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

 

Practicing real change for development in Baltimore’s Oldtown?

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

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logo1432 May Court
Baltimore, MD 21231
Change.4Real@yahoo.com

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

City Planning Commission Updates Oldtown Redevelopment Plan to Recognize  Change4Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more Information:
Check out Change4Real on Facebook

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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?”

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

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.

Listening, so we can know what Baltimore is for!

As a long-time activist of Baltimore, I am tired of the same ole, same ole. I keep asking myself, “What keeps me here?” Will the racist and classist ways we rebuild our cities continue with a public transcript of “gentrification benefits everyone” even while rents continue to increase, pushing black people out Baltimore but the “creative class” is welcomed in with bike paths and a free circulator bus? Last night I heard a speech that inspired me.

Baltimore’s Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA) convened its year-long series “Baltimore Rising: Summoning the Village” with keynote speaker Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, renowned social psychiatrist and author who has studied epidemics in poor communities for 30 years. She noted the many ways that racism and segregation are undermining our cities and our health. She told us about urbanists who have been tackling these problems in other American cities and who demonstrated “elements of urban restoration.”

Based on this vast body of research and analysis, her call to action to us in Baltimore was clear. We must: 1. keep the whole city in mind in our planning; 2. identify what we are for; 3: make our mark. These are the first three steps in bringing together a clear and participatory vision by those who plan to stay, one that includes all voices to assure we move away from the historic sorting and segregation that has built Baltimore-and this country.

While grateful for this current and urgent call to action, I started to ask myself questions, “How will we do this? Who should be at the table? Where will the money come from? Can we all put our egos aside long enough to move with humility and grace through this process?”

Dr. Fullilove said, “Start with three tasks. Walk the city, tell stories, and find the remarkable places.”

This made sense to me. We can begin this process by listening to everyone throughout the city: the folks on the corners, in the houses, offices, laundromats, clinics, courtrooms, prisons, jails, cafes, boardrooms, classrooms, playgrounds, exercise paths, car garages, parking lots, and bus stops; the grocery stores, under the bridges, the recreation centers, in the synagogues and the churches, the senior homes, the day cares, the recycling trucks, the taxis, the train stations, and the airports, behind the camera and in front of the camera and microphone, in the kiosks, in the long lines at the city departments, in the yoga and mediation studios. This citywide listening will help us “keep the whole city in mind.”

We will also be able to identify what connects us all, across all neighborhoods, understanding what matters to us. We will find out what we are FOR. Then we will be able to “make a mark,” and we will move with intention and skill toward rebuilding a Baltimore of inclusion not expulsion, of economic redistribution not hyper-profitability. Baltimore is resilient and Black Baltimore is strong. Thank you, BMHA and Dr. Fullilove, for calling us to task, and reminding us that it takes a village to rise up, with understanding and dignity.

Let’s do it! DSC_0209

Submitted July 24 2015 to the Baltimore Sun’s Letter to Editor/Op ED.

Public health and community rebuilding, healing

Examining the effect of public health through the lens of environmental factors, mental health, and healing in our community: today on the Marc Steiner Show WEAA 88.9 FM in Baltimore. The host Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead and guests, Dr. Martha Wharton, Dr. Marisela Gomez, Dr. Rita Turner explore the interconnections of lead poisoning in our abandoned and low income communities of color, the reasons for these conditions and the other systematic causes of health, and the spiritual and body depletion. Solutions are presented.
Podcast here:

Courtesy Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance

Courtesy Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance

Resources pertaining to these topics:

July 21st, 2pm Eastern time. First in a series of webinars on “The Impact of Racism on the Health and Wellbeing of the Nation” with Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH, and Camara P. Jones, MD, MPH, PhD APHA link

July 23rd, 6pm. Call to Action by Baltimore’s Black Mental Health Alliance “Baltimore Rising: Summoning the Village” Join Dr. Mindy Fullilove for causes, conditions, and solutions. Carter Memorial Church of God in Christ Church. 13 S. Poppleton. 21201 Email for information bhealthall@gmail.com
bmha

Office of Environmental Justice (of the Environmental Protection Agency) A site that provides information on what is happening in your community in regard environmental justice screening: Environmental Justice Screen; BLog reference

Resources on environmental pollution and health outcomes in neighborhoods:environment and health

Spiritual healing and social justice: Spirit and healing

flyer-image-500

Social, environmental, economic and health impact assessments are critical tools to determine the effect of rebuilding communities, on existing community.
Environmental impact assessment
Health Impact Assessments
Social Impact Assessment
Economic Impact Assessment

NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Initiative NAACP

The role of hyperprofit-making on expulsion of people from land. Expulsion and hyperprofits

“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.

Police brutality: Using the mud of chaos to move toward an equitable tomorrow

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Baltimore is not burning only these past two days…it has been burning for decades. And the flower that can grow from this mud of chaos and attempt at reparation for atrocities past and present is possible: a more equitable tomorrow. Unfortunately what we are witnessing by the media sensationalization in effect is an attempt to narrow the protest and killing of a black man in police custody to an “event”. A picture of black men rioting and stealing is exactly what white-dominated media persists in selling to its majority white audience. Images that continue to perpetuate the myth of “unruly people, unlawful people, and a necessary police presence to manage these people”. To change this myth is to bring a white-skin-privileged America to acknowledge a history of disinvestment in our black and low-income communities. Disinvestment which has led to lack of the amenities which allowed middle and market rate communities to flourish and compete for the resources available for all. But without the investments in communities to assure education, health, living-wage employment, and competitive skill sets we have allowed our low-income communities to disintegrate, fracture, and turn inward. The perpetuation of black people as “unruly” affirms the mind of America and supports their continued neglect of the grave disconnect and gap between those with and those without. It allows the sanctioning of police and military means to “control” the “savage” communities. What the media and majority America fails to understand is that when the injustices of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Freddie Gray lives’ are finally revealed, it is a reflection of a history of brutality against black and brown people: a reality decades in the making since a whip was the means of control. Current day police brutality simply continues the “master/slave” dualism, now supported by uniforms and laws. Our current rates of incarceration of black and brown men evidence this truth and the plantation of “prison and jails” houses the masses. Policing with brutality in the past using overseers and slave masters has mutated over the years. Today we have a legal system with police officers, lawyers, judges, parole officers (and others) who have replaced the overseers. While the whips may not be evident, the effective means of “control” continue to brutalize the lives and communities of black men, women, and children-the significance of this is seen most dramatically in low income communities.

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But waking up to this reality is possible, IF we can take the discourse and action on the current police brutality of Freddie Gray- who suffered a spinal cord injury leading to death while in the custody of police-to a truthful level. The reality of our segregated America can be finally discussed fully, acknowledging a history of segregation which continues today and the devastating consequences to all Americans. This segregation results not only in damage to our communities of color, but to white America as well. The “interbeing” nature of our humanity is fact and the gated communities and high rise luxury condominiums cannot protect those walled away from the “eyesores” of America. The time is now, the place is right here in Baltimore. If we take the time to look for the alternative media coverage of the larger number of people peacefully protesting and the gathering of community groups to pray and hold peace for Freddie Gray, and all those who have been brutalized before him, we begin to move toward a path of justice. This change in the perceptions embedded in the consciousness of America can be the seed that will bloom into the flower of justice. America has grown to its current stage of accepting police brutality of black and brown people due to a myth of black inferiority and the resultant necessity of disrespect and disregard. In order to move toward equity for all, we must recognize that equity for some is not sustainable to assure equity for all. Instead it further separates us and allows white America to condone brutality in all forms: disinvestment in communities of color which leads to substandard food, amenities, education, employment, transportation, housing, recreation. Poverty of resources results in a poverty of the ability to compete in society. It’s time to heal and bridge the gap of benign neglect and accepting of injustices against black and brown Americans. Moving with intention toward equity and sustainability is a path available once we recognize the benefit not just to black Americans but all Americans-we inter-are.

Re-Building communities: separation or sustainability

Community rebuilding as a means to separation

windowplantUrban rebuilding can be a dualistic/separatist undertaking, benefitting the rich only or one which incorporates the community and benefits all-sustainability. A recent article out of Hagerstown Maryland offers Baltimore city and its cadre of urban rebuilders some great advice: include the community in planning for our community rebuilding or continue rebuilding that leads to divergent paths: those with and those without. In regard the lack of social services for the existing community in current rebuilding plans those working at Hagerstown area nonprofit agencies said: “…they were disappointed that a Philadelphia firm that helped the city come up with a downtown revitalization plan did not address the issues with which that the local organizations deal. Ostoich said Urban Partners, which recommended an eight-part revitalization plan for Hagerstown, has certainly observed situations in other cities that are similar to Hagerstown’s challenges…Ostoich said she would like to see a partnership formed between the nonprofit organizations, the City of Hagerstown and the city’s office of economic development to address issues like homelessness and substance abuse.” link1 Each non-profit providing services for homelessness, housing access and affordability, recovery, mental health and substance abuse treatment, post-incarceration issues, employment reported an increase in their clients and the need for revitalization plans to address these needs.

This is the same pattern of urban rebuilding occurring in Baltimore and beyond: revitalization projects which turn a blind eye to the existing social conditions, many of which are brought about by unemployment and under-employment. Plans do not address the need for recovery programs, or re-entry programs, or mental health programs, or job training, or interview skills, or stress reduction. These conditions are present in Baltimore and other cities which have seen the massive loss of jobs since the 1970’s industrial revolution (substituting machine for human power) and the downturn in the economy since neoliberalism-government joining with private investors to grow their wealth using public subsidies. The outcome of such policies and practices has been the increasing gap between the rich and the poor and the inevitable way vulnerable communities become ill when facing increased stress and little resources to address it. The story in Hagerstown offers a glimpse of what Baltimore has been experiencing for decades: an increase in homelessness, drug use and recovery, mental illness and recovery, unaffordable housing, crime and incarceration. Ostoich speaks about a dual path that revitalization is bringing to the city, one which includes the well-off and those not so well-off. Here in Baltimore we continue to experience the same. Door-knocking and listening in the periphery of the 88-acre Johns Hopkins/EBDI/Casey Foundation/Forest City Bioscience and gentrification project confirms the dual pathway of revitalization. Long time residents share about a fear of not being part of the development as housing prices increase and new neighbors move in. They fear being priced out with property tax increases and rental hikes. New residents are happy with the prices of housing compared to NY or DC and like being in an area marketed for “change” for them. Those with skills and education that allow them to work in corporations and jobs which subsidize housing cost (Live near your work, etc) are mostly happy in their new homes as they wait for more change to manifest around them (one question to ask is how is government subsidizing the employer to offer such housing assistance). Families of generational East Baltimore residents talk about returning from areas north and east but lament the high cost of housing “can’t pay that much but would be nice to come back now that it’s finally changing”. Perceptions of why some locals are home during the day, why some are hanging out on the corner at nights, and the safety of the area persist for the new residents: “I wouldn’t let my mom walk in Patterson Park at night”; while the majority of long time residents don’t mention issues of safety as a concern. Both long time and new residents alike talk about the lack of a place to grocery shop: the type of store will be another tale to tell whether it is affordable for low income residents or not. The new Early Learning Center at the Henderson-Hopkins school is also an issue on people’s mind, especially for those long time residents told they have to be on a waiting list because their income is too high to qualify for admission: “all those Hopkins people have high income and they’re there”. For new residents who are fighting the city about paving an alleyway, they don’t understand why this has to be a struggle: “this is infrastructure of the city, why wouldn’t they pay?” IMG-20121020-00685Indeed, why wouldn’t they pay for this while updating the infrastructure for big development projects in the amount of millions of dollars in tax subsidies is normal, with no effective claw-backs or evaluation as to how the public benefits- Johns Hopkins Medical Institution/EBDI/Casey Foundation/Forest City Developers 78 million, Harbor Point 100 million, Poppleton/La Cite 58 million.

But the marks of a dual path in the rebuilding of Baltimore city goes beyond East Baltimore and West Baltimore. The increased cost of parking across the city is another piece of this dualism as well as the extended times meters are in effect and having to pay to drive the Express Lanes on I-95 (in the White Marsh and 695 region). The Express lanes are accessible with payment only, and in the form of EZ Pass only. These are examples of the separation of those who can afford to participate in what the city has to offer, and those who cannot. If you don’t want to be late you can pay to get on the Express lanes and avoid the merging traffic but when a monthly income is stretched very thin, that extra $3.50 (round trip) can be a significant challenge: in paying your bills and in getting to work on time. Baltimore-20140714-01535This dualistic path of community rebuilding tells the same tale in DC’s 20001 zip code where one shopowner of 40 years posted a sign: “Due to ‘gentrification’ and mixed emotions Jak and Company Hairdressers will be closing”: the landlord would not renew the lease.Link2 Here the white population has grown from 6% in 2000 to 33% currently and the new residents require a different set of amenities. We see the same happening in Harbor East where new development continues while the owners of a local fried chicken and pizza take-out-Kennedy- was told their lease would not be renewed. Just across from the Perkins Homes on Eden and Bank and serving this community for over 15 years his product is not what the new race and class of people being enticed to this area are seeking to buy.Baltimore-20140714-01541

Changing the game for sustainability: community ownership and social movements

This “mixing” of the old and new is a challenge that will not go away today but can begin to be addressed if existing community is at the community rebuilding table. The needs of existing residents and businesses can be addressed in the planning, as well as the needs of the new residents usually represented by the developers whose aim is to attract a class of people able to afford moderate and market rate housing and amenities. Such separation of the old and the new is an age-old challenge of rebuilding and continues today because we continue to ignore the outcomes of previous unhealthy and unequal community building strategies and practices. This chronic disinvestment in low-income and African American and of-color communities has resulted in communities unable to compete in the current market-place for decent employment, over-burdened households with little access to resources, and health burdens that limit access to competitive opportunities. Community rebuilding involving the people as well as the place is crucial. This means assuring equity in not only housing but in employment and resources that will remediate and ready existing communities to benefit from new opportunities. It is not enough for developers like East Baltimore Development Inc. and Forest City to say we cannot hire locally because the people do not qualify (due to incarceration records, drug use, or lack of skill sets). This type of minimalist and separatist community rebuilding is unsustainable and what we have been doing for decades. Like Ostoich said, everyone must be at the table so that the needs of the existing community are incorporated into the plan and not displaced away from sight and sound of the new people. This is why the false type of advertising perpetuated by developers about their rebuilding being “game changers” is misleading and simply provides a narrative for the part of Baltimore with access to resources. In East Baltimore, developers should be ashamed about their contribution to this same ole game of segregation in line with Jim Crow and the removal of Native Americans to reservations. Our policies created our current social challenges and therefore current policies must remediate them. Now that would be a real game changer!

Of course, waiting for government to change, while important is not our only option for change. Organizing and building small and large social movements that challenge the current way we address our most vulnerable is important. Local organizing is key. Many new and old residents alike are unaware of their neighborhood organizations in East Baltimore which is a significant risk factor for not having strong neighborhood cohesion. It is this neighborhood cohesion that offers strength and power to resist government’s plans to rebuild communities without local input. Community fragmentation is an outcome of past and current segregation tactics of community rebuilding. However, it is also a cause of continued segregation and a big obstacle to community power. For example, when a 20-block area has neighborhood associations that don’t communicate with each other or when foundations such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation publicly announces it will only fund one of them (the one with whom it has close relations) collective community power is difficult. Difficult but not impossible. In fact, these same conditions existed in East Baltimore in 2001 and allowed Hopkins/EBDI/Casey/Forest City to come into East Baltimore and expect easy exploitation of land and people. Their expectations were not realized only when the number of people organized exceeded the handful which claimed representation -gate-keepers- of the entire community. The gate-keepers who were willing to stand aside and allow mass exploitation of people and place in the form of unhealthy demolition practices, minimal relocation benefit, minimal payment for existing property were simply outnumbered. The creation of a new organization-Save Middle East Action Committee- then allowed a new vision and practice of community leadership, sisterhood and brotherhood, and mutual respect. Strategies and practices for the people by the people resulted in a powerful force which presented the desires of the impacted people, not a handful with close relations to those with power. We are at a critical impass again almost 15 years later, in East Baltimore, greater Baltimore and beyond.

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Water bills are increasing across the city with little accounting as to why by the city government while private corporations are dictating to government what efficiency looks like, here and across the world. Link3 Private and non-profits are increasingly poised to take over the role of government programs in public education as the new head of Baltimore’s education is leading the way with the promotion of charter schools and privatization. Link4 Using public funds in charter schools skims the little resources away from public schools while private funders manage and dictate educational reform according to their political view. Social service programs are increasingly operated by private and non-profits companies even while race and class-based equity is lacking and little accountability and transparency exists due to their status. This re-distribution of the public wealth into private and the non-profit industrial complexes’ pockets should bare close scrutiny and transparency. We require social movements from below to balance the growing social movements from above and from those with unchallenged power: we need to change the game, truthfully and not leave it to being co-opted by non-profits and private corporations competing for public subsidies. The upcoming social movements gathering/ forum in May in Detroit is one to check into as it will bring together different movements addressing housing access/affordability and water privatization and water as a human right in the US. Link5 Equitable and sustainable community rebuilding requires everyone at the table: to bring about balance and accountability in planning, processes, and implementation, to redistribute power long favored by the few, to move us toward a peaceful co-existence that will heal our segregated communities, and to end old strategies and practices that lead to greater separation and dualism of those with and those without.