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

 

Healing from racial injustice and trauma: The path of Mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness helps us to stop and notice what is going on in our body and mind. As we notice, we can begin to take care of the places of imbalance inside. Only when we are moving toward balance inside can we truly contribute to balance outside. Our healing selves offer evidence of the healing that we con contribute to outside of us.

Join Baltimore and Beyond Mindfulness Community on March 3, 4, 5 in Pikesville Maryland for a retreat for People of Color. We will learn and deepen different  mindfulness practices, such as being aware: of our breath as we sit, walk, lay down, stand up; of what we are eating instead of chewing on our worries or our tasks; where our tensions and worries live in our bodies through deep relaxation to release tensions and stress. And build community through sharing from our hearts and looking deeply to see what is nourishing and what is challenging us. Mindfulness practices do not require us to become Buddhist. Whatever faith denomination we practice, or not, we can practice mindfulness guided by the ethical principles of non-harming, truthful speech, non-stealing, non-intoxicants, and right sexual conduct. We find stillness so we can be more aware of how and when we are pulled into behaviors, perceptions, thoughts which do not support these ethical principles and actions we all strive toward. Mindfulness allows us to see clearly, to notice our racing thoughts, and to decide which of these thoughts we will follow and which we will put aside. The practices of mindfulness slowly allows us to take control of ourselves, moving us toward true freedom.

Self-mastery is the supreme victory-much more to be valued than winning control over others. It is a victory that no other being whatsoever, can distort or take away.

The Dhammapada

Whether you are  a beginner or a current practitioner of mindfulness, all are welcome to meet up on this path of peace, love, justice, and community.

healing-ourselves-flyer                                                             JOIN US!!

 

Why does Baltimore need a Black Worker Center?

The thriving of low-income Black workers in Baltimore and beyond is critical for equitable access to housing, food, education, health, recreation, transportation. When someone who works for a living, is still unable to afford adequate food, shelter, clothing and medicine, we remain an inequitable society. When those workers congregate into the same racial/ethnic group, we have systematic racism: racism which is not only individualized but embedded deep within the policies and infrastructures of our society. A Black Worker Center can be a base of organizing to address this inequity for black people in Baltimore*.

The ability to work is the first step toward equity. This means that a person has the physical and mental wellness, health, to support them finding employment. The second step is being qualified to work: has the person had the necessary training to compete in the marketplace for a position? The third step is the availability of work. The fourth step is that the place of employment supports the worker so they can stay in the position and thrive. This fourth step brings us back full circle to the first: a thriving person has the ability to work. It’s a cycle that continues and that either allows a healthy and holistic body and mind to thrive, or not: on a cellular, organ, individual, community level.

Cycle of workAbility to work

Our environment supports our ability to work by supporting or physical and mental well being. This includes having healthy food, adequate shelter, regular and affordable access to preventive health care, a safe community, and a life not burdened by the stress of systematic discrimination. For a Black body, none of these conditions for a healthy life is assured. In fact, being Black increases the likelihood that these conditions are diminished and that an ongoing struggle is necessary to assure one or all of these conditions are in place. The historical trauma of slavery and current racism for Black people in America is a risk factor for diminished physical and mental health. This history includes government policies and public:private partnerships resulting in redlining, segregation and abandonment, urban renewal, and serial forced displacement. This historical and current racial oppression have increased the likelihood of low-income Black communities living with increased crime, drug trade, food deserts, diminished infrastructure, inadequate education, housing, transportation, and health services, and abandoned/boarded housing. These environments increase the risk of diminished health and shorter life spans. Low-income jobs which do not allow a family to leave such neighborhoods and laws and policies which continue community rebuilding that segregate and displace residents continue the risk of diminished health, and ability to work.

black.povertyBlack.mortality

Qualified to work

Being qualified to work requires that a person has had the opportunity to receive training that makes them competitive with others seeking similar employment. But if a low-income Black person, growing up in an abandoned and under-invested community has not received adequate education and training, they cannot compete with a person growing up in a neighborhood which allowed access to adequate education and training. If a low-income Black person has been in a community without role models who have succeeded in the market/workplace, they have not benefited from this type of informal-training. If a low-income Black person has received education that is not truthful about the courage, resilience, and accomplishments of Black people, they can/will internalize these wrong perceptions and believe that they cannot strive or achieve great things. And if the communities in which a low-income Black worker lives is not connected to a functional transportation system, they will be challenged to make it to work on time. Access to the workplace qualifies one to work.

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Availability of Work

There must be jobs available for low-income workers. Jobs which provide on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and access to education are important to assure that a low-income person can make their way out of a low-income lifestyle. The people hiring for these jobs must be trained in anti-oppression/anti-racism so they will not discriminate against hiring Black workers. Low-income jobs should not be equated to inadequate-income jobs. This means low-income jobs should pay enough to afford a family to: live in healthy neighborhoods, access adequate health care, access nutritious food. If employers in Baltimore will not/cannot pay adequate income to afford a family to live in a healthy neighborhood, a guaranteed basic income may be necessary to assure low-income families can break this cycle of poverty.

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Supportive Work Environment

Whether a person remains in a position once hired is determined by many factors. Are they promoted the same as other workers? For a Black worker, are they promoted, paid, and treated the same as White workers? Do co-workers or supervisors aggress Black workers with language and behaviors? Are low-income workers treated fairly, provided health insurance, a living wage, regular raises? If the wages paid do not allow a worker to live in healthy neighborhoods then the work environment continues to contribute to diminished health, decreasing the ability to work and live in healthy communities: the inequitable and unhealthy work cycle for low-wage Black workers continue into another generation. If the work environment does not respect the worker, workers will look elsewhere for an income to support themselves and their family. This type of work can be perceived as not a viable option for work. If there is no work, as occurred during the industrial revolution when factory work left cities and large unemployment occurred in communities, hustling begins (Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Black Mental Health Alliance series, 2016). This results in decreased social cohesion and dysfunctional communities.

The generational impact of unfair low-wage work is detrimental to healthy community rebuilding for all workers; specifically detrimental for recovery from historical trauma for Black workers. Black Worker Centers are increasing across the US with Baltimore launching its center (Black workers share about challenges faced working in sub-contracting positions for big corporations) on Martin Luther King Day, January 2017. Baltimore Black Worker Center  (BBWC) is committed to building a Black worker base to address the conditions of workers and to organize to change unfair policies and introduce new policies which support equitable treatment and healthy living, working, and learning conditions for Black workers. If our most vulnerable populations thrive, all of Baltimore will thrive. The reverse is also true. Stay tuned for BBWC’s first report on the history and current status of Black workers in Baltimore.

*Low income work is defined as less than $35,000/year, gross.

# Maps: http://bniajfi.org/

$ Living Wage Table: http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/24510

 

Did Trump wake us up to our “walls” of separation?: Can we stay awake and dismantle them?

In Baltimore ‘water protectors’ rally in solidarity with folks at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protestors demanded that Wells Fargo divest from DAPL and closed down Wells Fargo with a sit-in ending with arrest of 6, on November 25 2016

In Baltimore ‘water protectors’ rally in solidarity with folks at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protestors demanded that Wells Fargo divest from DAPL and closed down Wells Fargo with a sit-in ending with arrest of 6, on November 25 2016

As the election results started coming in on November 8 2016, people woke up. In many ways, if Hillary Clinton had won the US elections, we would have continued sleep walking, accepting crumbs from the table of the growing elites. Many would have continued to believe the rhetoric and remain blinded by some of the social policies we’ve seen changed or come into effect during Obama’s administration. We would have continued to ignore the growing income gap and the cronyism and division inherent in all political parties, the militarism expanding into domestic policing, and the war-mongering that defines American imperialism. But when Trump supporters went to the polls, tired of their decreasing wages and unable to understand why their white skin privilege was not paying off-economically-the rest of us woke up. Now the question is, can we stay awake? Waking up to not just the obvious changes that are forecasted under a Trump administration but waking up to our role in conditioning the rise and fall of a “Trump”.
Here some of you may be taking offense-none intended. What is intended is the awareness of how we all must change in order to assure that Trump or a Clinton-like do not continue in four years. How have we been pulled along with the wave of consumption, looking outside of ourselves to find joy and ease our pain, to shape a market that fuels climate change; even while we protest against it? We move too quick, have no time to cook, and eat out so much that we demand the production of plastic containers, cups, utensils to feed us. I looked in my closet a couple days ago and counted how many to-go containers were there: who needs to buy houseware? In capitalism we feed the machine of production by our demands. As students we demand the newest technology for learning, lots of space to do our research while we denounce our universities for expanding and displacing black and brown folks. I remember as a student wanting more laboratory space even while I was protesting Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions forcing people out their homes to build new buildings. We want to live, work, play and pray in new buildings instead of rehabbed old buildings. We all want the new bling, to keep up with the Brown’s, more shoes than we need, one more bedroom, etc. When we stop, breathe, and notice what we are doing each moment, how we participate in the supply and demand of the market, we begin to wake up to our role in this cycle of desire for more and more. We begin to see how our craving for more things and faster results have contributed to climate change and the gap between the rich and the poor and decide if this is really what we want to do and be. When we are awake we become the masters of our actions instead of being hoodwinked by our craving and attachments. Now this is radical change.
Baltimore’s ‘water protectors’ sign November 25 2016.

Baltimore’s ‘water protectors’ sign November 25 2016.

 

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

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

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

CahalPech

Who do we trust?

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

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

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

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

butterfly

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

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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.

Role of public health institutions in public health justice

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

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

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

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

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

Contemplating peaceful and skillful means to justice,
Marisela