Why social justice and trauma-informed education is necessary in East Baltimore schools and beyond

The recent Baltimore Sun investigative series on the consistent segregation in our school systems, in Baltimore and beyond, has been another wake-up call, to some. Focusing in on the investigation into the new Henderson-Hopkins contract school in East Baltimore and why trauma-informed education along with education about the history of injustice in the neighborhood and beyond is my objective in this piece.

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Block of homes demolished to make room for the Henderson-Hopkins School

Per the Sun’s article, Johns Hopkins University in the guise of the East Baltimore Development Inc. and its partners Annie E. Casey Foundation and the city and state, bought out the residents living in the homes that occupied the space of the current school and the growing Hopkins Biotech Park-88 acres known as Middle East Baltimore. Also true is the violation of residents’ human right to keep their land by forcing them to move through this massive public:private development similar to urban removal, this time using eminent domain*. This trauma is part of the foundation of the Henderson:Hopkins school: the physical, emotional, and spiritual foundation of injustice that has yet to be acknowledged, repaired, and healed. The current fair market value paid for residents’ homes came only after residents organized through Save Middle East Action Committee, Inc (SMEAC) and fought for this change. The initial price Hopkins and its partners offered residents for the land that would bring them much profit and prestige was the 1970’s value. This history of disrespect and disregard continues to have profound effects; it’s a continuation of the trauma brought about by gentrification, serial forced displacement* and community fragmentation of African-American people. And this injustice and resultant trauma affects a child’s ability to learn. This history of expulsion and dispossession has yet to be repaired. The children attending Henderson:Hopkins school bring this trauma and therefore healing of this must be a priority. They embody the continuation of the injustice and structural violence enacted on their parents, grandparents, and ancestors, and their land. The cost of a healing education for historic East Baltimore children will be high and requires the officials of the school to invest the dollars and resources necessary to assure that they are ready to learn-the teaching must be trauma-informed* and social justice-informed. But the government benefits received by the Johns Hopkins Biotech and Gentrification Park has been tremendous so translating these government subsidies into public benefit should be an expectation of Baltimore citizens. If not this project is just another neoliberal gentrification project expanding the gap between the rich university and the surrounding poor community.

For the past two years residents’ whose children and grand children attend the school have been complaining about the lack of interest in the needs of their children. One grandparent said she has been sending her child to school with her own toilet paper, a requirement by the school. Not only has the school been under-resourced, but this lack of adequate resources to address the great need of these students have been short-sighted. Adequate resources also include teachers ready and willing to care from a trauma-informed lens when educating children with generational/historical trauma*. If this school intended to benefit the children of the neighborhood, this needed to be part of the design of the educational curriculum and care. While it’s easy to blame the failure of academic performance on ‘concentrated poverty’ and suggest that the only way to educate children coming from homes of poverty and racial minority groups is to integrate the schools, a deeper and more truthful discourse is missing. What would be a more truthful discourse addressing the source of the history of racial, social, and economic injustice is to understand that the entire development of the 88-acre was never intended to benefit the existing residents. It was intended to move the existing residents away and expand the Johns Hopkins University. After organized and systematic protest and struggle to be treated fairly by residents, churches and businesses forced to leave, the ‘leaders’ of Henderson-Hopkins were forced to show how the development would benefit the community. Of course the 2005 supreme court ruling that eminent domain used by private developers must show real public benefit changed the original game of the ‘leaders’ of Hopkins’ expansion plan. Now they could be taken to court if there was not some public benefit from the taking of the homes of East Baltimore residents-and this may still happen if the public benefit promised does not materialize, ie. the 8000 jobs promised, affordable homes and amenities. When residents raised their voices about the school being exclusionary, and quoted the supreme courts’ ruling on the use of eminent domain, the ‘leaders’ of the school had to take note and include more local residents than previously planned. But also important is to recognize that the project has not taken off and new residents are not flocking to the development, even with the re-branding of the area and promotion of a new school. What must be discussed is the displacement of the challenges that were present in the 88-acre, to the neighborhoods just adjacent and the continued crime, substance use and sale, and disinvestment impacting these peripheral neighborhoods.The developments’ security guards now patrol on foot around the 88-acre area, a human wall attempting to keep the crime out, and the neighbors. The development has not benefitted historic residents, simply displaced the ‘problem’ to rehab and re-outfit the place with a more ‘acceptable’ race and class of people: one perceived more worthy of occupying the land. The community meetings held by EBDI provide no real opportunity for input by historic residents. Information promised, like the results of the recent survey on historic residents’ ‘right of return’-conducted by Annie E. Casey and consultants- that they filled out are asked for at each meeting and the response is the same: ‘next meeting’.

While studies show that children learn better in racially and socioeconomically diverse spaces, they also show that the environment that they come from determine if they will succeed in school. Studies also show that not only is the environment a determinant of educational outcome, but the environment of the mother also determines if a child will be successful in school. So to think that integrating Henderson-Hopkins school with children of Hopkins employees and students will bring their academic outcomes on par with their white and middle-class school mates is a superficial band-aid to the history of separate and unequal policies and structures. Because until we begin educating about the de jure segregation that exists in and in the surrounding neighborhoods of the 88-acre Johns Hopkins Biotech Park, we still are not educating all children from a place of truth and equity. The curriculum at Henderson-Hopkins certainly is not teaching them about the history of de jure segregation and why they are part of a history of serial forced displacement.

Serial Forced Displacement in the African American Community. Courtesy of Dr. Mindy Fullilove

Serial Forced Displacement in the African American Community. Courtesy of Dr. Mindy Fullilove

For this school to benefit historic residents in the short and long-term, it must address the generational trauma caused by social, economic, and racial injustice. Along with adverse childhood experiences* that many children growing up in situations of poverty experience, these obstacles to learning require an educational setting focused on these traumas. Trauma-informed education is not new. It’s been around for several years, informed by studies that show the benefit. Several states have mandated trauma informed education and include training of teachers in instructing and preventing negative outcomes of traumatized children, screening for trauma at schools, etc; examples are Oregon, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri, Washington, Wisconsin. This is what we need in Henderson-Hopkins school for the school to attend to the needs of its residents and assure success. Doing so will unlock the true potential of every child entering the doors of the school and not only seek to bring black and brown children of poverty to ‘perform’ similar to children of means. The leaders of a school developed by taking of the land of people in Middle East Baltimore should aspire to offer benefit to the same people of this community. In order to do so it must teach to the needs of the community, not the myth of white supremacy.  Anything else is another deceit of the intention of the eminent domain policy of ‘public benefit’ and continues the history and trauma of serial forced displacement in Baltimore and beyond.

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*Terms

Adverse childhood experiences – stressful or traumatic events in childhood that are associated with health and social problems as an adult; include but not limited to Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, Emotional abuse, Physical neglect, Emotional neglect, Mother treated violently, Substance misuse within household, Household mental illness, Parental separation or divorce, Incarcerated household member

Serial forced displacement – repetitive, coercive upheaval of groups

Historical/generational trauma – the cumulative or multigenerational emotional and psychological wounding of an individual, generation, or cultural group caused by a traumatic experience or event.

Trauma-informed care – education and care based on the four “R’s,” – realization, recognition, response and resisting re-traumatization

Eminent domain – power of the government to take private property for public use

http://www.loringcornish.com/home

http://www.loringcornish.com/home

 

Rebuilding East Baltimore: “taking too much”, segregating, and policing

For more than 80 years, as the neighborhoods surrounding the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution in East Baltimore campus changed from white to majority black, the institution has segregated itself, first with walls and then increasing security and off-duty police, and now a K-9 unit. They fear their neighbors and build greater measures to secure themselves from their neighbors. In the 1950s, after displacement of 1000 families and taking the 59 acres they occupied, the institution built physical walls to keep residents out of their newly constructed housing- their “compound”. Displaced residents would have to walk around this compound to get to their destination, previously accessible.

Not unlike the planned exploitation of land for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), the university has taken land and displaced its neighbors in small (one house at a time) and large ways (more than 1000 families at a time), mostly black and low income residents. During the current ceremony to protect the land and water by indigenous peoples and other water protectors at Standing Rock, the emphasis of white colonialism and its greed to take only for itself was emphasized as the way America began and continues:

“The Lakota word for “white man” is Wasi’chu (Wa SHE choo). Wasi’chu means literally, “takes too much.” …[The story goes, at] a time when the Europeans arrived, a starving immigrant showed up in a Lakota camp. Nutrient rich tallow fat from the sacred buffalo was drying on racks in the sun. Without asking, the man seized and consumed all the tallow that he saw hanging there. “He didn’t leave any for anyone else. The Lakota had never observed that behavior before.” So the Lakota word for “white man” describes this takes-too-much behavior and attitude–a manifestation of his thought process–not his skin color. The term Wasi’chu applies to any non-native.

The “takes too much” behavior of the Wasi’chu encapsulates metaphorically what the Standing Rock movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is about. As the indigenous peoples of North America come together and pray–creating an historic movement to prevent Wasi’chu’s latest desecration of nature–they illuminate a profound difference between the everyday holistic consciousness that has guided indigenous peoples since Paleolithic times, and the everyday aggressively anthropocentric (human-centered) consciousness that has led to our contemporary world.” (Contemplative Alliance)

This “takes too much” attitude and practice is alive and well in the contemporary leadership of East Baltimore and Baltimore city’s largest employer: The Johns Hopkins Medical institutions. It’s the basis of how rebuilding of the community has occurred for the past 80 years. Similar to the way the DAPL planned its route through indigenous peoples’ land without consulting with them, the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions planned its recent 88-acre Bioscience Park without consultation with the neighbors who would be displaced to make room for the development. After acquiring the land and demolishing buildings through the support of government, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and its proxy East Baltimore Development Inc (EBDI), the shiny new buildings and facilities are slowly being erected- two new biotech buildings, a bioethic institute, a new school, a new hotel, a 7-acre park, luxury and moderate-income ownership housing, and moderate and low-income rental housing.

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While the institution expands itself and markets to a different race and class, it ignores the challenges of the historic residents it displaced. The drug dealing, crime, and outcome of decades of abandonment and disenfranchisement were displaced to other neighborhoods. But crime does not stay confined to areas of poverty, crime spreads to areas of resources. And it is spreading into the campuses of Johns Hopkins University and hospital. Instead of digging in and understanding the root cause of the crime-structural inequities- the university again chooses to build greater walls, through increased security. This is reflected in the following excerpt from Johns Hopkins Medicine, Corporate Security, (November 30 2016) in regard patrol strategy, partnership with the Baltimore police department, and security technology:

  • Patrol Strategy

“Our Corporate Security team maintains a robust patrol presence on and in areas immediately adjacent to our campuses. We are continually adjusting our security resources on and around our campuses to best mitigate crime and enhance visibility by increasing our mobile, bike and foot patrols. Over the past year on the East Baltimore campus, Corporate Security has significantly enhanced security coverage with additional protective services officers, who are now posted in the commercial area expansion to the north, with two additional mobile patrols and the assignment of off-duty Baltimore police officers. A new canine program will launch in mid-December. This team of specially trained dogs and their handlers from Corporate Security’s special response unit will patrol parking garages, hospital corridors, the Emergency Departments and other locations throughout the East Baltimore campus to help prevent and defuse volatile confrontations, and to detect explosives. The dogs will also be on call to bolster security at other Johns Hopkins campuses should the need arise. On the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, Corporate Security has increased patrols on the southeast side adjacent to the residential community where many of our staff members live. Mobile patrols are focused on monitoring staff and community members as they enter and exit the campus.”

  • Partnership with the Baltimore Police Department

“A key partner in our security response is the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). Corporate Security has always had strong relationships with the BPD, including the leadership of the eastern and southeastern districts, where our East Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Bayview campuses are located, and street patrol officers. The BPD and Corporate Security share information and support each other’s work daily, a collaboration that, again, helps in our response as incidents occur. In addition, Johns Hopkins University faculty members are partnering with BPD on the Collaborative for Violence Reduction, a research and practical application initiative informed by the best scientific evidence, by marshalling our academic expertise in public safety, violence prevention and gun control.”

  • Security Technology

“Corporate Security has more than 250 close -circuit television (CCTV) cameras  around  the exterior of the East Baltimore campus. A little over 1,200 cameras in total cover the entire campus (internal and external) of approximately 9.5 million square feet (not including seven garages). The cameras report back to a state-of-the-art communications center. On the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, Corporate Security has increased our CCTV capabilities to provide video coverage to monitor pedestrian traffic in and out of the adjacent neighborhood and along the public properties that traverse the campus.”

The challenges of East Baltimore are indeed the problems of every one of us who live, work, study, pray, and play in the city of Baltimore. People, and the institutions and systems and structures created by the people, whose value is “taking too much” and “leaving too little” for others, have created the problems we now face in our most disenfranchised and abandoned communities. This value of forging forward while others next door to you are left behind, this rugged individualism is American, white American to be more specific. One can see the jarring result of such individualism in places like East Baltimore where the socioeconomic gap between two geographic neighbors have continued to grow over the years, reflected by the expansion of the institution from one square block to more than seven; and the displacement of historic residents and acquisition of their homes to accommodate these takings. In order to address the root causes we must individually and collectively be willing to identify our role in the cause and our role in the solution. We must acknowledge the structural and individual racism and classism that has built and rebuilt communities of poverty, crime, and drug addiction, diminished life-expectancy, diminished health, diminished housing, education, nutrition, recreation, and transportation. The “taking too much” practice has “left too little” in our communities of color and low income. The resulting crime is a problem of inequity; the greater the inequity the greater the violence.

community-benefit-table

But crime is a problem not only for those behind highly secured spaces like the Johns Hopkins campuses. It is a problem in the same communities that these institutions continue to segregate. And crime is an assault on our freedom and health for those inside these highly secured spaces, and outside. The institution boasts of the number of people it employs and its billion-dollar industry in the state. It publishes regular reports on its community engagement again boasting about its role in being a ‘good’ neighbor, providing economic and social inclusion, etc etc. But what it has not boasted about, in the past or recently, is its perception of the community in which the East Baltimore campus resides and its lack of innovative participation in addressing the decades of disinvestment and exploitation-by itself and the city. It, along with universities nationwide, have attached themselves to the service-learning model of community outreach. This model boasts about the countless hours that students provide to community projects but fails to address the lack of cultural competence, and the colonizing and white supremacist attitudes carried by many of the students who are thrusted upon marginalized communities. These are the same communities that the institution fears, segregates itself from, and demonizes with a police presence.

Race and class segregation has resulted in separate and unequal communities like Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and its neighbors. It has resulted in the increased wealth of the campus and increased poverty of the communities surrounding it through physical expansion of one group and physical removal of another. This continued serial forced displacement of the vulnerable and marginalized communities of low income and color, and its legacy must be addressed to expose the root causes so as to develop effective solutions. Solutions will not come from researchers developing methods unilaterally without advice from those impacted. We must be willing to engage across differences, welcome in discomfort and unfamiliarity of each other, listen to each others stories. Only then can we begin to understand what each other think and why. With these new understanding we can move toward changing our perceptions and heal the wounds of separation and fear and move toward greater understanding and community-informed solutions. Hiding behind guns, walls, cameras, and dogs simply hides the problem and prolongs the trauma and violence of inequity. Many community members fear the institution, this “plantation” presence in their community with so much power to determine whether they will be able to stay in their homes. This is a basic fear for the right to shelter and all that is attached to the human right to housing and health.

Those with power must acknowledge how their power came to be and be humble and wise enough to finally repair the violence enacted by “taking too much”: this has and continues to be a crime against humanity. This requires a recognition that  power enlivened by greed, hatred, and delusion is an abuse of privilege and is oppressive to people everywhere. Those without must challenge the powerful to live into their humanity at the same time living into their own power. Out of this awakening a new value of “taking less and leaving more” must arise and for this to happen, no one can stand aside anymore.

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.

crime-baltimoremideast

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?

CahalPech

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.

ducks

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!

butterfly

Rebuilding Baltimore: How will we acknowledge and repair our history?

Today I was part of a panel discussion on the role of reparations in rebuilding communities (Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM); specifically Baltimore’s historic and currently dis-invested communities of color. There was a lot of wisdom on the panel, various suggestions. We acknowledged the historic structural racism that led to building chronic disinvested communities in many parts of Baltimore today. These are communities chronically disinvested in education, workforce development, social skills, transportation, health access, housing, recreation, and other core building blocks of healthy and thriving communities. Our conversation identified common threads which were consensual and built on each other. In summary we agreed that the 700 million Governor Hogan announced for demolition of vacant houses in historically abandoned communities should be:

1. secured and committed to this effort
2. used in accordance with a plan by impacted communities
3. used to rebuild Baltimore for existing residents and not only for the 10,000 being enticed to move here
4. used to create co-operatives and entrepeneural opportunities for impacted communities
5. distributed into organizations and projects working in cooperative and solidarity economics and worker-owned, and not the same neo-liberal non-profits who fill their pockets with dollars intended for impacted communities
6. used to build infrastructure to help communities organize themselves to be decision-makers
7. used to create opportunities to address the current social and health needs of impacted communities, instead of displacing these needs into other neighborhoods
8. used to build affordable housing for existing residents and new working class and middle class residents
9. used to create jobs for impacted communities, specifically for returning citizens, hire locally
10. used to ensure the people involved in rebuilding Baltimore are coming from a place of love to build a beloved revolution in our communities that would benefit all

Nothing here is new or unique to rebuilding communities. However, as a collective, such strategies would be new to Baltimore and acknowledge and begin to repair its history of race and class-based injustices. There has been one or two of these strategies used in past rebuilding efforts. But as a whole, a rebuilding plan incorporating such strategies would be revolutionary. In Race, Class, Power and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America, the last chapter provides a similar framework for rebuilding abandoned communities. The lessons came from the experience of a 2001 top-down, displacement-driven gentrification plan to accommodate the power of Johns Hopkins Medical complex in East Baltimore. This was a repetition of a similar plan in the 1950’s (Broadway Development Plan), the “highway to no-where” in 1970’s. There have been other urban renewal and “negro removal” strategies-serial forced displacement- since the early 1900’s in Baltimore and beyond. We know how to build inequitable communities.

Now, can we move in a direction of equitable community building? Can we get it right this time? Can we also come from a place of truth and acknowledge how white determination and superiority have dictated all aspects of community building? This truth drives and is embedded in how we have built and rebuilt communities of color, and white communities. This acknowledgement can begin the process of healing as we understand why we must take care to assure equity exists in process and outcome as we repair and rebuild impacted communities. For example, can we build on the model of the Gay Street 1 rebuilding project of the 1960’s in East Baltimore? In this majority African American and low income community, residents were surveyed for what they would like to see, housing was built to accommodate existing residents before their existing houses were demolished, residents organized and managed one of the housing developments (still standing today), residents planned for their high school. The parts missing from this community-driven plan was a robust social program and employment strategies for building employment training and opportunities. Ms. Lucille Gorham was a key community organizer and self-made planner for the community at that time. In later years she said she didn’t understand why vocational training schools was not incorporated in rebuilding communities: “not everyone wants to go to college”; and why social programs such as trash prevention and removal and housing rehabilitation and penalty to slumlords were not incorporated into these efforts. She saw these as basic rebuilding strategies for all communities. What was also missing was the competition from the powerful stakeholder of Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, encroaching on the land for gentrification. This allowed the city government to serve the needs of the public, and not the private giant. It was also a time of civil unrest after Dr. King’s assassination and the truth of racial injustice was glaring across the news and hearts of America. No doubt it affected government’s support of an African American-community-driven rebuilding plan. But what continued in community rebuilding in East Baltimore and elsewhere after the redevelopment was completed, was the same perceived superiority of white people and the inferiority of black-skinned people and the necessary segregation that this required. This truth was not acknowledged then, during the repair of the Gay Street 1 neighborhood. So the aftermath would naturally continue in line with inferior services and disinvestment in this majority African American community, with superior services provided in majority white communities.

We know what works and what doesn’t work to build equitable communities and inequitable communities. We first have to decide which we want to build. Let’s get it right this time and rebuild, repair, our Baltimore toward equity and sustainability! There are many issue-focused organizations on the ground already organizing toward equity: around community land trusts, affordable housing, living-wage, anti-grentrification, public housing, accessible health care, emotional healing/emancipation, transforming racism, transforming systemic police brutality, building worker-owned cooperatives, felony/returning citizen rights, environmental justice, mindfulness and social justice, arts and activism, and others. When we affirm the intersectionality of these issues and recognize how they all address building equitable and sustainable communities, we have the tools for transforming our communities. Can we find the space to see the interbeing nature of our struggles and connect across perceived boundaries? Acknowledging our historic struggle to address the human nature to hold one group superior to another, can begin to repair not only racial oppression. It will help us to dig out the root of the interconnection of all oppressions, our path to healing and liberating ourselves and our communities. Let’s rebuild Baltimore in a true and right way.

Two upcoming forums to continue this Beloved Revolution!

Community + Land + Trust: Tools For Development without Displacement
Thursday, January 28, 2016 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
UMD School of Social Work Auditorium
525 W Redwood St. Baltimore 21201
Questions? Contact and Rachel@unitedworkers.org

WORKER COOPERATIVE JUMPSTART
A One-Day Training to Help You & Your Community Start a Worker-Owned Cooperative Business or Convert an Existing Business into a Democratic Workplace!
Where: IMPACT HUB* 10 E. NORTH Ave
When: SATURDAY JANUARY 30 10AM — 5PM
RSVP: contact
SLIDING SCALE $1 — $25

Policing: Social, political, economic violence

Policing as a means to serve and protect the public without discrimination and guarantee “equal protection under the law” came into effect in the US when the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted in 1868.1 Previous to that policing was motivated by racial superiority, white supremacy, and racism during times of enslavement, to control the enslaved.2,3 Since then policing has been promoted as the means to serve and protect the public mediated by peace officers or police officers. In the 1980’s and 1990’s crime and police misconduct and corruption increased prompting research into the reasons people will follow the law.4 Studies suggested that only when they feel police officers are acting with legitimate authority conferred in procedurally just ways will people follow law enforcement.4 Procedurally just ways are described as: treating people with dignity, giving individuals “voice” during encounters, being neutral and transparent in decision making, conveying trustworthy motives.5

Policing in the US shows none of these characteristics in regard the increased shooting and killing of black and brown people. A recent survey in 2014 reported that non-whites are less likely to feel that the police protect and serve them, not acting in line with procedurally just ways.6 These perceptions came during a period of increasing scrutiny of policing in the United States after several fatal incidents. The incidents occurred over a 9-month period, of police violence resulting in the death of black men in Ferguson Missouri, Staten Island, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, and North Charleston, South Carolina .7 Since then, Baltimore Maryland , Chicago, Illinois and others ware added to this list. This is the short list, the one we are most familiar with and does not include all the other incidents of police violence not made public. A current example of this is the police shooting of 17 year old Laquan McDonald in Chicago. The video of his killing by a white police officer shooting him 16 times was intentionally kept from the public. This type of corruption does not support “acting in line with procedurally just ways”. The personal violence is clear in this video and confirms the fear that most black and brown people in America have in interactions with police officers.

Police officers and the departments which support them can be perceived as a means of collective violence targeted against dark-skinned individuals and communities. The World Health Organization defines violence as “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation”. The type of violence is characterized by the person or group committing the violent act and include self-directed, interpersonal (violence committed by an individual or small group of individuals) and collective violence.8,9 The act of neglect is also included as a violent act when assessed from the role of power and intention of the perpetuator.9 WHO defines violence as it relates to the health and wellbeing of individual -and subsequently communities as individuals congregate to form communities. As a part of law enforcement agencies police officers are empowered by government and political bodies to act for the safety and security of all individuals and institutions. When such collectives perpetuate violence, targeted against one group of individuals, this is categorized as social violence by WHO’s classification system (Collective violence is further categorized as social, political and economic according to the motivation behind the collectives’ intention). Collective violence, in this case the police system, can be motivated and affected by one or all three of these factors simultaneously.

Racial profiling is an example of an institutionalized mediated social agenda which when incorporated into policing results in disproportionate harassment, arrest, imprisonment and death of non-white populations.10 Current trends in police arrests and incarceration confirm the continued racial profiling and targeting embedded in policing in the US.11,12 In 2010, black and Hispanic men were six and three times as likely, respectively, as white men to be incarcerated in federal, state and local jails, a gap larger than past decades and correlating with an increased gap in median household income and wealth between blacks and whites.13 Between 1980 and 2010 black males without high school diplomas were more likely to be in jail than those with high school diplomas, both groups more likely to be institutionalized than white males, with or without a high school diploma.22 Black men were more likely to be institutionalized than employed, significantly greater between the ages of 20-29 years.14 A recent report concluded that the excess deaths in black versus white men ages 15-34 years between 1960 and 2010 due to legal intervention is both longstanding and modifiable, regardless of income.15 This data supports previous studies showing deaths by legal intervention greater in black (63%) versus white (34%) men between 1979 and 1997.16

Political violence evidenced in neoliberal strategies of policing is well documented as the “War on Drugs”, affecting urban areas locally and globally.17,18,19,20 In the US, these policies were initially enacted in the 1970s and revived in the 1980s.21 The policies to enact the War on Drugs resulted in increased funding for personnel and subsequent increased arrests for drug charges: drug arrests increased from 7.4% of all arrests in 1987 to 13% in 2007, the greatest increase seen in marijuana arrests.22 A specific policy of the War on Drugs, Zero Tolerance, aimed at protecting the public space, was introduced in US cities like New York and Baltimore that had high crime rates and drug activity. This resulted in mass incarceration of young men, primarily African American and Latino.23,24 Zero Tolerance policies allowed police to stop and arrest individuals for quality of life offenses, such as drinking alcoholic beverages in the street, urinating in public, panhandling, loud radios, graffiti and disorderly conduct.25 Zero Tolerance policies enacted in urban schools resulted in school age children being punished more harshly for disorderly behaviors with expulsion, suspension, and juvenile court referrals, behaviors previously characterized as normal teenage mischief.26,27 Some resulted in arrests, contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline and the mass incarceration of black and brown people.20 The War on Drugs has singularly resulted in mass incarceration and depletion of young men from their communities, increasing community fragmentation, and decreasing this population’s opportunity to develop and determine politically and economically healthy and sustainable communities. 28

Economic violence includes attacks or perpetuation of violence by large groups for economic gain, i.e.. purpose of disrupting economic activity, denying access to essential services, or creating economic division and fragmentation.17 Incarceration of young men and women in urban communities lead to arrest records which initiate a cycle of potential chronic displacement and temporary housing, unemployment and underemployment, disconnect from services and family networks. Housing management offices can now legally discriminate against them for a record of incarceration under “one-strike you’re out” policies, another War on Drugs policy. Their communities lose the benefit of a generation of young men, unable to qualify for employment, housing, public assistance, educational assistance, and family reunification, continuing the cycle of economic violence and neighborhood and individual poverty. This cycle of community destruction through further fragmentation and uprootedness of young men via mass incarceration — facilitated by the school-to-prison pipeline — increases the likelihood of crime and alternative means of income and other behaviors results in unstable, fragmented, and unhealthy communities.29,30,31,32,33,34 For some this alternative economy provides for the basic essentials of food, shelter, clothing, and health care, even while it increases crime and risk of police violence and incarceration.35

Many of these urban communities targeted by the “war on drugs” and increased policing are communities which have been historically disinvested and abandoned since the early 1900s-violated socially, politically, and economically. Such communities were the targets of segregated real estate housing covenants and redlining tactics by the Federal Housing Administration who steered investment in housing and community development into white communities.36 In these disinvested communities, social fragmentation continued in the 1950s with urban renewal. Urban renewal resulted in mass displacement of many of these existing poor and of-color neighborhoods to make way for moderate and market rate development. Planned shrinkage continued with serial forced displacement of these communities followed by gentrification and mass incarceration. The psychological, social and economic effects of being uprooted from one’s home multiple times contribute to community fragmentation,37,38,39 and risk for low life expectancies and high disease burden.40,41,42,43,44,45

Both disinvestment and displacement undermine access to resources needed for health and wellness, including: functional schools, health and social services, parks and recreational opportunities, employment and workforce training opportunities, stable and sanitary housing, housing code enforcement, access to healthy foods, and infrastructure for mobility and physical activity. The resultant places of high unemployment, decreased educational achievement, low-income and high income inequality, predispose the people to generational poverty, high crime, high drug activity, and inequitable health outcomes.45,46,47 Corrupt policing and law enforcement systems continue this trend of social, political and economic violence currently experienced by hyper-segregated cities like Baltimore.48

The path forward toward equity and non-violence must address all ways policing and law enforcement agencies perpetuate these forms of violence.Training officers and all members of these agencies in transforming racism and oppression begins the personal transformation. But the institution and its policies must also be changed. Policies which block accountability and transparency and protect and propagate the violence perpetuated by these unfair systems must be challenged and changed. The larger systems of government and their private partners which rebuild communities and continue hyper-segregation must change. Government must be willing to transfer the wealth accumulated unfairly from the exploitation of black and brown people over the years. Such wealth can begin to change community and economic development in line with equity and sustainability-justice. Government must serve the people, not the rich. Training all public servants in the history of unfair wealth accumulation and the etiology of current wealth and health gaps must occur. Intentional structural, institutional, and individual transformation will begin to dig up the roots of violence-in policing and in all structures of the US.

Notes
gomez.policing.notes

Who belongs in Baltimore? Community rebuilding must happen for everyone

I attended a conference several weeks ago at the Hyatt Regency on Light Street in Baltimore. So I took the free Circulator bus from Middle East Baltimore and walked along the water to the Inner Harbor. This was pleasant. But along with the pleasure came the awareness of the challenges facing our city. For example, the number of police officers at the ready in the Inner Harbor, ready to remove anyone who did not “look” like they belonged, was questionable. At one point when a person who “looked” like they may be homeless sat down at one of the empty tables in the Inner Harbor, there were 3 police officers who came by and harassed him: “what was he eating? where did he get it? The man said “I’m going, I’m going”. After this harassment they left and a few minutes later the gentleman got up and left. I suppose he would finish eating somewhere he belonged?

Exactly where is that? Is it somewhere where those who “look” like they belong can’t see him, won’t be distressed by his appearance? The saying “out of sight, out of mind” is deep and true. If we don’t see the despair and the obvious separation of how we exist in society, we don’t have to think about it and question why it is some have access while others don’t. Is Baltimore city able to be a home to all of us? Those with means and those without? Those who look like they belong? Those who don’t? What does “belonging look like these days? Obviously the Inner Harbor is being secured for those who “belong”.

The challenge of homelessness and poverty, racism and its continuing legacy, and its root causes continue in Baltimore. The different incidents on my walks through the Harbor and nearby areas confirmed this. Other incidents occurred at the bus stops. One man was sleeping at one stop. Another was sitting with his bag. I wondered how he could exist with only that one bag. I asked about his family: he had 4 children, the first two were twins and now 24 years old. He saw them regularly but not the other two. I offered him an orange then the bus came; that was across from the Reginald Lewis museum. At a stop near University of Maryland, someone asked me for change. I told him about the clutch for my 17 year-old car in the shop and how much that was going to put me back. He then said, “how are you doing?”. We had a conversation about challenges in life and how we take care of them, and ourselves. I offered him a peach and he accepted and left. At one of the 4 stops around Johns Hopkins East Baltimore campus, someone asked me if it was free to ride the Circulator. I responded yes but thought we should have to pay; “why should we ride free when folks taking the MTA have to pay?” We shared that maybe those with an MTA ticket could ride the Circulator for free, the rest pay. This conversation begs the question: who exactly is the Circulator bus for? As we rebuild Baltimore are we all clear as to who we want in the city?

One morning, about 730am, as I was walking across the skywalk from the Inner Harbor pavilions to the Hyatt Regency, I came across a woman sleeping on the steps. sleepShe had 2 paris of socks laid out on the cement to dry. Did she wash them in the fountain water near the steps? She had a sign next to her that said something like, “I lived with my father, then he died, then I lost the house and now am homeless”. Not 20 steps away, I entered the Hyatt Regency, its posh, air conditioned-chilled, and politeness stung me and I thought of the woman on the steps. There seemed so much space in this hotel, taken up with aesthetically-placed chairs to assure its occupants a spacious and easeful feeling. I wondered why couldn’t she access these spaces for the night, to rest. I recognized how artificial the built environment was for some; how much it seeks to create incubators, bubbles of separation and insulation from each other. Eventually we justify it as safety, not questioning the origins of separate and unequal that paved the road to today’s poverty. We don’t want those with access to have to think about those without. How are we rebuilding Baltimore to continue this legacy of separation?

As I walked through Harbor East, just in case the path favoring Baltimore’s inequity and separation did not penetrate enough, a reminder was provided by the recent signage in Harbor East: “Baltimore’s Luxury District: right this way”. luxuryThe cranes to the right and left of this sign, a timeless indicator of economic development and job opportunity, confirm that the city is growing. But for whom? The Harbor Point development on the left will usher in a high-rate cost of living while the expansion of the Four Seasons on the right will usher in luxury condominiums for those with means. In this era of privatization of public services, government gifting of tax incentives to the rich to develop, global permeation of local markets, we still have no plan for how we will assure that everyone who wants to stay in Baltimore benefits. Weak policies for affordable housing with no follow-up for implementation currently exists in Baltimore. No plans for equitable education and social services for our existing residents and no living wage policy exists. The trickle-down economics we believe in hasn’t quite trickled down into majority Black Baltimore where 37% of young Black men are unemployed, compared to 10% young White men. Still our politicians and public officials maintain that the generous benefits of our tax dollars to the wealthy to develop and live in Baltimore will trickle down to the masses. To fulfill this plan of trickle-down economics, we have a Circulator bus running in circles in areas that house the professional and “creative classes”, we have Zip Cars and bike lanes serving the same class. The Mayor’s plan for 10,000 new families in 10 years focuses on rebuilding of houses for $150,000. Low income people cannot afford this. Who will “belong” to Baltimore in the next 10-20 years? The City Paper’s annual “best of” series remind us of what our city leaders consider equitable and sustainable development: best example of gentrification seen in Middle East Baltimore shepherded by EBDI (East Baltimore Development Inc.), Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, Forest City, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and our local and state government. In this development of an 88-acre area just north of the Johns Hopkins Medical campus, our city and state leaders and its well-resourced profit and non-profit leaders are quite comfortable determining who belongs as they assured displacement of more than 750 majority African American and low-income families to make room for a different race and class of people. They know who belongs in our city!

Courtesy of BRACE

Courtesy of BRACE

One morning one rider on the bus reminded me of Baltimore’s resilience: “we can’t wait for them to give us jobs, we have to make our own jobs”. He went on to describe how his cousin made money by dressing up as Santa Claus, buying a camera, and making money during the Christmas season. He had a couple other local entrepreneurial stories like this. Baltimore’s residents need jobs, and support structures which help them to become business owners and not forever at the whim of capitalist anchors such as hospitals, universities, and non-profits. Jobs must provide a living wage so people can afford to live in the places being redeveloped. Only with living wage-jobs will low and middle-income people be able to stay in Baltimore and enjoy the fruits of this economic development occurring around the city. Instead of steering Baltimore city residents into the county-with housing vouchers not being accepted in the city- the city’s economic and community development plans must plan for affordable housing, self-employment, and living-wage employment. Anything else will continue to create the conditions of one-check-away from homelessness increasing around our city. As we prepare to vote for city officials, let’s ask each of them, whether new or old to the position, what they will do about affordable housing and integrative economies that assure local entrepreneurship and living wage-jobs. If our elected officials are not ready or willing to address our housing and employment, education, recreation, transportation, and health challenges in Baltimore, so everyone benefits, vote them out. It’s really simple, we have to vote with our feet and hearts, and not with our mouths.

While we act individually on the political front, we must continue to build our collective movement across multiple issues on a path toward equity for all. In support and elaboration of the Black Lives Matter movement, the southern movement, the Standing Up for Racial Justice movement, and all the university-based movements happening nationwide, we can build a movement to take back our cities so all can participate. Baltimore belongs to everyone who wants to be here.

“We cannot dismantle the Master’s house with the Master’s tools”

This quote of Audre Lorde’s is timeless, has been interpreted and re-interpreted countless times, and still pertains to the way we rebuild communities today. It may be a good time to revisit this penetrating truth, in light of the heightened awareness of the need to “dismantle the Master’s house”.

The Master’s tools, The Master’s house

We have been using the Master’s tools to build and rebuild communities of the United States and beyond, in the image of the Master’s needs. This fundamental truth and its legacy continues to unfold in ways most of us do not fully comprehend. The tools of a belief system of race and class oppression, gender and sexual oppression, and all the other power-generated means of separation, control, exploitation, and oppression have been used to build and rebuild communities over the centuries. Focusing in on racism, white supremacy and classism, these tools imprinted and evolved the genetics of this nation. These tools justified wiping out the Native American population, slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, urban renewal, mass incarceration, and segregation as “normal” ways to build and rebuild communities of Black, Brown, and low-income peoples. Indeed even the current president of the United States acknowledged: “It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours, and that opportunities have opened up, and that attitudes have changed. That is a fact. What is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination, in almost every institution of our lives, that casts a long shadow. And that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it. Racism, we are not cured of it”. The nation’s slow and long-awaited acknowledgement of this truth is prodded by the recent heightened awareness of killing of Black lives: killing of 9 Black lives in Charleston, SC by a white teenager, police killing of Black lives in South Carolina, Maryland, Missouri,New York, Ohio, Chicago…the list goes on. The uprisings against such acts of violence, highlighted the intricate ways community disinvestment and abandonment, community fragmentation, police violence, and wealth and health inequities, interact as causes and effects and continue to create conditions prone to violence of all forms. Listening to residents in East and West Baltimore before and after the uprising confirmed the way the Master’s tools, driving the machine of structural racism, continue to perpetuate these conditions:

“When I worked on Monument a police was stopping a woman walking down the sidewalk with her dog. Back then, you couldn’t walk you dog on the side walk. He was yelling at her, calling her black B. Sheila Dixon was walking by, was on the City Council at that time. She said to the officer something about not talking to the woman like that; the officer said she should shut up and keep walking. Next thing you know, he called Sheila Dixon a black B and started calling her name, grabbed her, cuffed her, and had her sitting on the side walk. [Sheila Dixon went on to be Mayor of Baltimore]. Another time, I was on Jefferson street in the afternoon. This police got out the car and told everyone standing on the sidewalk, sitting on their stoops, to get into their houses because this was his street and nobody was allowed outside. I don’t know what to think about that…felt like this could be a german gestapo, know what I mean?”

“Yes [been harassed by police]. We’re just standing in front of the Chinese carry out…just waiting for our food…and the police come and tell us to move along. Move along?…we’re waiting for our food…thought the side walk was public property…we can’t stand on the corner in our own community? they want to pat us down…ask us if we have guns…we call it “SWB”…you know what that means? means “standing while black”…if you black you can’t stand on the corner…did you know that? Not the first time I been harassed or seen other people. Too many times to count… yes it breaks up our community…you know why? because we can’t just stand around and talk…they think we’re selling…we can’t even talk to each other…more than two of us and they scared…you know where this comes from? from slavery…when they saw two or more of us talking they thought we were trying to do something…since then they been scared…”

“Yes, of course [been harassed]. First time was 16. Since then I get harassed/ stopped at least once every year. This is all a system problem. What happen with Freddie Gray is not a one-time occurrence. Last time got harassed, was driving and pulled over, profiled. Some guys walked past and distracted the police. They just left me there, told me to go. Didn’t pull me over for anything. They have to meet that quota.

“police all about themselves. take money for themselves when they raid drug houses, take the drugs too. Then people get killed because drugs missing, money missing”

Our belief systems embed and nourish systems of structural racism and white supremacy, built institutions that maintain racial oppression in place and continues to perpetuate violence against our communities of color, more physical and brutally severe in our low income communities. These are the “houses of the Master” eerily reminiscent of the past times, times we like to think are gone. When we compare the neighborhoods that were redlined in Baltimore (Black neighborhoods characterized as not worthy of investment by banks, supported by the Federal Housing Administration) from the 1930’s and the neighborhood maps of current day Baltimore we see a consistent pattern of disinvestment, almost 100 years later. Many of these neighborhoods disinvested in the 1930‘s remain the neighborhoods with the highest amount of poverty, low educational attainment, highest rates of parole, lowest rates of employment, lowest life expectancy, high rates of infant death, highest amount of abandoned and vacant houses, lowest rates of homeownership (maps courtesy of Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance).

baltimore redlining map
Figure 1.PopAA

Figure2.PovertyUnemploy

Figure3.HSVacant

Figure4.Ownviolat

Figure5.InfMLifEx

Figure6.GunhomPapro

Many of the neighborhoods disinvested in the 1930‘s remain the “houses’ created by the Master’s tools. Those currently with moderate or majority White populations are also the result of the separation and resultant community investment using the tools of the Master: creating communities of inequity, in all aspects of life. Why? because we continue to use the Master’s tools to build and rebuild communities: communities of separation by race and class. Listening to the voices of residents:

“Get the people some jobs…people can’t find jobs…and jobs that pay good money.”

“gentrification cause police brutality…the brothers don’t have anywhere to go now, they hang out on the street corner and get harassed and arrested for that”

“Ain’t none [referring to changes in the neighborhood]. govt gonna do what they want to do not mater what. if they did, they would be done help people. Look at Johns Hopkins, buy up houses and kick them people all out. “

“Less police, more schools, better housing. we need jobs. how can you support your family without a job. No job, you get into trouble. Been clean for a long time now…the job keeps me clean. Got something to do everyday. Things for the kids to do. They get in trouble because they got nothing to do after school”

“t’s not the money, it’s who the money is going to. If the money goes to the same three benefactors, who do the same thing every year, nothing is gonna change. I call it a “pipeline”. They the ones in the pipeline for all the funds for all these things [policing, education, housing, workforce training, recreation, street repair] get allocated to the same ones. We have to allocate our funding more broadly. We need more community oversight. More than that, we need community based organizations in the community doing the work, not outside the community. The money need to come to the community and stay in the community.”

“They giving the police so much money but they not doing their job.Need money to clean up the streets. I love Baltimore, don’t want to go anywhere else. start with this house, they need to fix it. I rent, he’s a slumlord. but I have to try and fix it myself.”

“Took away the rec centers, day care so people ended up having to work two jobs for $8/hr. mothers have to work, so they become prostitutes, then they lock them up. get some jobs so we can live. then we won’t get locked up for living. Now want to stop foodstamps; keep the foodstamps going. are you being fair to people, or just trying to get over?…How come you won’t hire an ex-convict? why can’t give them a break? Ex-convicts have a lot of skills, some of them really smart. Can’t find a job…How bout those ones they falsely accuse, then 20 years later they say “oh sorry” you’re not guilty, and want to give them money. They lost 20 years, can’t make up for lost time, money can’t heal yourself.”

“Need jobs here…That Hopkins project, 2 people working over there on that new project. They talk a lot about giving people a chance, helping people in the hood. but what I see is they don’t hire people from here. EBDI doesn’t hire the local people. But they talk big…tell you you got a record…don’t help you cause you got a record? thought they suppose to help you even if you have a record, don’t call you back”

“Need housing, places for the kids to play…so they don’t keep doing the same things. see those kids over there? they bored on a Saturday afternoon.
when I was a kid we use to play over there, now there’s Johns Hopkins…now the kids they make up their own games, like “steal the smart phone game”…So they get creative, make up games like that, and other ones”

“Nothing changed in this community all the years I been here. Only thing change is the rent, it keeps going up and the management don’t tell you why just that the rent will go up in a month. If you can make it you stay, not you out. Need affordable housing and better landlords. People need to make sure landlords do right by us. Nobody watching them. but they watching us. Who gonna help us?
Need safe places for the kids to play so they don’t go join them gangs and run from school to house because parents don’t want them on the street corner. hard for kids these days. Lucky with mine, she just went to college, so proud of her.

Why change our tools, change our houses?

So what tools are we to use, to dismantle this “house” of oppression and separation, and build communities of equity? How do we as individuals and societies, use the tools at our disposal to rebuild communities in line with peace and justice? Perhaps what Ms. Lorde was leading us toward, was the need for us to re-interpret the use of the tools used by the Master to build communities of fear and hate. Perhaps her guidance was to reconsider not only the use of different tools, but the transformation of ourselves so we could re-interpret the use of the tools at our disposal-previously used to build “houses’ of separation, fear, and anger. Take the knife for example, it can be used to peel a ripe and delicious mango, to offer joy and satiate the taste buds. Or it can be used to cause harm. And so it is with any tool at our disposal. The use of construction labor, justly compensated can benefit those rebuilding communities-developers, corporations/universities/hospitals, other private and non-profit interests- and those doing the actual building if they receive a living wage. Just compensation for any type of work, can benefit those with the means to pay for the work being done and those doing the work. Building homes which are affordable to those with low incomes or subsidized incomes along with homes for the middle and market rate earners benefits everyone, not just those with the means to live where they choose. Health care access and benefit for everyone, regardless of race and class, not limited access for some and excessive access for the rich and majority white population moves us toward equitable health. The tools of community building and existence is at our disposal; unfortunately, based on our belief systems of separation of race and class, we have been using them to benefit one race and class of people resulting in accumulation of good health and wealth aggregated into communities of majority White and professional classes. The children and grandchildren of these groups-the supposed “creative class”- continue to benefit today, while the children of Black and Brown peoples, working class and low-income continue to be disenfranchised, individually and as communities, physically and mentally displaced. Changing our belief systems will be necessary to change the ways we use the tools of community building at our disposal.

Individual transformation, of the ways we perceive those different from us, is necessary. Why? Because we don’t only separate based on differences, we compare and judge, demonize, exploit and oppress using notions of inferiority and superiority. These are the tools of the oppressor, the Master. The stories we hold in our mind, the perceptions and thoughts passed on from our ancestors and kin folk, neighbors and friends, places of worship and education, employment and recreation, these are the fundamental tools, the building blocks of words and actions which justify our use of the physical and mental tools of economic violence, social violence, political violence, and health violence against the other. And these are the tools that lead to justifying the continued neglect and abandonment of communities of color and low income. This justification to demonize results in actions that build communities abandoned not only of physical resources, but abandoned of love, compassion, patience, understanding. This fear of the “other”, often unspoken, spins stories in our mind of the inferiority of Black people. As the White teenager in Charleston admits, even when the Black congregants of the church were kind in words and actions toward him, he had to do what he had been mentally trained to do: remove those who he was fearful of, the other, the “demons”. Such a mind was cultivated to believe these tapes and fear Black people; such a mind justified actions of violence. And it is such a mind, aggregated en mass as White Supremacy which built this country and continues to enact implicit and explicit bias against Black and Brown people, continuing the gap between the majority of White and higher income communities and majority of of-color and lower income communities. Returning to the the insights on the streets of East and West Baltimore:

“The big people know this has been going on. All the time. They don’t care and they turn their backs on it. Turn their backs on this community. If they decide that it has to change, from the top, it will change. Finally someone at the top did the right thing [referring to the indictment of 6 Baltimore police officers involved in the killing of Freddie Gray]. See what happened. The police stop working. [referring to the non-responsiveness of police officers during the month of May after the indictment of the 6 Baltimore police officers] We need them. Just need them to stop harassing black people.”

“The media, don’t get me started…they orchestrate all this. they gonna get me on the news for a night, then something else important come up… but we still here. got to get City paper to see what’s really going on.”

“They took away a lot of stuff, left us here with nothing. Nothing but a little part everyday. so everybody get equal opportunity to leave…they say. But some of us can’t leave…now, we black people, don’t like to see any of us get ahead. If i buy a new car and park it there, someone gonna come along and scratch it up. Just cause they don’t have one. We don’t let each other get ahead because we jealous of them. If we see someone get ahead, we try to bring them down…been left too long”

The gentle steps of change

So what will it take for this shift in our minds, the ultimate tool of oppression, the ultimate tool that fuels the building and rebuilding of the Master’s house. The Master’s house is a house of separation, oppression, and exploitation, in all aspects of life. Therefore in any aspect of our daily life we have the ability and opportunity to change these tapes of the Master. In every step we place on the earth, whether we are walking from the bed to the toilet, the car to the store, the apartment to the restaurant, the bus stop to the barber shop, each step can be a transformative act when we are conscious and aware. And what does this awareness do? Simply being aware of the thoughts passing through our minds, is already a step toward transformation. We can begin to notice the thought that comes to mind when we see a person different from ourselves, or whom we perceive as being different from ourselves, based on some physical appearance. We note what goes through our mind. Maybe we start noting a pattern of thoughts that come to mind when we see a Black person, a White person, a person dressed in older clothing, a person dressed in clothing just off the rack, a woman, a man. Then we notice how these patterns shape the words we use with these perceived others, the actions we engage in with the other. Just this mere awareness, when connected to the understanding of love, of compassion will make us question ourselves: “how am I perpetuating division and discrimination when I have thoughts like this; is it in line with the love and equality, peace I speak about, of the patience I say I want to offer to everyone”. Noticing in ourselves first, how we participate in acts of separation and violence, is a big step toward changing the way we interact with others. When we become more aware of ourselves we become more aware of the interactions we engage in and how others act similarly or different. The individual gentle steps of transformation is a major path of change toward dismantling the Master’s house of exploitation, separation, violence, and injustice. A transformed self transforms all the interactions and spaces we engage in and with: after all houses, communities, societies are made up of individuals. A house of aware and non-violent individuals builds communities and societies of awareness and non-violence. Such collective communities are powerful forces for change, to recreate and rebuild communities of justice and peace, equity and sufficiency.

When we listen to residents of East and West Baltimore, we have an imperative to change:

“Hope things change, want better for this place. I’m a part of it. I just live here, want better cause I live here. Got people growing up, tell me you wanna raise the next generation in something like this? I wouldn’t want to be a child right now, too hard. that’s why I dont have not right now”

“People have to come together, coming together, changing each other.”

“Community is already fragmented-the mentality-The generations before us didn’t inform everyone how the system works, they didn’t tell the kids. Life is a game, change the whole game. lots of people don’t care anymore. know the cause but don’t care about the effect. they say don’t get involved.”

“I learn to stay by myself. If you talk to the ones on the corner drinking, even if you not drinking, they’ll harass you, arrest you, make you sit on the curve. That’s why I stay by myself, stay out of trouble, sit here and drink my beer. Safer that way.”

“Can’t fragment what’s already fragmented; already broken. can’t get any worst. 38 bodies died already in May-more bodies than the days in a month. The police took the month off. Police not making it any better, not worst. It’s a cop out to say they cause the community to fragment. [referring to the number of deaths occurring in Baltimore City in the month of May 201]”

“yes, they [referring to police violence] break up the community. anybody loose someone they love, of course they grieve. They harass people and don’t think they have families.”

“Don’t get involved, keep to self and keep block clean. Don’t socialize. Up and down this block I clean up. I play with my grandkids, raised all 5 of them. My grandaughter graduate from college tomorrow. So proud of her. I teach them to get a job and hold a job. As long as you clean and smelling good, you’re okay.
These my boys [referring to several young men 3 stoops down who come over to ask for a light]. They respect me, I tell them to get jobs”

“Yes, community fragmented b/c they don’t know which way they should go. don’t know which way to go, don’t know if they for us or against us. Fragment, when they should get involved…when police are wrong. don’t know if should get involved. don’t know if it will hurt them. should get involved… we come together as one people. if I say or do something it can be wrong. got everything so enclosed like…one guy thought I was snitching, cop at my door. my [family member] is an officer.”

“Feel like not wanted in the hood. feel like I don’t fit in that area.
Feel like they don’t want no criminals involved, make me feel like I can’t get no job either. Cause once you arrested, you can’t get a job. I got into the Jericho program for ex offenders just come home. They do some training, like cooking. Does it work? see where I’m sitting now? you get a certification in cooking but you got to find you your own job.”

“Get excluded cause have to be on guard. you know. don’t want to talk to the police and don’t want to talk to the gang either, then police think you doing something with them too. Keep to myself, just go and come, say hello, smile, that’s it.”

“The parents don’t teach the kids respect. They allow them to go buckwild.
Never believe in whipping, you can sit down and talk to your child. Don’t have to holler at them. I don’t care how bad they are, even autistic kids you can sit and talk to them. Kids act like this because they weren’t bring up right.
When I was brought up, if I didn’t go to church I couldn’t go outside. 8pm be on the step, 9pm inside the house. playing was fun, that’s it. But now parents they got so much on their mind. The kids running around and throwing stones at cars for fun, little kids..not nice. I just tell them God don’t like ugly.”

If ever there was a time in our society, for change, it is now. Unfortunately, our history has offered us many periods, when change was the only solution. And this is one of them. The tools of oppression must be dismantled, must be transformed; this tool of the mind must be transformed toward understanding, peace, non-violence, justice, and equity, in a breath, in a moment, in a movement. The process of change will recreate and rebuild our house in order and truth. Peace is the way.

Full report of resident voices on policing, community fragmentation and change, by Social Health Concepts and Practices, Inc. will be available soon.

Building equitable communities: Black women and girls lives matter

Fragmentation of community affects policing and is affected by policing: the lost of black lives to violence, and black women and girls lives to violence continues to fragment our communities. Recognizing, respecting, celebrating to rebuild communities toward equity, the matter of black women and children lives is a critical part of this transformation.
Join us to create a powerful collective energy that will assure change in Baltimore, and beyond!

Saturday June 20 3pm Rekia’s Rally
Sunday June 21 2pm Natasha’s Jubilee

Rally and celebration for black women and girls lives

Flyer.BlackwomenandgirlslivesmatterSolidarity through spirituality

Role of public health institutions in public health justice

PDF of slides from talk at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
SPH2015march.2
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MariselaGomez
…In these times of historical and current accounting of the effect of anchor institutions in community, at home and abroad, how do we speak truth to power and forge new alliances toward justice? As the field of public health grapples with the social, political, and economic determinants of health, how has a powerful institution like JHU been influential in determining neighborhood health in East Baltimore? Has the development of the institution (and others like it) contributed to the growing wealth and health gap in East Baltimore (and elsewhere)?

Come join us for a discussion with Dr. Marisela Gomez this Wednesday, April 1st at 12pm in Room E6159 for a challenging discussion critical to the past, present, and future of health equity in Baltimore and beyond.

The history of prestigious institutions and their power to exploit those most vulnerable to grow power is vast. To be truthful participants in changing this history we must account for this history and repair it. Transparency begins to hold accountable the past transgressions and find solutions beyond what our fragile human nature has succumbed to thus far. Inequitable health outcomes, arrest rates, educational achievement, income and housing value are symptoms of inequitable communities, of power and privilege. Bridging within and across all our systems-community and economic development, education, criminal, housing, recreation- of society is a large task. How do we forge a path towards equity, while assuring everyone is at the table, and contributing?

Establishing values of inclusivity, accountability, transparency,and reflection/reflexivity in all processes is important. These values must infuse and be embedded in the tools of planning/policy development, practice/praxis, evaluation, public relations/media. And most, most importantly, WE THE PEOPLE, must be involved in all steps of the process toward justice…

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If interested in any slides of presentation, send a contact.

Contemplating peaceful and skillful means to justice,
Marisela