine what’s best for the citizens- of urban spaces) of Baltimore by private developer’s greed for wealth accumulation, whether in the form of universities-Johns Hopkins – or individuals, seems unstoppable. Harbor East

Our destiny?

Many thought this macabre theater would end with the killing of Freddie Gray and the uprising by Baltimore citizens calling for an end to the roots of systemic racism and systematic economic exploitation-uneven development. But the wheels of capitalism, set in motion the development of Baltimore, and didn’t ever decide that black and poor lives matter. So while lip service about acknowledging the history of disinvestment of the poor and wealth accumulation of the rich trended for a moment, the movement from above continued. This is the movement of continued exploitation-carried out by public and private partnerships.

This has been the pattern with development in our city: inequitable and unsustainable. In the 1960s when the the city exempted developer’s of the Charles Center and Inner Harbor from a competitive bidding process amidst black residents protesting their lack of black employees, the justification was that it would serve the public. Charles CenterIn the 1950s the city and state granted subsidies to Johns Hopkins university and hospital for expansion into 59 acres in East Baltimore, displacing more than 1000 mostly black families. It served itself while the surrounding community continued on a road of poverty and neglect.

But large scale uneven development seems to have been put on fast forward starting in 2002 when the Johns Hopkins university and hospital targeted another 88-acres in Middle East Baltimore for a Science and Technology Park. The city, state, and federal government again stepped in to assist this private developer with bonds, subsidies, and grants, using eminent domain to uproot another 700 black families and acquire the land. Like Port Covet-a-ton, Hopkins’ expansion also announced it would benefit the public, with jobs and affordable housing. Fifteen years later, and in light of legislation demanding 1/3 affordable housing (both rental and ownership), no affordable ownership housing has been built. Instead, luxury townhomes for upward of $250,000 will be constructed next and more government subsidy was recently granted for building out a pizza restaurant in the first floor of Johns Hopkins student housing-(you ask, is this theatre or reality?)2016 Hopkins

This may all seem like a really bad mafia movie, one in which greed, wealth, and corruption rules the land in the form of a development gang gone awry (Mad Max gone corporate? comes to mind) and the poor remain hidden in bombed-out spaces, disinvested by the state. Unfortunately it is not a bad drama, or temporary theater of the macabre. It is life in Baltimore.Mad Max

What to do?

Well we voted a couple weeks ago, but for whom? Some changes on the city council and we’ll wait and see if they have any substantial action to support the words that got them into office. It looks like a new democratic mayor will be voted in in the fall, what will she do? In light of the lack of support by the city council for more equal sharing of economic power between the executive and legislative branch, it’s not clear that much will change with this new mayor. It’s like holding tickets for a show that had good and bad reviews: will we be happy with the performances?

We have been waiting on government for too long, even as they continuously neglect the most vulnerable amongst us, in favor of the rich. The surest path seems to be in our own two hands. When we organize and demand change and accountability and transparency to the people, when we protest and have sit-ins, when we “shut things down” we send a message: enough is enough. All that’s good but something is even more near, something we can do to send a strong message to Mr. Plank’s new Port Covet-a-ton deal before the city and state. Each of you advocating for change, send him a polite and personal message: ask him how much wealth is enough; AND stop wearing Under Armour clothing and buying the paraphernalia that sends the message that you support his continued exploitation of our city dollars.That’s right, boycott with your money and insist that the exploitation of the vulnerable and growing gap between the rich and the poor will not happen on our watch. Those of you who are U of Maryland-College Park student/staff/faculty and alumni (Mr. Plank’s alma mater) ask the university why someone who is willing to exploit our state and city would be invited to address graduating students at a commencement ceremony. And do smile as you stand up for justice!

Draft of a letter to Mr. Plank:

Kevin Plank
Sagamore Develoment
1000 E. Key Highway
Baltimore, MD 21230

Dear Mr. Plank,

We are happy that your headquarters for Under Armour is in Baltimore. We hope that your assets are sufficient to comfortably take care of your family and friends. In an attempt to prevent continued exploitation of our public assets, we politely request that you reconsider demanding such large tax breaks from our city. As you are aware, such public subsidies exploit the citizens of Baltimore by re-directing the funds that could serve our most vulnerable communities and widens the gap between the rich and the poor. Addressing the legacy of uneven development requires that we reconsider “business as usual” which grants the rich access to continued wealth accumulation while the needs of the less well-off are ignored. Growing the city toward sustainability and equity will assure everyone benefits, not just a few.


Your Charm City sister/brother

Promise and Disappointment: Baltimore one year after the Uprising

See the original blog at Versobooks here

“All to say, last year’s uprising has created this space for my family to have this conversation. albeit painful, it’s also provided us with the choice to grow from these experiences that go way back beyond the uprising.” Daughter of a storeowner in West Baltimore, April 2016

From a meeting of Baltimore activists during the week of the curfew.

From a meeting of Baltimore activists during the week of the curfew.

It’s been one year since the uprising in Baltimore that followed the arrest, murder, and funeral of Freddie Gray. Mr. Gray died in police custody after a rough arrest and “rough ride”. It’s not the first time a rough ride — in which police leave a handcuffed or footcuffed person deliberately unsecured in the van, resulting in uncontrolled movement and potential injury — has accounted for the injury and death of a black man in Baltimore police custody. Following his arrest on April 12, 2015 and his death on April 19, peaceful protests occurred. After his funeral on April 27, residents of Sandtown-Winchester — Mr. Gray’s community — and others in West Baltimore affected by police brutality rose up in protest. Some protestors became violent, throwing bricks at windows, looting, and setting fire to property. The National Guard was called in, the city was placed under curfew, and tanks rolled around as if it was a war zone.

The tanks in Middle East Baltimore added to existing perceptions about the abandoned and boarded houses and businesses, the trash on the street and in the lots, the desolate look and feel at nighttime: “it’s like Beirut here.” After real estate segregation (both legal and illegal), redlining, deindustrialization, urban renewal, mass incarceration, and gentrification, Middle East Baltimore and other black sections of the city have been subject to disinvestment and left to survive on their own. While nearby universities and private institutions have exploited these same communities with the support of public dollars and public policy.

In the weeks following the night of violence, thousands rallied across the city to protest the legacy of this history. This uprising, and the eyes it focused on the death of yet another black body at the hands of the criminal justice system, brought attention to this long record of segregation and abandonment.

Many have compared it to the 1968 riots that followed Dr. King’s assassination, in which hundreds of businesses across the entire city were vandalized or looted to the tune of approximately $9 million. The people in power were afraid. The National Guard and state sheriffs patrolled the places in which wealth was concentrated or accumulated: Harbor East, Inner Harbor, Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, and the like. Those who sent them there feared that their holdings would be the next target if people felt compelled to correct years of unequal distribution of government favors. The anger of a few had overflowed after years of suppression and repeated injury, disrespect and neglect, and false promises. Indeed, rioting is the voice of those who have not been not listened to.

Like mosquitoes on horse dung, the media — local, national, and international — devoured the sensation of the unrest. Baltimore made news in Jamaica, Canada, Poland, China, Russia, Brazil, the UK, Australia, etc. We were world-famous, we were trending. One year later, what has changed? Did the government address the deeper causes underlying the unrest? That is: mass unemployment, underfunded schools, shuttered recreation centers, poor and inaccessible health care, “affordable housing” filled with rats, mold, and lead managed by slum landlords and speculators — unmonitored and un-reprimanded by government — food deserts, deteriorated infrastructure. Have any substantial changes been made to a criminal justice system that brings injury and death, repeatedly and disproportionately, to black bodies, like Mr. Gray? How have different communities in Baltimore contributed to the process of enacting necessary change at the local level since the killing of Mr. Gray?

Over the past 2 weeks, I spoke with thirty-six different people from various spaces and sectors in Baltimore, and asked: what sticks out to you since the uprising last year? Responses came from organizers on the ground, activists with and without non-profit organizations, academics, students, and residents in working-class black communities like Mr. Gray’s Sandtown-Winchester on the west side, and Middle East Baltimore and McElderry Park on the east side. 78 percent of responders were people of color, 58 percent male.

National Guard posted at Mondawmin Mall

National Guard posted at Mondawmin Mall


The overwhelming response from people in neglected neighborhoods (and from those who live elsewhere when asked about these neighborhoods), was that there has been little or no change. Some felt things were worse in these neighborhoods in regard to policing and drug trafficking and -use, unemployment, available stores, and safety:

Nothing changed, worse than before. The violence, the separation, people have become more selfish.

Worse, shooting still going on, problem in house, in the neighborhood, if you know what I mean…things happening right next door and nobody talking.

A shop owner in Sandtown-Winchester responded: “no change, drugs still here…some more foot patrol, since the CVS reopened.” We wondered together why the foot patrol started only after the CVS was reopened: “Who is being protected, corporations or residents”?

read more here